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.
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.
“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.)