An Open Letter to the Schmoedown from Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing!

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After Clarke and I attempt to defend our belts one last time against Korruption, I (we) will be retiring as an active competitor in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown.

I won’t lie… it hurts to type those words.

I have been playing in this crazy game for over two and a half years and it has evolved so much over that time. I’ve changed a great deal as well, which is something I’m incredibly grateful for. I’ve done things I never would have believed I was capable of doing, and met people that I can’t imagine my life without. But, to paraphrase a line from our beloved Star Wars, the Schmoedown is going places I’m not sure I can follow. And that isn’t a knock on the show. Nor is it one on myself.

The Commitment Necessary to Compete

Jeannine recently wrote a wonderful article about one of the major ways in which the Schmoedown has changed. She noted that competitors (old and new) have seriously upped their trivia game. In other words, they study. A lot. It’s not like it used to be when a knowledgeable movie reviewer, YouTube pundit, or film enthusiast could walk in and win matches solely because of their base knowledge. Now, the amount of time and effort players put into this, outside the time it takes to get to the studio and shoot the matches, is kind of insane…

Here’s a taste:

I have nearly 800 pages of typed notes in Word and Excel on movies (meticulously organized and color coded, of course). I also have about 500 handwritten flashcards. Many competitors have binders full of information, including screen shots, charts, and dates. Others create their own audio files filled with movie facts. I will never admit to the amount of money I spent on buying and renting movies for the sole purpose of studying for matches… and I know of several competitors who participated in epic movie binges to shore up a weak category. Many players have podcasts that just so happen to also help them prep for the Schmoedown, and we’ve all bought every movie trivia game and book we can find.

That’s just the tip of iceberg.

And remember: we don’t do this because it’s our job to do so, we do this on TOP of our lives and careers…

The level of commitment I see from competitors like Kalinowski, Jeannine, Kevin Smets, Ben Bateman and many others is astonishing, mind-boggling and impressive all at the same time. The problem that I finally ran into, though, is that there aren’t enough hours in a day! For better or worse, I’m an “all in” type of person (as many of the competitors are), so if I’m competing, I want to do everything I humanly can to be the best competitor I can be.

But, as much as the league means to me, it cannot be my priority when I have a life, a relationship and a career (that has nothing to do with movies) that I not only need to keep a roof over my head, but that I also love. All of those things have been affected by my being in the Schmoedown, and not all in good ways (I do not say that to place blame on the show because I definitely don’t. That’s on me. I say it to drive home the point of how we can so easily allow the Schmoedown to take over our lives). I’ve also been dealing with some pretty serious health issues over the last year and I’ve battled depression for a large part of my life.

My boyfriend can attest to the fact that I haven’t slept well in months because if I wasn’t staying up late after a 12 hour work day to re-watch Superman III, then I was lying in bed stressing about it (and thinking I should have also watched Superman IV instead of trying to sleep) because I knew that in order to stand even a remote chance against Mike in a live championship match, then I needed to be studying as hard as I knew he was! But, it’s simply not sustainable, especially when I also consider other factors that contribute to my anxiety in regards to the show.

Evolution into Something Beyond Trivia

Another way the show has evolved significantly is in the storylines. By embracing more of a wrestling/sports mentality, it has turned into much more than just a trivia competition. And the fans love it! As do many of the players. The Schmoedown is truly unique with its mix of trivia, characters, factions, stories, rivalries, and so on. Unfortunately, that’s the side of the things I struggle with.

In the beginning, I was asked to play simply because I was whispering answers on the sidelines. I’m only really good at one aspect of the game now: the trivia. And as much as I have gotten better at things like being on the mic, entrances, and interviews (huge thanks to Kristian Harloff, Ken Napzok, Clarke and others for helping tremendously with that!), I will never be comfortable acting or performing – and those are becoming necessary skills to be a part of this whole thing.

When I called Mike Kalinowski the true triple-threat in the league, I didn’t actually mean it in terms of him being a belt contender in three divisions (though he is, of course, that as well). In my opinion, the best competitors on the show embody three important aspects (all of which Mike does perfectly. As have others, like Rocha, Clarke, Bateman, etc):

  1. They know their movie trivia.
  2. They are committed to improving that knowledge.
  3. They exhibit showmanship.

That last one is also tied into another aspect of the show that I struggle with:
the live events.

The Schmoedown live events have clearly become an integral part of the show. I’ve been to many of them and the crowds are electrifying, there is no other word for it. Unfortunately, playing in them is very difficult for me. I shake most of the time I’m up on stage and I can’t really eat or sleep during the days and hours leading up to them. I tried really hard, with the help of a lot of people, to overcome my fears and anxieties; my boyfriend and Clarke were always there for me. Jenn Sterger helping with my hair and makeup became part of the routine that helped me relax a little, Jason Inman taught me how to box breath, and Kristian always sought me out to see how I was feeling and tell me that he believed in me. He never pushed or wanted me to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with.

Still, though I’m really proud of myself for managing to compete in three live events (and play FAR better in my last one than I had even the slightest hope of doing), at the end of the day, playing live is simply not something that is fun or healthy (at this point) for me. I want what’s best for the Schmoedown, which includes doing more and more live shows, and so realize that what’s best for both me and the show doesn’t line up right now. And that’s ok! The show should evolve and I’m lucky to have been a part of it.

It’s Not Easy

Some people tell me, “it’s just a game.” But everyone involved in the show and the majority of fans know that’s not true. This game has opened an entire world to me that I couldn’t have fathomed three years ago. I’m a better person for having been a part of it and I truly feel like I’ve made a difference in the world… It’s not a huge difference, but I think that if more people tried to lead by example or did something to inspire at least one other person out there to be better, kinder, stronger, braver or more empathetic then we could make a big difference in the world.

I know what it’s like to love something that isn’t considered cool. I know what it’s like to feel ridiculed, alone and overlooked. And now I know what it’s like to open up and push myself… and find kindness and acceptance. For some of the more sports obsessed fans of the show, that’s probably too “kumbaya” for you, but for all the introverted, misfit movie-lovers out there, you’re my tribe and I hope I did you proud during my time on this insane, addictive, and brilliant show.

I will miss so much about competing in the Schmoedown, that I can’t possibly list it all here. But I will say thank you to my “Louise”, Clarke Wolfe, my arch nemesis/best friend in the league, Mike Kalinowski, my confidants Jenn Sterger and Brianne Chandler, my study partners Emma Fyffe, Marc Andreyko and Kevin Smets, and the two guys who run the whole damn thing: Mark Ellis and Kristian Harloff. To the rest of the cast and crew: it’s been an honor to work (and play) beside you for the last two and a half years.

And thank you to the fans who took the time to get to know me and who embraced what I could offer the league. That you made me feel seen, understood and empowered is a gift I’ll always cherish.

Sincerely,
The Crusher

3 COMMENTS

  1. The most knowledgable player in the three leagues! The schmoedown is hurting today, we will miss Rachel and Clarke so incredibly much! I cannot say how much I will be screaming when Rachel announces her return to crushing everyone, but it will be A LOT!

  2. You have definitely made your mark on this league Rachel. It’s because of your incredible knowledge base that all these new contenders feel they have to go to such lengths to even have a chance of competing with you. You are one of the most important people to have ever played this game. You gave young ladies someone that they could look up to and aspire to emulate. You prove to young women that it can be cool to be into geek culture. Your presence in this league will surely be missed for a long time to come. Hopefully you will stay in touch with the Schmoedown community. You will definitely be welcomed with open arms by the Schmoedown community.

  3. Thanks Rachel for everything you’ve done for the league!
    I hope we’ll still get to see you here and there on the sidelines. It won’t be the same without you. 🙂

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