Skip Lane: From Scab To ESPN Star

Two games into the 1987 NFL season, the Players Association struck. The issue was free agency.

To break the union, team owners hired replacements. For 3 weeks, they played.

One of those substitute athletes — derisively called “scabs” — was Skip Lane.

He was well known in Westport. Lane was a 1979 graduate of Staples High School — where he starred at quarterback for his father, legendary coach Paul Lane — and then at the University of Mississippi.

Yet with only 5 Canadian Football League games behind him – and brief stints with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, after college — he was unknown to much of the football-loving American public.

In 1987 Lane was out of the game, working in commercial real estate in Fairfield County — a job he still holds.

But he excelled as a safety with the replacement Washington Redskins. They went 3-0 during the strike, culminating with a Monday Night Football win over a Dallas Cowboys team filled with veterans who had crossed the picket line.

Some fans wanted familiar players back.

When the 3-game strike was over, the Redskins released Lane. They went on to win the Super Bowl — but neither Lane nor his fellow replacements received a championship ring.

That story is part of an ESPN “30 For 30” documentary that aired Tuesday night. “Year of the Scab” explores the lives of the 1500 replacement players. They were “caught in the crosshairs of media fueled controversy between owners, players and fans alike,” the network says.

Lane is featured frequently in the video. He mentions his “buddies from Westport” who attended the game against the Giants. There were only 9,000 fans that day.

When the documentary premiered at a DC film festival in June, the Washington Post revisited that strange, controversial season.

Skip Lane today.

“I Always Hated Being Called a Scab” got its headline from a quote by Lane.

“I was just trying to get one more year, show people what I could do and even join the union,” he told the paper.

“Over the years, I’ve had no contact with the Redskins. Absolutely nothing.”

But, he says in the film, he has no regrets about playing.

Being a scab was “the easiest decision of my life.”

(Hat tips: Carl Swanson and Fred Cantor. Click here for the full Washington Post story. Click below for the full video.)

7 responses to “Skip Lane: From Scab To ESPN Star

  1. Carl Addison Swanson, Esq.

    It was a fun documentary and Skip is shown in great humor and grateful for the awkward experience. The “RedSCABS” played the replacement Giants in their second game, as you note, in the Meadow Lands. Apparently, the Wrecker representation was so boisterous, even throwing beer cans in jest at Skip, that Coach Gibbs turned to him and said “are those hooligans with you?” Ole Westport at its best.

  2. Steve Doig (Staples '66)

    Great story! Skip definitely deserves a Super Bowl ring.

  3. Matthew Mandell

    Good for Skip., I’m glad he had the chance to play. In the game of football it’s every man for himself and if a team picked up one of the replacement players then that’s the way it should be. And that of course was that dream, beyond just playing those games.

    I went to one of those games, it was the Giants vs Dallas. Wish it was Washington and I could have said I saw Skip. I did not know the players did not get rings, or maybe even a check for being champs. Those 3 wins were part of what got them there and they should have received something. But again its the NFL and the players are cattle, even the great ones when they are passed their prime.

  4. Give him a ring. Great job skip. Me and my dad enjoyed the show. Pretty awesome

  5. Dunville’s rented a limo bus to Giant Stadium in Jersey and we froze to death. But Skip played well and we harassed him unmercifully from the stands. Skip was then and still is a great guy and an even better broker.

  6. Very well done show. Great work Skip. Agree with Jeff, after seeing the story and where the Redskins started with replacement players, beating a “stacked” cowboy team of several future Hall of Famers, rings deserved by all. Last time I checked these were National Football League games that did count.