On Friday The Replacements, starring Keanu Reeves, hits theaters. We asked real-life replacement player Ron Fazio, who appeared in three games as a tight end for the Eagles during the 1987 NFL strike, for his thoughts.
In general I don't go crazy over football movies, but this one is entertaining. Parts of it are very funny, and the hits are nice and loud. But is it true to life? Well, much of it isn't. Not only do these replacements play in front of a crowd, but the crowd also comes to love them, which never happened. No matter what you did, it was, "Get the real players back!" In the film, Reeves becomes a superstar and dates a cheerleader. We couldn't get the time of day from anyone. Girls? Forget it. Nobody would even ask for your autograph.
The messy play in the movie was typical. At one point during a scab game the team owner says, "I've seen monkey s—- fights in the zoo that were more organized than this." That's about right. The coach, played by Gene Hackman, works hard to get the guys in shape. Ours just told us, "These are the plays; learn them." We were like cattle—herded in and sent out. The NFL asked us to help the league, and we did. But afterward, it was, Get outta here.
The movie takes some liberties, but the bottom line is true: Being a replacement was about being given a second chance and being willing to put your body on the line to play pro football. That was our dream.