Movie #212 2021: Year of the Scab (2017)

Yeah so I stepped away from Halloween for a hot sec, so what? Just breaking it up a little, you know? Now the NFL season is in full swing, I find myself not being able to get enough of it as usual. What better, then, than expanding what little knowledge I have of the NFL’s history than to watch a documentary to fill a very small gap in the expanse of missing information I have? That’s right: nothing! Those who know me will know that sports and movies are my two greatest loves (aside from my wife, of course) and therefore this type of documentary is right up my alley.

Year of the Scab takes us back to 1987; the year in which hundreds of NFL players went on strike when the big bosses decided that they would not be introducing Free Agency within the league. Rather than focus on the striking stars however, the documentary looks as the ‘has-beens’, ‘almosts’ and ‘never-coulds’: the men who were selected as replacements for these footballing legends in order for the league to continue on without them.

In my ignorance, I thought that the term “scab” was purely a British-ism used to describe those who defied the UK miners’ strikes in the 70s and 80s. That has absolutely nothing to do with this review, but you really do learn something new every day, huh? Thought that was worth repeating.

For me, a good documentary educates you on the things you knew nothing about before it. As an NFL fanatic, of course I already know some things about football. However, I didn’t even know that this strike had ever happened. Hell, I didn’t even know Free Agency didn’t exist before 1993. This film served its purpose in that regard: I now know things about a sport that I love that I did not know before. For that alone, it’s worth watching.

But is it entertaining and/or interesting? As a Giants fan, I was not exactly thrilled that most of the documentary focused on Washington. However, I must give credit where it’s due because this film really sucked me in. It presents both sides of the story very clearly and really toys with you emotionally. Who was right in this whole thing? Can you sympathise with both sides? Should this have ever happened at all?

I have so many ponderous questions, but here’s the most important one in this instance: will you enjoy Year of the Scab if you’re not into sports? Well I can’t imagine you’ll care too much about certain aspects, but if you have any interest in modern history or any type of sport in general you very well may get something out of it. Even just as a human being, this documentary makes it incredibly easy for you to feel for these guys, and if that’s not the mark of a decent documentary then I don’t know what is. 

Year of the Scab is nothing out of the ordinary in sporting documentary terms, but it tells a complete story and manages to be informative and emotive, especially when it comes down to the whole Super Bowl Ring debacle. I honestly almost cried at that point. Is my rating a little biased because I love football? Maybe. But it’s all personal choice when it comes down to it ✌🏻

Year of the Scab is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.

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