I have a confession to make. It’s pretty embarrassing. I love the movie, The Replacements. Gene Hackman. Keanu Reeves. The football scenes aren’t close to accurate, and you can anticipate where the story is headed. But I enjoy how they get there, and whenever it comes on, I find myself sucked into the movie.
The film tells the story of a football team filled with replacement players. Gene Hackman plays Jimmy McGinty, an old coach with a unique way of looking at a football team. The full-time professional players went on strike, and so he is tasked with putting together a team of replacement players so the games will continue. Jimmy looks up men who had great potential but were sidetracked or lost their desire to play. Jimmy is a master at finding talent in overlooked people. His challenge is to take all of these unique individuals and create a team out of them.
Keanu Reeves is the washed up ex-quarterback Shane Falco. He had so much promise coming out of college, but he’s now cleaning boats and living a pretty empty life. Jimmy saw greatness in Shane. The quarterback had a rough start to his career and lost his confidence and his heart. Jimmy goes to meet him on the boat where Shane lives to talk him into joining the team.
Jimmy asks, “You know what separates winners and losers?”
“The score,” Shane responds.
“No, getting back on the horse after getting kicked in the teeth.” Shane remains reluctant, happy to hide from the pain of his past failure. Jimmy asks, “Is that how you want to be remembered?” but Shane doesn’t want to be remembered at all. The coach believes in him, and Shane joins the team. Through practices and into the first game, his fear of failure and the shadow of the past loom over him.
Despite all of this, the team has a chance to win on the final play. The coach wants Shane to pass the ball, but he changes the play to a run, and they come up just short of the end zone. Shane’s head drops as he walks off the field. Jimmy finds him in the crowd and asks what happened. “If I had wanted to run the ball, I would’ve called it that way! I put the game in your hands…you got scared. Winners always want the ball when the game is on the line.” Jimmy walks off, leaving Shane to wonder exactly what happened.
I relate to the quarterback in a lot of ways. He had big dreams and aspirations. He wanted to be great. But something took him out. Life didn’t go the way he thought it would.
Hasn’t it been like this for many of us? Life hits us in many ways, and we don’t get to where we want to go. We have a grand idea of what marriage will look like. After a few years, we find ourselves struggling to relate to our wives. Wondering why we got married in the first place.
Or maybe it was in the workplace. We get stuck in the same job, every day a repeat of yesterday. We hate it but are afraid to try anything different. Afraid to fail or look foolish.
I think a lot of us feel like Shane. Discouraged. Just trying to make it through the next day. Not daring to dream, but just accepting what life has handed us. When it’s time to make a play or come through, we hand off to someone else rather than risk failing or looking foolish.
In the movie, Shane experiences a change of heart. Over the rest of October, we’ll study the film to see what he did and how he changed. And hopefully, we can follow his example to find our hearts.
Over the next week, try to watch The Replacements. You’ll have to suspend reality, especially if you know the rules of football.
About the Author
Paul McDonald is a writer who shares the story of God’s victory in his life at The Original PMcD. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, who have four children between them. He loves corny comedies and knows way too many movie quotes.