The date is Nov. 17, 1968. The time, 6:59 p.m. e.s.t. The Jets lead the Raiders 32-29, with 1:05 left in a nationally televised game on NBC. Suddenly, unbelievably, a network executive switches circuits, sending NBC's Sunday night movie to three-quarters of the country. The him is about a little girl who lives in the Alps. Thousands of callers berate the network, telling it to get the little brat out of there. She stays put. Meanwhile, Oakland scores two TDs and wins 43-32.
The little girl, of course, was Heidi, and the Raiders-Jets encounter came to be known, perhaps forever, as The Heidi Game—a memorial to the ability of network television to foul up. With a nod backward, we hereby offer our Heidi Awards for 1982. We'll credit the networks for exemplary work on sports broadcasting where appropriate, but more often we'll be singling out performances they should have pulled the plug on.
THE BEST LIVE TELECAST—Cowboys vs. 49ers, NFC Championship ( CBS). Announcer Vin Scully's lyrical prose and Director Sandy Grossman's tight shots turned a stirring game into something approaching art. NBC's coverage of the " Kellen Winslow game," in which the Chargers and Dolphins battled into overtime in a playoff game, came in second only because of pedestrian announcing.
TITANIC AWARD FOR DISASTER AT SEA—To ABC for its coverage of the Brewers-Orioles game on the final day of the American League season. Director Chet Forte missed Ben Oglivie's sliding catch in the leftfield corner, which may have saved the year for Milwaukee. Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell mistook Ed Romero for Jim Gantner for five innings. Once clued in, Jackson left the impression that Romero, who had started, had just then pinch-hit for Gantner. To the lifeboats, gentlemen.
HEIDI AWARD FOR PERSISTENCE—To CBS for sticking with The NFL Today week after week, strike or no strike. I bet Dan Rather wouldn't show up every night if the world ended.
BEST-EDITED TELECAST—Ironman World Endurance Triathlon in February ( ABC). Included perhaps the most dramatic footage ever shown on Wide World of Sports. After swimming, biking and running a total of 140.6 miles, Julie Moss collapsed and had to crawl over the finish line, thereby losing the women's title. Her triumph of heart will stay with us.
WORST-EDITED TELECAST—The Class of '82, CBS's college football preview. Sophomoric in approach, it contained every clich� known to coach, pompon girl and Gary Bender. Cheesecake shots of cheerleaders prancing in the surf to the theme from Chariots of Fire were ludicrous. The Notre Dame Golden Dome bit was fawning.
BEST LINE—By color commentator Pat Haden as CBS returned to covering college football for the first time since 1963 with a boring prime-time game between Pitt and North Carolina: "We waited 19 years for this?"
BEST ANNOUNCER—Al Michaels ( ABC). Smooth, knowledgeable, well prepared and versatile, whether he's covering baseball in Milwaukee, football in Tallahassee or gymnastics in Zagreb.
HEIDI AWARD FOR APPLE POLISHING—To Frank Chirkinian, producer of CBS's U.S. Open tennis coverage. Maybe Chirkinian needs a limo or a bigger office. He showed so many CBS executives and TV personalities wearing network hats at courtside that you almost forgot there was a match in progress.