Never in my wildest imagination did I believe that my life and the lives of all of us in the Collider orbit would be so drastically and tragically affected by five simple words.
“Let’s get ready to Schmoedown!”
Okay. Maybe ‘Schmoedown’ is not a simple word, but if you would have told me that it would lead to me, online critic William Bibbiani, traveling through time in an attempt to put right what had gone wrong, then I would have said you were crazy. At least, somewhat off-balanced.
As “The Beast,” I am familiar with the term. Schmoedown was a movie trivia competition that was all the rage on YouTube and at Collider Video and I was a proud competitor. Everything seemed to be moving in a successful direction for all…until… everything came off the rails.
And it was my fault.
Everything started on the night I battled “The Godfather” Drew McWeeny. He’s kind of scary…have you ever seen that guy? So I decided that my typical grand entrances would not be sufficient. I needed to pop out there. Long story short… I exploded through the chest of former champion Mark Reilly, who was at the desk, accidentally killing him. It didn’t help either since I lost to McWeeny anyway. A few weeks later, Reilly was back, nary a scratch. He made a reference to his Superman coat, saying that heroes always come back.
I did not know that the answer was more sinister than that.
Let me fast forward through this vital, yet impractical exposition to the night where everything turned. It was a title fight for the team championships between the Patriots, Jeff “The Insneider” Sneider and “Little Evil” JTE and Above the Line, the aforementioned “Godfather” Drew McWeeny and the Movie Trivia Schmoedown Champion of the Wooooooooooooooooooorld, “The Inglorious One” Samm Levine.
This is the kind of match that I loved watching from the crowd and the entire studio was buzzing with anticipation. The previous classic match-up between the teams found the Patriots pulling off a one point victory. The rematch was intense.
Right up to the 5-point question in round five, the outcome was fully in doubt. Kristian Harloff and Mark Ellis, collectively known as the Schmoes, the creators of this game, were at the announce desk and had built the tension through their unique brand of one liners and comedy.
“So here is the situation,” said Harloff, the former commissioner, whose power and authority had been usurped by Thadd Williams. “The score is tied. The Patriots have their five point question. If they get this right, they have once again defended their team titles and remain undefeated. If they miss, we go into sudden death.”
Nervous whispers filled the crowd. I have been jotting down notes in my handy notebook. You never know when something might come in handy. Growl, growl.
“You chose question number 13… and that is,”Harloff paused for dramatic effect, “Sly & Arnie.”
A groan crossed the crowd. John Rocha yelled out an obscenity. The Patriots’ cohorts in the Lion’s Den, Ken Napzok and Mark Danica, high-fived each other. They all knew this was a strength of the Patriots, especially JTE, who was practically beaming brighter than the stage lights.
“In what film does Stallone say the quote, ‘I am the law?’”
Rocha nearly flipped his chair over. “You call that a five point question?” he exclaimed, ready to burst. And then it happened.
“That’s easy. It is Demolition Man,” said JTE, without a second thought.
“No, wait…” screamed Sneider, stumbling over his words.
“That is incorrect,” said Ellis. “The answer we were looking for was Judge Dredd.”
“And with that…we have sudden death!”
JTE had both hands plastered on his baseball cap, expressing the shock and shame over the quick answer. He couldn’t believe what he had done. Sneider bit through his remaining toothpick. The crowd was shell-shocked, but not nearly as much as JTE was. He has been an arrogant jerk ever since winning that team title, but even I felt a twinge of sorrow for him. He had blown it.
Sudden death rules were explained. Ellis detailed how this round would be much like the first round and each individual would write down the answer on their dry erase board and they would continue asking questions until one team had more points than the other.
“If everyone is ready, here we go with sudden death!” said Harloff. I looked over to JTE. He was gone. The look on his face was one of total failure. The thought in my head was the same thought that we all were thinking. This is it. After a year and a half title reign, the Patriots are finally going to be defeated.
“The category is…New Releases,” said Harloff. “In 2018’s Tully, who played Charlize Theron’s brother, Craig?”
Silence. You could cut the tension with a chainsaw. Samm Levine’s face is crumpled. He clearly had not seen it yet. Who had?
“5…4…3…2…1,” said Harloff. “Sneider?”
“Mark Duplass,” he replied.
“JTE?” said Harloff, not revealing whether or not anyone was correct. Damn that Harloff, trying to keep us all so tense.
“I don’t know,” JTE said showing his blank dry erase board. Oooooohs filled the studio.
“I didn’t see this either,” dropping the board down on the table.
“Drew?” asked Harloff.
“Ron Livingston?” he said, uncertain.
“AND YOUR WINNERS….” Screamed the golden throat of Kristian Harloff, “AND… STILL… MOVIE TRIVIA TEAM CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD!!! THE PATRIOTS!!!!”
Boos came from everywhere as Ken and Donica stormed the stage to congratulate the still champs. Jay Washington turned to me and said, “Man, who’s ever gonna beat those two?”
The crowd was so hectic that we had not seen “Miss Movies” Brianne Chandler make her way out to the stage with a microphone in hand. Something was up. Calling for attention, Miss Movies quickly quieted the crowd.
“I have a special announcement to make. The Patron has officially passed 2100 subscribers… and that means that we have a new Commissioner for a week… Tom Dagino!”
If you thought the boos were bad before, knowing that Tom Dagnino, the buffoon in charge of the Lion’s Den, was now going to get his dirty hands on the Schmoedown… well, I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach. Little did I know how this would turn out.
Taking the microphone, Tom said, “Thank you. Thank you.” Harloff was calling him an idiot, but nobody was ready for what he was going to do next.
“As my first official act as Commissioner, I am removing JTE from the Patriots.”
“What?” JTE exclaimed, still clutching to his team title. Sneider snatched the belt greedily from his shoulder.
“You nearly cost us this title!” Sneider yelled, pointing his finger directly at JTE. “How many times do I have to cover for you? You can’t pronounce anything. You drop words. You can’t spell! Japeto? We have been champions this long, despite you. I’m tired of carrying you. You’re out of here.”
“You can’t do this,” JTE said, lacking the normal bravado of “Little Evil.”
“Oh, we can,” said Dagnino. “And we did. And I have your replacement in the NEW Patriots. Ladies and gentlemen… Mark Reilly.”
“No!” cried out Harloff, standing to his feet. Mark Reilly walked out from behind the curtain with his normal Superman black leather jacket. He slowly unzipped the coat and threw it to the ground revealing his Lion’s Den shirt. The Lion’s Den members started to laugh as JTE slouched back in his chair. Sneider handed the team title to Reilly.
I have never seen the Schmoedown descend into chaos quicker than that moment. Harloff was screaming in Reilly’s face about betrayal and he demanded an explanation, but Reilly had nothing to say, completely ignoring him.
“Why, Reilly, Why?” a lone voice called out through the echoing chorus of boos from the back stage area and the crowd. Sadly, we would not get any answers on that night.
“And this is just the beginning!” Dagnino said ominously, laughing wickedly. He wasn’t exaggerating.
To Be Continued