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,” though “replacement player” is the preferred term — 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 was part of an ESPN “30 For 30” documentary that aired in September. “Year of the Scab” explored 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 said.
Lane was featured frequently in the video. He mentioned his “buddies from Westport” who attended the game against the Giants. There were only 9,000 fans that day.
Over the years, Lane had no contact at all with the Redskins.
But the ESPN documentary created a groundswell of support for righting a wrong: getting rings for the replacement players. Washington probably would not have reached the Super Bowl without them.
Yesterday — in a brief ceremony at the Redskins’ practice facility — Lane and his former teammates got their rings.
It took 31 years.
But it sure looks good.