Go Falco! Go Keanu! Extras at the PSINet Stadium cheer for Falco (aka Keanu Reeves). (SunSpot photo by Sonya Ko)In the early '90s when Charlie Sheen was still considered a good -- if somewhat irresponsible -- catch and Oriole Park was still a novelty among baseball parks, "Major League II" came to town.
My friends, who had a hankering for the "Wild Thing," insisted that we head down to the park for a chance to be discovered as extras. Cheering on demand for a fake baseball game didn't sound like such a hot time, but my boy-crazy pals thought otherwise, so we went.
Now Baltimore has another new stadium and another new film that has decided to take advantage of its sports facilities. This time when I heard that the movie, "The Replacements," stars Keanu Reeves (and some guy named Gene Hackman), I didn't need to be dragged kicking and screaming. I happily donned the requisite gray, blue, and red fall clothing, slathered on some sunscreen, and headed out for a day of forced frolicking at PSINet Stadium on August 15, 1999.
9:45 a.m. My companion, Michele, and I arrive at PSINet. As I'm sometimes a little slow in the putting-two-and-two-together department, it takes me a few minutes to realize that this is a football movie based on the late '80s players' strike and that it has absolutely nothing to do with indie-rocker Paul Westerberg. Whatever, dude.
10:00 a.m. We grab two seats in the end zone, which now reads "Washington." Take that, season ticket-holders! Somehow we surmise that we're supposed to be cheering for the Washington, D.C. Sentinels and that the first scenes we'll be shooting involve the scab players' first game.
10:10 a.m. We check out our scene-stealing competition. Not too stiff. These lemurs actually showed up in long pants and sweaters. It's close to 100 degrees out here, what are they thinking? Okay, I confess that I borrowed my boyfriend's blue khakis (is that a fashion impossibility?) and I do have a sweater in my bag, but I'm not wearing it! However, I am wearing a pseudo-wife-beater tank. This isn't exactly the outfit I envisioned for my own private meeting with Keanu.
10:30 a.m. Our excellent adventure begins as crowd leaders start getting us pumped. The 5,000 fans practice their ear-splitting hoots and hollers while I vow to be the best darn Sentinels fan ever. I have no qualms about sweating to the point of dehydration and cheering for a play that isn't really happening if it means I'm going to catch a glimpse of the little buddha.
10:45 a.m. We just happen to be fortunate enough to be sitting near a pack of Marines. Ugh! They seem to be programmed to stand up in unison at 10-minute intervals and chant indiscernible phrases as if they're part of some Pavlovian spelling bee. Shouldn't they be out defending the universe or something?
10:55 a.m. I'm sweating so much that the moisture in my pants alone could end the drought. The actor/waiter behind me concurs with: "I think there's a sauna in my pants."
11:00 a.m. The prop girl passes out pom-poms, pennants, and pointing fingers and people go crazy, clamoring for the goods. As if they ever needed Sentinels souvenirs before.
11:10 a.m. Stuff. We want stuff. It's like some sort of merch fever has taken a hold of us and Michele and I suddenly need stuff. We don't even care what stuff. We'll take a towel, a fake hand-made sign, even Keanu's used Kleenex. We don't care, just give us stuff!
11:15 a.m. The prop chick doesn't deem us worthy. We try to shrug it off with a search for refreshment. Unfortunately, we only discover out-of-order water fountains and empty coolers. Then, we see a soda vendor in the distance. Alas, something cold! We run up to him and thrust three sweaty dollars in his face. He merely shakes his head and answers our offer with: "It's just a prop, man." Bummer.
11:25 a.m. Somebody in charge announces that they are going to start raffling off prizes like Nintendo systems, TVs, boom boxes, and money. No thanks, just give me a date with Keanu.
11:30 a.m. All attention is on the video screens as people stare (mouths agape) in complete silence at the bouncing cheerleaders. Glittering pom-poms and the girls' pole dance-like movements have hypnotized the crowd.
11:40 a.m. The powers-that-be try to snap us back to attention with another lame bribe. I'm getting pretty fed up with these raffle prizes. At this point, I might settle for a date with Mr. Hackman.
11:45 a.m. The fans start to take bets on who will be the first person to pass out from heat exhaustion. Will it be the George Washington-like mascot who bares a disturbing resemblance to Tom Cruise -- unibrow and all? Or will it be the guy in the fourth row who is playing his part as if it's a star-making vehicle?
12:00 p.m. Out of desperation, I resort to utter tackiness and wrap wet paper towels around my arms and neck. My quest for stardom is really pushing my limits.
12:10 p.m. It's time for the next scene, although I can't really recall doing any other scenes. This time, we're told to react with "much fervor and moxie." This leads to much ados about nothing.
12:25 p.m. We have to do the same darn shot again. Or maybe there's just a glitch in my matrix and it only seems like we've been here before. The scene involves some general high-fiving action that the football players just don't seem to get. Come on, I'm holding up my end of the deal.
12:30 p.m. We get the shot. Yippee.
12:45 p.m. I'm cranky. I think I'm about to pass out. I don't even care that Dogstar's not here to play a live set. The heck with fame and fortune, just give me air-conditioning.
12:55 p.m. We rehearse the next shot, in which our team kicks a field goal and we act like we care. There's no pigskin in sight. The dripping blob to my left wants to know what his motivation is. I'll give him motivation.
1:10 p.m. Take five, finally. It's time for lunch. To pass the time in the long lines, people compare the size of their sweat stains and trade inkblot interpretations.
1:15 p.m. I reach the front of the line only to discover that free lunch means hot dogs and potato chips. Since I'm a vegetarian, this royally ticks me off. The servers even refuse to make substitutes. I would've settled for a pretzel or fries. Instead, Michele gets two dogs and I eat the potato chips that may have been vegetables in a previous life.
1:16 p.m. Well, I'm stuffed.
1:40 p.m. Need. Water. Now. My seat is so hot, that I swear I can hear my glutes sizzling. I refuse to budge, though. Even if I could remove myself from the plastic seat, I wouldn't. I'm going to stay right here until I win my $10,000 grand prize.
Keanu -- is that you, baby? (SunSpot photo by Sonya Ko)
2:00 p.m. In a frantic attempt to flush the stinging salt water out of my eyes, I go to the bathroom and turn the faucet on. Much to my consternation, the faucet emits a spooky, human cry. At first, I think I'm hearing things, but then I try it again and again, and the faucet continues to cry. I start muttering to myself that I just can't believe it and people flash "get the straight jacket" looks in my direction, but I'm sure that the faucet is crying like a baby. When I get back to my seat, I tell Michele, and she replies, "yeah, right, and Keanu just walked by." She thinks I've been out in the sun too long.
2:20 p.m. More sitting.
2:25 p.m. This is a lunch break of epic proportions. Come on, let's speed things up a bit. How about some field goal action?
2:40 p.m. The movie makers' idea of speeding things up is by playing scenes from "Speed" on the video screen. When an old guy nearby sees the clip, he asks his wife, "Isn't that the only thing he's ever been in?"
2:45 p.m. In search of more excitement, fans watch the sky for large clouds. Then, when they spot one, they time how long it takes for us to have a moment of shade.
2:50 p.m. The next shot involves a player knocking over a bunch of cheerleaders. Even I'll rah-rah for that.
2:55 p.m. We're ready for some cheerleader bowling. People in the stands yell: "Knock them down." The mascot, probably on the verge of fainting, takes off part of his costume. Somebody else shouts: "Put his head back on." Another fan wants to know if the porkier cheerleaders are replacement pom-pom shakers. It's getting ugly out here.
3:10 p.m. Our crowded section is admonished for being "too thick." Tell me about it. An unflattering image of Keanu's character, Shane Falco, appears on the screen, giving me false hopes that he might actually be in the vicinity.
3:30 p.m. A phony-fan uprising is in the works. First they initiate the wave, then they get belligerent when it dies. Then they start heckling each other.
3:40 p.m. A storm appears on the horizon and people get excited. The actors quickly squeeze in another shot.
3:45 p.m. A loud clap of thunder incites the most energetic cheer of the day. The sky is black. Now this is fun!
4:00 p.m. The temperature suddenly drops 20 degrees and an official person with a walkie-talkie demands that we go to the concourse immediately because "when it gets cold that fast, it's bad."
4:10 p.m. Rain delay. We're waiting half an hour to see what's going to happen. It's cold enough to give me goosebumps.
4:20 p.m. Loud claps of thunder reverberate through the concourse and people scream, cry, and run. Come on people, there ain't no weather breaks in football.
4:30 p.m. Everybody crowds around the guy with the bullhorn in one last attempt to win something, anything. The stench of armpit puddles is overwhelming, but I hold my ground.
5:00 p.m. We unflinchingly stare at the poor prize guy until someone finally wins the $10,000. With the winner announced and the rest of the filming canceled, everybody runs for the exits. Although my acting bug has been mercilessly squashed, the day wasn't a total loss. I did get a nifty fan in the shape of a football helmet and I probably sweated off at least five pounds.