We Get NFL Broadcasts Today Thanks To Everyone Hating The Movie 'Heidi'
We were talking a few days ago about sports events running long and pushing back the TV schedule, particularly one time when a game cut into the news, sending an angry Dan Rather storming off the set. Now let's look at the reverse situation: What happens when everyone gets mad because the network cuts away from the game?
On November 17, 1968, NBC thought they'd set aside plenty of time to air a game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. The game started at 4:00 PM, and the schedule was free till a 7:00 PM movie. But between timeouts and a bizarre number of penalties, the Jets and Raiders wound up stretching their game longer than any NFL game previously televised.
At 7:00 PM, a minute of play still remained. Sometimes, when there's this little time left in a football game, everyone stops playing and the leading team starts celebrating. Tonight, the Jets were ahead 32 to 29, which probably meant they had the win, but it wasn't certain. With that score on the board, everyone watching the game at home saw the broadcast suddenly cut out. Replacing it was the scheduled screening of the 1968 movie Heidi.
There was no way for people to check the score besides watching network TV. There was no internet of course, no premium sports channels, and not even a 24-hour news channel they could switch to for updates. People at home sat in ignorance as Oakland scored a touchdown and took the lead, with 42 seconds still remaining. At this point, NBC execs tried to phone the station to tell them to switch back to the game, but they couldn't get through—because the station was flooded with calls from angry viewers.
The Raiders then scored another touchdown, winning the game 43 to 32. That's two touchdowns within nine seconds of play, and viewers missed them both, not learning about the comeback till reading the newspaper the next day.
Thanks to the "Heidi Game," the NFL insisted on a deal that live games have to air in their entirety. And Americans learned to harbor a deep hatred of Heidi ... actually, a hatred for the entire nation of Switzerland.
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Top image: NBC