On Sunday I had the pleasure of watching “The Replacements” starring Keanu Reeves. The next day, I had the displeasure (which slowly transformed into first-rank mirth) of watching Monday Night Football – starring the winless Miami Dolphins, the hapless Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tony Kornheiser.
What kind of state is this country in when Keanu Reeves and his motley assortment of soccer kickers and sumo wrestling linemen (no kidding) entertain more than an actual professional football game, featuring one of the three teams that is widely considered a Super Bowl contender in the AFC? I’ll tell you what state: a bad one. The terrorists have already won. And instead of virgins greeting them in heaven, it’s Steely McBeam, hog-tied and sobbing.
“The Replacements” was pretty awful. The Woah plays a washed-up former college quarterback, now romantically doing salvage work and living on a boat. (The population of people who live on boats is approximately forty times higher in the movies than in real life.) When the NFL players’ union goes on strike, our hero is called in… to be a scab. Helluva guy! But it’s OK, because – as the movie painstakingly reassures us every fifty seconds – NFL players are all spoiled millionaires who have forgotten The Love Of The Game. It takes a spoiled millionaire actor to show them what it’s like to Love The Game the right way. To play for pennies, to play like there’s no tomorrow. Because, you see… there isn’t. Roll credits.
Yes, there’s thick irony slathered on this ham sandwich – and then they insert the sumo wrestler, the Welsh soccer player, the sprinter who can’t catch a ball, the black guy on prison work release, and so forth. It’s “Major League” meets “Invincible”! You’re gonna love it! …Well, I didn’t love it. But I didn’t really hate it. It was entertaining cheese, like “Roadhouse” or “Footloose,” or a block of gouda that has learned to tapdance. (ba-dump, CHSSHHHH! Thank you!) It’s not at all surprising when the team of mismatched losers that needs to win three out of four games to make the playoffs barely loses their first game, then pulls together to win two… and then a whole professional team crosses the picket line, and the final game is set up, and the cynical veteran quarterback returns to take Keanu’s job, only at halftime… ah, who cares. It’s silly and then it’s feelgood. It kind of sucks but it’s hard to turn off, because damn it, John Madden and Pat Summerall are both in there, and Keanu’s obligatory love interest is kind of hot.
By contrast, Monday Night Football (now on ESPN) features no John Madden, no Pat Summerall. And nobody I’d remotely consider hot – not even Kornheiser. The graceless losers didn’t pull together to play as a team. The serious-minded veterans didn’t even whomp them mercilessly. The game was dull like dishwater, which appeared to be what they were playing in, and the final score was three to zero, exactly representing how many times I fell asleep and how much interest I had in the outcome, respectively.
The field looked like this thanks to voluminous rain and a fresh layer of sod laid on top of the old surface at Heinz Field. Every play looked like this or this – guys flying sideways, guys upended, the offense going nowhere, the defense falling down comically. A field goal attempt by Pittsburgh was hilariously errant – it flew low and way to the left like the kicker was drunk and missing half his kicking foot. The score at halftime was 0-0. Actually, the score with a minute left in the whole game was 0-0; Pittsburgh needed a last minute field goal from about ten feet from the goalline to take the completely insurmountable three point lead. When Miami set up to return the ensuing kickoff with under 20 seconds remaining, I actually laughed at the thought that they hoped to score to tie it up or win. Both teams were ridiculously inept in the rain and on the awful sod. This game was one more Pittsburgh error or penalty from being a 0-0 overtime game, and probably ultimately a 0-0 tie.
What it looked like to me was a classic Madden Suck Bowl – “Madden” as in the video game, not the guy. You see, a friend and I used to always play head-to-head Madden, and when we were bored or one of us was beating the crap out of the other, we’d switch to a Suck Bowl. This was always a game between two of the four or five worst teams in the league, played in an outdoor stadium with wind and snow, or wind and rain, and difficulty turned up in key areas. Fumbles and interceptions would abound and the final score would usually be something like 10-6. I don’t think we ever had a 3-0 game, actually, but this was as close to a Suck Bowl as I’ve ever seen played live on TV.
What Miami needed there at the end was Keanu Reeves, exorcising his failure demons and getting that chicken bone out of his throat. And maybe a sumo wrestler blocking for him.
In non-Keanu-related strike news, an “insider” has leaked information that a deal is tentatively in place between the Writer’s Guild and those greedy Hollywood fatcats. (Sorry, I just love calling people “greedy [blank] fatcats.” Try it out, it’s a lot of fun.) TV may not die after all. Deadline Hollywood Daily has the story, such as it is. C’mon, guys, don’t kill “Lost” – they were just about to reveal that the island is dog heaven and Matthew Fox is a shapeshifting labradoodle.