It has been 30 years since the Washington Redskins won the 1987 NFL Super Bowl, and a significant piece in that championship season has finally gotten its due credit for their part. The “Scabskins” of the 1987 strike season went 3-0 in their brief NFL appearance. These “Scabs” came from many different professions and hardships of life, from school teachers to convicts, their walk of life was as real as it gets. Of course, they were not professional athletes, so many were not in football shape for the obvious reasons. It is no question that this was the ultimate coaching job for head coach Joe Gibbs and his staff, and Gibbs took the challenge head-on with no hesitation.
Around D.C. and in Redskins fan circles, the story is well known. The Scabs finished their stint 3-0 in weeks 4 through 6 upsetting three straight division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys, to improve the Redskins’ record to 4-1. Following that stretch, the starters returned late in October against the New York Jets and subsequently carried the baton the rest of the way en route to a Super Bowl title. In a season that could have easily blown up in the Redskins face due to the strike and a good portion of top players returning league-wide, the replacement players kept the mission of the organization afloat in one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.
So why did it take so long for the Redskins to honor the replacements properly? If there was no documentary, would the rings that were long overdue even be issued to these group of players?
ESPN’s “30 for 30” series offer a deep dive on some of the most important, but often under-examined stories in sports. These documentaries are crafted in a way that touch the lives of many who had ties to particular athletes, institutions, or organizations. Whether it be emotional or merely professional, there was always ripple effects as a result of some of ESPN’s films.
A very recent example, the XFL decided to make a return. Vince McMahon’s pride and joy of the early 2000’s that fell flat after the league’s first season, still paved the way for innovative ideas for the future of the NFL. The XFL 30 for 30 documentary aired in early 2017, the McMahon announced the return of the XFL in January of 2018, 11 months following the airing of the documentary.
It is not far-fetched to say without the documentary, the Scabs may have very well never received their proper respect. Even though some players stated, it was the owner, Jack Kent Cooke that decided not to give them rings. However, Daniel Snyder took over the Washington Redskins in 1999, nearly 20 years now. A date to celebrate has not been announced yet by the Redskins. Nonetheless, the time has come and has been long overdue.