An SNL hosted by JJ Watt the night before Super Bowl 54 was inevitably going to be full of football themes, but the NBC comedy took the opportunity to go after one of the most beloved football movies ever while an actual NFL player was on the show.
Enter Robbie, a heartwarming fictional tale of an undersized, benchwarmer lacking the talent to play college football for Notre Dame but getting the support of his teammates to play because he has the heart and spirit of a champion. Well, every teammate except JJ Watt. The sketch is a clear parody of Rudy, the Sean Astin-led 1993 sports drama based on a true story that, according to SNL, doesn’t add up these days.
“Some of us were talking, coach, and we think Robby should dress for the game,” one player says. The coach rebukes him, saying the roster is set and Robbie’s just on the practice squad. But the players really want to see what the little guy’s got.
“This is Robbie’s dream, coach,” he continues. “I know there isn’t room on the roster so I want Robbie to take my spot.”
But Rudy, who was offside on the play that served as his shining moment in the movie by the same name, is a beloved tale that Watt shattered here by refusing to follow along with his other teammates. He called Robbie “dogsh*t” and refused to give up his spot on the field in order to let Robbie play in “a playoff game.” Watt, who actually went to college at Wisconsin, seemed to revel in the chance to blow up the mythology of Rudy here.
“He sh*t his pants in practice last week, Stevens. Again,” Watt’s character says after someone suggests that Robbie’s “heart” has “got to count” for something.
“I didn’t have to hit him this time,” Watt continued. “I just walked over to him and he crumpled over into a little ball and said ‘no no not again! It’s coming out!’”
Robbie tried to defend himself, saying he was inspired by a janitor, played by Kenan Thompson, who says he got that advice all wrong. The doubters continue to mount, but Robbie is given a chance: if he knows all the plays and can get past Watt’s character, he can play in the game.
It didn’t go very well, as he didn’t know many of them plays after all, then is sent flying by Watt into a locker, where he apparently ruined his uniform pants once more. It was a clear rebuke of Rudy that’s likely to get some Notre Dame fans mad for poking fun of a folk hero, but one definitely closer to reality than many of them would like to admit. You have to actually be good at football to play in big games. And as Watt knows, it gets harder the longer the playoffs continue.