After the blown call that cost the Green Bay Packers this past Monday’s football game to the Seattle Seahawks and the revelation that several of the referees currently employed by the NFL were once fired by the Lingerie Football League, it seems things may have finally reached a tipping point in the ongoing negotiations between the NFL and their refs. The replacement refs have had quite a few high profile blunders in games and it seems like fans have finally had enough of it. With the league’s PR at an all time low, rumors are swirling that a deal could be done any minute now that would give the original refs their jobs back.
Like most fans, I’ve been incredibly annoyed by the performance thus far of these replacement officials. But, as this whole debacle (hopefully) comes to an end, I can’t help but think of the potential to turn this story into a Hollywood franchise. The 1987 NFL players strike was the inspiration for the 2000 football movie The Replacements. So why not turn this saga into its own film franchise?
So with that in mind, allow me to share a few select scenes from the first draft of my latest screenplay – The Replacement Refs …
INT. ROGER GOODELL’S OFFICE – DAY
NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL (Michael McKean) is seated behind his desk in his dimly-lit office, lighting a Cuban cigar with a hundred dollar bill. An NFL UNDERLING (Clark Duke) knocks on his door, then cautious enters the office.
Goodell: What is it?
Underling: Sorry to disturb you, sir, but the referees have rejected your offer. Ed Hochuli snatched the paper out of my hand and ripped in it half. Then he ripped a phone book in half for some reason. He started doing push ups, then ordered me to leave.
Goodell: That’s fine. We don’t need Hochuli or the other refs. We’ll replace them with guys who will work cheaper and complain less.
Underling: Um, with all do respect, sir – why not just give them what they want? This is the NFL. Business has never been better. Certainly we can afford to give them a bump in salary. And besides, is it worth the PR hit? If this thing goes south, fans could turn on us.
Goodell smiles a wicked smile.
Goodell: Oh, they will turn on us. I’ll make sure of it. I’m going to hire the worst refs imaginable. I’m going to find guys with cataracts who don’t even know the basic rules of football. They are going to fail spectacularly. And they’ll do it on national TV.
Underling (stunned): But sir – why?
Goodell: Tijuana is interested in starting their own football league. If I can get the fans to turn on us and revenues to drop enough, I’ll move the entire league to Tijuana and I’ll collect a fat bonus check. Muahahahahahaha.
Underling: It will never work.
Goodell: Oh yes it will. Just wait until you see the incompetent boobs I hire to ref these games.
Cut to …
EXT. AN APARTMENT COMPLEX – DAY
CHIP SAUNDERS (Keanu Reeves) is standing on the street, looking at the open window of his third floor apartment. His girlfriend, TINA (Minka Kelly), is throwing his belongings out onto the street.
Chip: Tina, baby, stop it. We can work this out.
Tina: No we can’t, Chip. I’m tired of this. My dad just called and told me he fired you from the firm for missing a sales meeting …
Chip: I told your dad I had to ref a PeeWee football game.
Tina: That’s just it, your obsession with refereeing. You need to let it go. You are never going to be a ref. The NFL, the Arena League and even the freaking Lingerie Football League denied your application. Even Foot Locker fired you after a month. You can’t hold down a job for more than six months and all you ever do is study rule books and watch old game films. I’m tired of it. I want to start a family, Chip. I need a guy that I can count on. Not some overgrown child with his head in the clouds, chasing an impossible dream.
Dejected, Chip grabs a striped black and white shirt from the pile of clothes Tina has thrown out the window. He slowly starts walking down the street, leaving the rest of his meager possessions behind. Just then, his phone rings.
Chip: Hello … Mr. Goodell … really? Yes, of course, I can start immediately.
INT. VARIOUS FOOTBALL ARENAS – DAY
It’s opening day in the NFL. We get a montage of Chip and the other replacement refs around the league calling their first game, set to “Cobrastyle” by Teddybears STHLM. It’s complete chaos. One ref signals first down even though the player is two yards short of the marker. In another game, a ref watches the cheerleaders dancing, completely missing the blatant pass interference right in front of him, in which the safety pulls the receiver to the ground. Another ref is seen placing a bet on his own game with a bookie. Chip tries valiantly to call his game well, but he catches one of his line judges sleeping on the sideline. Another ref goes to throw his yellow flag and pulls his belt off with it. His pants drop to the ground.
INT. THE REFEREES’ LOCKER ROOM – THE MERCEDES-BENZ SUPERDOME – SUPER BOWL SUNDAY
Chip has his officiating crew gathered around him in a pregame meeting.
Chip: Gentlemen, in just a few short moments, we’ll be taking the field to call the most important game of the year. It’s been a trying season, but here we are, about to call the Super Bowl. No one believed in us. Even now, there are fans out there in the stands, waiting for you to screw up so that they can say you are blind or insinuate that they had sex with your mothers. But you can’t let them get to you. We have an amazing opportunity here. And great moments are born from great opportunity. Go out there and execute. Hands on whistles, yellow flags at the ready. I don’t want to see a single blown call out there. You are going to get shouted at. You are going to get drinks thrown at you. Three-hundred pound linemen will get in your face. But it will not phase you. You are NFL officials calling the biggest game of the year. You will not fail. This is our time.
Chip’s officiating crew rushes out onto the field, pumped. He hangs back for a second, looking around the locker room. He glances at the cardboard cutout of Roger Goodell – which was once fully clothed, but has now been stripped down to just a speedo as a reward for every game his crew called successful. Chip winks at the Goodell cutout before hitting the field.
INT. THE MERCEDES-BENZ SUPERDOME – SUPER BOWL SUNDAY – FOUR SECONDS LEFT IN THE GAME
Announcer: The score is tied 28-28 with just seconds left to go. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has time for just one last Hail Mary pass before the clock expires. But as he releases the ball, all eyes will be on the officials, who thus far have called a perfect game. Will they get it right or will Chip Saunders and his crew once again blow it like they did in the Green Bay-Seattle game in Week Three?
The ball is snapped. RGIII drops back to pass. Ray Lewis comes at him full speed on a blitz. Griffin is hit as he launches the ball into the end zone, where Redskins receivers and Ravens defensive backs are all gathered around waiting. The ball is tipped up in the air several times before it comes to both Redskins receiver Santana Moss and Ravens free safety Ed Reed. Both men have their hands on the ball as they fall toward the end zone. Reed’s hands slip as he falls on top of Moss, who has sole possession of the ball.
The entire stadium waits in stunned silence for the call from the officials. Sweat pours down Chip Saunders’ face as he glances over to his line judge. In slow motion, he begins to raise his arms.
The crowd goes wild.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.