Player's Union: The Movie

After sharing my pipe-dream plea for the professional athletes’ unions to show more solidarity with other, less elite, workers in other unions (see: “Workers of the world unite“), I got quite a few responses pointing out the many real and daunting reasons it’s not likely to ever be more than a pipe-dream.

I really do think that such solidarity — even if only symbolic gestures — shown by the millionaire players of the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major Leagues would be a public relations win for them, garnering much more fan support for their side in their own labor disputes. And they could use their fame and popularity to do some real good for hard-working people who never enjoy that kind of attention or leverage.

But if we can’t make that a reality, maybe we can at least make it a more widespread fantasy. Maybe making it a fantasy could be the first step toward making it real.

What I’m suggesting, in other words, is “Player’s Union” — the movie.

Start with the housekeeping staff at a Manhattan hotel. They’ve just learned that their next contract includes no raise, but doubles the employee share of the cost of health benefits. The Norma Rae of this bunch — let’s say Jennifer Lopez* — convinces them to strike, but they have little leverage and she’s struggling to hold the line. These women can’t afford the new contract, but they can’t afford a lengthy strike either.

As it happens, this very same Manhattan hotel is the site of negotiations between the NFL Players Union and the owners. Mixed up in all that is a flashy, loudmouthed Chad Ochocinco-type — let’s say Will Smith — who has tweeted himself into controversy and the thick of this dispute by calling out the other professional athletes’ unions for not supporting the NFL players.

Because this is a movie, his Twitter-offensive works and he convinces a bunch of NBA, baseball and hockey stars to join him in a show of support for the NFL players. That gets us a string of cameo appearances by real-life star athletes, giving our movie its appeal to the lucrative young male audience Hollywood craves. Getting these young males to line up for this movie is a neat trick because, at its core, this isn’t a sports movie, it’s a romantic comedy.

The rom-com plot unfolds after Will and his fellow all-stars show up at the hotel, only to find the sidewalk out front already claimed by J.Lo and her co-workers, carrying picket signs. The maid confronts the wide receiver, shaming him with the very same logic he used on his fellow millionaire athletes. Will and J.Lo annoy each other — they argue, they fight, they fall in love, yadda yadda yadda.

Lots of crowd-pleasing scenes along the way — Derek Jeter picketing alongside an unimpressed grandmother in a Mets cap; a 4-foot-11 member of the housekeeping staff carrying a two-person banner with All-Star 7-footer Dwight Howard; Troy Polamalu and a co-worker of J.Lo’s trading hair-care advice; Peyton Manning asks one outspoken old woman for her autograph; etc.

The jocks rally for the maids, the maids rally for the jocks. Happy endings all around.

We could throw in a sick kid or make the whole thing unfold at Christmastime, but I don’t think we’d even need that kind of overkill. I think just the basic combination of Cinderella and David & Goliath would have audiences cheering this movie. They would cheer for a movie in which unions are the Good Guys. They would cheer because they would be emotionally invested in the just resolution of a labor dispute for women they barely even see in real life.

Frank Capra made movies like that — Cinderella stories in which the underdogs came out on top. “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means,” Oscar Wilde said. But I think stories matter.

The stories we tell are, among other things, a way to remind ourselves of who we want to be and of who we wish we were. And that can make them a way of helping ourselves to become what we ought to be.

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* Lopez was appealing in Maid in Manhattan, but that movie fumbled its sure-thing formula — in part by making her character someone things happened to, rather than a hero who made things happen. But since she was so very good in Selena and in Out of Sight, I think she deserves another shot at the Cinderella hotel maid role.

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  • Hummingwolf

    HA!  I already knew that I hadn’t watched enough movies in my life, but this confirms it.  I know that Nice Guys are a problem in real life (believe me, I know!), but I didn’t realize that “woman goes for cute, loyal guy instead of cute, rich guy” was actually a thing.  Mostly I was thinking of the few teen movies I actually saw back in the ’80s, in all of which it seemed that two girls were chasing after the same boy, the boy spent nearly the whole movie drooling over the blonde from the rich family, and then at the end he realized that his True Love was the cute brunette next door (who almost every real life boy I knew thought was the more attractive girl to begin with) who had been mooning over him ever since they were both three years old.  I hated that plot, partly because both girls’ lives revolved around the boy and partly because I never was a blonde.

    So, not knowing about the adult rom-com version, let me guess:  Both men chasing after the same woman actually have lives that don’t revolve entirely around her?  And the one she chooses in the end is, in fact, not physically attractive to anyone in the audience?  Am I close?

  • Hummingwolf

    What I’d like to see is her choosing neither man, and deciding that being single is not the Worst Thing Ever,

    Me too, but Fred explicitly said that this was a romantic comedy, so I was trying to stay within what little I know of that format.

     or maybe even coming out of the closet as a lesbian and finding a fantastic woman to date.  Or maybe she likes both men and they decide to try out an open relationship thing.

    My fear there is that, with leads who aren’t lily-white, anything other than a faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship would play into too many racist stereotypes.  I could be wrong:  as I’m proving here, I really don’t know enough about modern movies to say.

  • Jocelyn Koehler

    YES TO ALL OF YOU! Can we start a (collectivist, natch) film company? 

    I think the gas leak happens because fatcat owner hired cheap non-union contractors to do all the work since his dad (the hotel’s founder) passed on. The leak occurs in the very ballroom that the fatcat team owners are negotiating in, and when they all light up their cigars, the room goes boom (they survive, of course, but stumble out all sooty and miserable).


  • Will Wildman

    It seems like the most straightforward way to handle the ‘get wealthy famous boyfriend, stop being a maid’ problem is to integrate it with the plot.  After all, a formulaic class-crossing romcom is never complete without the friends of the couple pointing out that they are TRANGRESSING THEIR CLASS by slumming/putting on airs/etc, and that this proves they are not truly devoted to their cause.  So have someone (either J.Lo’s Best Friend or possibly Sympathetic Guy) point out near the end, when Hotel Magnate Dude has pulled some complex legal trick that looks like it will win the day, that J.Lo may feel bad about losing, but she doesn’t actually have to care any more because she can quit and live off her sports star boyfriend now, whereas real people have to keep trudging.

    This, of course, galvanises her to find some way to strike a decisive blow against said Magnate’s case, and when it’s all over and they ask if she’s going to stay at the hotel, she says no – because she’s going to make a new career out of travelling across the country doing this same kind of work for other unions, using her connections to wealth and power to help as many people as possible.

    In the variant where she just forms a business relationship with Will Smith and actually wants to couple up with Sympathetic Guy, there’s the coy dialogue about how she’s leaving town but “she’ll be back” as often as possible.  He may or may not choose to go with her; without more characterization I’m not sure what motivations and goals he has.

    In the subplot area, I see Betty White forming a friendship with one of the older maids and the two of them playing some small but significant part in the turnabout when they finally get the best of Magnate Dude.

  • Will Wildman

    Despite all appearances, I can actually spell ‘transgress’.  If the Disqus account login didn’t hate me, I’d be able to edit that.

    Also: I can click on the ‘in reply to [Name]‘ bit on someone’s post and get a popup sort of window showing the post being replied to, but then nothing I do can make that popup go away.  Does anyone else have this particular problem?

  • Will Wildman

    Despite all appearances, I can actually spell ‘transgress’.  If the Disqus account login didn’t hate me, I’d be able to edit that.

    Also: I can click on the ‘in reply to [Name]‘ bit on someone’s post and get a popup sort of window showing the post being replied to, but then nothing I do can make that popup go away.  Does anyone else have this particular problem?