Director: John Dorsey
Length: 78 minutes without commercials, 90 minutes with.
Installment: #93 by ESPN’s count (#94 by mine, counting the O.J. doc as one installment, although ESPN initially counted it as five different 30 for 30s, but now seems to list it separately, not as part of the series. Additionally, one finished project in Down In The Valley has been suspended from airing.)
Most Similar To: The Band That Wouldn’t Die, Free Spirits
Grade/Ranking: High 30s
Review: I have little to offer on ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 installment, Year of The Scab. If it was a baseball player, it would be a third baseman who hit .280 with 20 home runs, a handful of steals, and 70 runs and RBI. Basically, clearly above average, but you’d be hesitant to say “good” because just like that fictitious player’s stats, there is no one attribute that sticks out as exceptional.
I certainly was interested in the subject matter. At a high level, I’ve typically enjoyed the 30 for 30s that dabble in things like upstart leagues, mergers, teams moving, etc. I had some knowledge of the 1987 NFL players’ strike and the Redskins in particular, as I believe it was a topic for a NFL Films segment a handful of years ago.
In terms of the quality of the film, director John Dorsey put forth another solid effort with his previous installment, The Marinovich Project, being right on the bubble of a top 20 installment in my rankings.
While I would say that a 90-minute installment focusing on replacement players feels like perhaps a bit too niche for that length of a film, NFL installments have typically done well and most should find the story interesting, modern, and uplifting enough to hold your attention.
To some degree, I tried to talk myself into quibbling that this may have been a better one-hour film. Hell, NFL Films Presents banged out a cliff notes version which I think was 10 minutes or so. That said, after letting this one gestate a bit, I actually find myself wanting more granular details about the 1987 replacement players and the strike itself.
For instance, the film kind of glossed over some details like why the networks decided to air replacement player games, the state of the union and previous CBA talks prior to the strike, how much money the replacement players got, and how exactly they were found. With the film focusing mostly on the three games in the 1987 season that the replacement players played, it seemed to avoid topics like how this strike affected future negotiations and the extent that replacement players caught on after the strike.
The film makes the not-so-subtle point that the Redskins replacement players were pivotal in the team winning the Super Bowl, and thus, they should be given Super Bowl rings. Daniel Snyder more or less has a layup here to get some good PR, but we’re talking about a team that seems to struggle with the most basic things PR-wise.
Ultimately, this is a quality installment about an interesting topic, but it never really pops as something that will stay with you or warrant much discussion in introspection. I’d think most 30 for 30 aficionados will likely grade this film in the middle third, but probably a bit closer to the top third, so if that’s something you’re interested on a Tuesday night, by all means you’ll come away satisfied.