Replacements, Too

I’m not so sure why people are praising the end of the NFL lockout. Sure, we’ll have football this year.

I’m glad, I guess.

The National Football League is sacred in America. We love putting cheese on our heads, spending money at the local watering hole on Sundays because we’re too damn poor to afford Sunday Ticket, and most importantly, getting hammered drunk with our buddies during our fantasy drafts- so drunk that someone actually picks Alex Smith.

However, we cannot be so blind as to see what might have been.

On September 22, 1987, due to the players’ thirst from free agency slavery (the so-called “Rozelle Rule” had been in place since 1976. It awarded compensation to a player’s former team when he signed with a new team. Thus, keeping salaries lower due to the fact teams had to pay a “transfer fee” as well), NFL players went on strike and, for three weeks, the NFL used replacement players– scabs – to provide Uncle Sams all across the country with their weekly dose of football.

But let’s not forget what ‘87 also gave us (besides The Simpsons, of course)… a future opportunity for Keanu Reeves to star in The Replacements and continue a perplexing acting career that has confused and flabbergasted many a-movie-goer throughout the last decade. The Replacements is loosely based on the strike, and Keanu’s team, the Washington Sentinels, are supposedly based on the Washington ScabSkins of ‘87.

You remember the flick don’t you?

Keanu plays Shane Falco, a former Ohio-State-standout-turned-barnacle-scraper who finally gets his chance to redeem himself  when the league’s real players go on strike after shitting the bed in the Orange Bowl his senior season and then washing out of the league after being drafted by Seattle. He’s joined by a cast of other almosts and nearly-theres- a two-pack-a-day kicker with a gambling addiction (I’m not so sure that there’s any difference between him and other NFL kickers), an inmate, a priest and a roided-out Jon Favreau. And oh yah, Gene Hackman.

The Sentinels go 3-1. They beat Dallas. The kicker doesn’t get shot due to gambling debt. Falco gets to bone the head cheerleader. It’s a hell of a story. And pretty damn American.

Now, with players going back to work in 2011, there is no more potential for Keanu to find himself in a lead role in Replacements 2. A lead role… something he hasn’t done since Henry’s Crime in 2010, which I hear only came out on VHS. People were high off the Matrix in ‘99, and a little something else, when they went to movie theater to see Keanu continue to throw (see what I did there?) his career down the drain in 2000 with Replacements. Now, there will be nothing to pull him to safety.

Could you have imagined? The NFL playing with replacement players in 2011? And the epically terrible movie that would and should have followed?

Except this time, Keanu would be the starting quarterback for the Sentinels because the story would have predicated that Falco had finally become a star in the league and now it was his time to be on the outside of the fence. Obviously, monetary dispute would cause Falco and the other players in the league to walk out, forcing the owners once again to find replacement players.  Except this time, instead of fictional characters, Replacements 2 would base its characters on actual former NFL players who just didn’t seem to pan out.

To star along with Keanu, the director  would have cast Ryan Reynolds, of course, to play Ryan Leaf, who would be using his opportunity to regain the respect of the country and be the quarterback that America once thought he could be.

I can see a scene now:

Gene Hackman (who obviously became the Sentinels’ team owner), sits in his office on a sunny afternoon, wearing that damn hat. He places a call, on the other end is Ryan Leaf. A piercing ring wakes up Leaf, who has to traverse through a pile of beer cans, discarded porn magazines and multiple stacks of orange containers filled with pharmaceutical treats to get to the phone. A Washington State poster hangs in the background.

Leaf (in a gargled, slurred voice): Hello?
Hackman: Ryan, you still got that arm?
Leaf (confused): Gene Hackman… What the Fu—- Yah, it’s good to go. (He rubs the track mark on his right arm).
Hackman: I need you to give me what you gave me at Wazzou. The players decertified. They want health insurance, less practices and an index of every cheerleader’s phone number of every team in the league. We don’t know when they’ll be back. It’s a mess… Anyway, (looks down at his watch, addressing Leaf as he did with Jimmy Chitwood and the rest of the squad in Hoosiers) you’re my guy.
Leaf (looks around confused, eyes bloodshot and watery, runs his hands through his hair, removes a nude Polaroid of Helen Hunt from the coffee table in front of him): I don’t know, Gene Hackman, what I did with the Chargers and Cowboys was pretty horrendous
Hackman: It’s time to turn a new leaf, Ryan.
Leaf: Do you know how many times I’ve heard that one?

The next scene would show Leaf trotting onto the practice field, pale as dinner plate, getting stares from the other replacements stretching on the practice field. Among them would be Maurice Clarett (Jamie Foxx), the Boz (Danny McBride), Mike Vanderjagt (Eminem) and head coach Dennis Green (Reginald VelJohnson, or “Carl” from Family Matters).

I can see the plot now. Leaf tries being sober for at least a couple of days and leads his team to a couple of wins. He attracts the attention of the head cheerleader, Falco’s girlfriend, who he sleeps with after one of those romantic montages a la Top Gun. He becomes a star, until, at the end of the third week, Falco finds out that Leaf slept with his girl and he attempts to accost Leaf in the parking lot of the team’s facility.

However, the Boz and Vanderjagt are waiting in the parking lot along with Leaf and proceed to beat the living crap out of Falco. Then, Leaf goes upstairs and Dennis Green informs him that Falco and his fellow mates have crossed the picket lines and Sunday’s game will be Leaf’s last shot at glory.

Instead of leading his team to victory though, Leaf throws five picks for -15 yards, gets pulled in the third quarter in favor of Art Schlichter (Woody Harrelson) and the team loses 56-0, knocking them out of the playoff hunt. Leaf loses the cheerleader. Vanderjagt calls him a loser in the press. He goes back to Canada, and the last scene is Ryan Leaf rifling through his parent’s cabinets, looking for some pills to numb the pain.

It’d be a Replacements-turned-8-Mile-turned-Requiem-for-a-Dream classic.

But… no lockout, no replacements, no new movie.

Oh, what might have been.

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