"Heaven Can Wait" is one of my favorite movies. A romantic comedy starring -- and written, directed and produced by -- Warren Beatty, it was a best-picture nominee in (hard to believe) 1978.
In a word, it was charming. Perhaps what drew me most to the production, though, was that one of the main supporting characters is an athletic trainer. The late Jack Warden plays Max Corkle, the head athletic trainer for the then Los Angeles Rams. Corkle and Beatty's character, quarterback Joe Pendleton, are best friends.
Now late in an injury-marred career, Pendleton is healthy again – largely thanks to Corkle – and on the verge of becoming the starting quarterback for the Rams who are favored to reach the Super Bowl.
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.
Against Corkle's advice, Pendleton goes for a bike ride in the hills above L.A. After entering a tunnel, he meets up with a semi. At least his guardian angel thought he was going to collide with the rig and pulls Pendleton's soul from his body moments before the mishap.
Upon his arrival at an after-life way station, Pendleton insists a mistake has been made.
And if he wasn't correct, there would be no more movie. The remainder of the screenplay takes us through a variety of plot twists as Pendleton's guardian angel's supervisor, Mr. Jordan -- played masterfully by the late James Mason, helps Pendleton fulfill his destiny.
However, if the movie were to be remade today, one of those twists would have to be removed. Not wanting to reveal too much, all I will say is that one of the Rams is knocked out in a game but allowed to re-enter upon regaining consciousness.
That is totally taboo in the present-day NFL. Knocked out or experiencing any of the other signs and symptoms of a concussion, you are now done for the day. In fact, that rule has become essentially universal.
Except apparently during the playoffs.
Said exception was entirely evident during Game 2 of the ALCS between the Tigers and Red Sox. With Boston trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the 8th, there were two outs and the hosts were on the verge of falling behind two games to none. BUT the bases were loaded AND David Ortiz was coming up.
Naturally, Big Papi deposited the first pitch into the Red Sox bullpen but not before Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter came within inches of making a spectacular grab. Instead, his effort sent him tumbling over the wall. Stan Grossfeld’s picture (Boston Globe) of Hunter's legs and the Boston police officer's arms in simultaneous Vs has become an instant classic.
The way the Tigers handled Hunter's headfirst hit with the ground not so classic at all. Fortunately, FOX had cameras at multiple angles to catch Hunter's near catch. One showed him landing hard and then going limp. Tiger staff raced to the bullpen and ultimately allowed Hunter to remain in the game. Their official explanation? Wind knocked out.
Not so fast my friends. The video didn’t lie and, ultimately, neither did Hunter. He publicly thanked Red Sox relievers for “trying to wake me up.”
I’m just surprised the national media weren’t awake on this one. If Hunter had been a member of the Bears or Lions instead of the Tigers, we’d still be hearing, “Oh my!”