The Cornell Daily Sun (US), September 29, 2009
It’s Hard to Explain Life When A Film Can Just Explain It Better
by Allie Perez
After several huge upsets in college football (USC and Penn State, I feel for you guys), two big wins on the gridiron for Cornell and a drubbing of my own hometown’s god-awful Washington Redskins, football has definitely returned at last.
Around this time of year, there is a particular movie that always starts popping into my head. And even though I have seen this movie at least 50 times in my life, it remains the only movie that can always cheer me up, no matter what.
In The Replacements — which was released in theaters in August 2000 — professional football’s Washington Sentinals (you have one guess which real life NFL team they’re supposed to be) hires a group of athletic washouts to finish the season when all the pros go on strike. Many of the scabs were once football players in college or the pros, but they all missed their chance at achieving that fantasy of greatness.
Now it was recently suggested to me that The Replacements is “a football movie that’s actually a chick flick.” I’ve been hearing this sentiment way too much from guys around campus, and I beg to differ.
In my Psychology of Entertainment Media class this semester, we learned about the disposition theory of sports spectatorship. The theory, as described on page 143 of my textbook (Psychology of Entertainment, edited by Jennings Bryant and Peter Vorderer), says, “Enjoyment from viewing a sports event is a function of the outcome of the event in relation to the strength and valence of the dispositions held toward its competitors.”
That is, the more you like the winning team and hate the losing team, the more you enjoy the game. Sounds like common sense, right? But the reaction to The Replacements points out a flaw in this reasoning.
If it were that simple, why do so many people fail to appreciate The Replacements? The replacement Sentinals are clearly the lovable team in this movie, so human psychology — evolved over thousands of years — should therefore make everybody on Earth love this movie as much as I do.
Is The Replacements really a chick flick? — do I have more empathy just because I’m a girl, so I value the underdog win more? I think not. I’ve seen plenty of guys get into football movies like The Longest Yard, and I’ve seen grown men break down sobbing during the final scene of Brian’s Song — The Replacements has elements of both, so again I ask, what’s the disconnect here?
I’m not going to pretend to understand the workings of the human mind, male or female, so I’ll just do my best to convince you all that The Replacements deserves a place in the pantheon of the greatest sports movies.
Here are 10 nuggets of wisdom (in the form of quotes) on various aspects of the meaning of life, quotes that illustrate the greatness of this movie. However, a couple of disclaimers: First, if you haven’t seen The Replacements already, some of the quotes give away major plot points. Don’t worry, it’s still funnier than words can describe. Second, words actually can’t describe some of the funniest moments in the movie (especially since several of the funniest lines can’t be printed in a paper that little kids might pick up on campus and start reading). Again, you’ll get my meaning anyways, as long as you let yourself remain open to the magic of The Replacements.
10. Let’s start with the last line of the movie. As Sentinals head coach Jimmy McGinty (played by Gene Hackman) says at the end of the movie, “When the replacement players for the Washington Sentinels left the stadium that day, there was no ticker tape parade, no endorsement deals for sneakers or soda pop or breakfast cereal. Just a locker to clean out and a ride home to catch. But what they didn’t know was their lives would be changed forever. Because they had been part of something great, and greatness, however brief, stays with a man. Every athlete dreams of a second chance; these men lived it.”
9. McGinty tries to convince former elite college quarterback Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves at his best) to come out of retirement and join the Sentinals.
Jimmy McGinty: “You know what separates the winners from the losers?”
Shane Falco: “The score.”
Jimmy McGinty: “Haha. No, getting back on the horse after getting kicked in the teeth.”
8. Falco’s Ohio State team had gotten creamed in the ’96 Sugar Bowl. Maybe this quote is sexist, but it still cracks me up.
McGinty: “Hell of a game, that Sugar Bowl. What’d you lose by, 40 points?”
Falco: “That would be 45.”
McGinty: “Sometimes a game like that really sticks with you. You never shake it off.”
Falco: “I’ve got three concussions to prove it.”
Mcginty: “That’s why girls don’t play the game.”
7. Falco asks his coach why he wanted him to join the team after Falco had basically been blackballed out of football.
McGinty: “I look at you and I see two men: the man you are and the man you oughta be. Someday those two will meet. Should make for a hell of a football player.”
6. The obligatory celebrity cameo is fantastic. Yes, those would be legendary announcers John Madden and the late, great Pat Summerall calling all the Sentinals games in the movie. In this scene, an excitable linebacker tackles a kicker to the ground after he makes his first field goal.
Madden: “There’s a rule in sports. Don’t do anything great unless you can handle the congratulations.”
Summerall: “There is?”
5. When Falco handed the ball off to Cochran on the last play of the game instead of taking the responsibility on himself, the coach was not too pleased.
Falco: “I READ BLITZ.”
Mcginty: “Winners always want the ball when the game’s on the line.”
4. McGinty wants his players to admit their fears on the field.
Falco [recalling his college struggles]: “Quicksand … You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. But then one thing goes wrong, and another, and another. And you try to fight back, but the harder you fight the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move, can’t breathe, because you’re in over your head, like quicksand.”
3. The team owner made McGinty replace Falco with All-Pro quarterback Eddie Martel for the final game of the season. It does not go well, because Martel is a jerk. When McGinty heads back into the locker room at halftime to face his demoralized team, he tells a reporter what Washington needs to get back into the game: “Miles ‘n miles of heart.”
That line, in addition to being a reference to the only successful sports musical that I can think of, Damn Yankees, refers to the quality synonymous with Rudy — what Falco had and Martel did not.
2. It’s the start of the second half and Washington is down, 17-0.
McGinty: “This time tomorrow the strike will be over. Now Dallas has made a big mistake out there tonight. They haven’t been afraid of you. And they should be, because you have a powerful weapon working for you. There is no tomorrow for you, and that makes you all VERY DANGEROUS PEOPLE!”
1. It’s Sentinals first down with little more than six minutes left in the game and trailing Dallas by three. Falco leads the huddle.
Falco: “I know you’re tired. I know you’re hurting. And I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn’t be our style. Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever.”
The lines might be cliché, but you can live your life by them and laugh along the way. Enjoy the game (fictional or otherwise).