THE HEIDI BOWL
The rest of the story
Val the Victorian made a comment on my Saturday post “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” http://joeh-crankyoldman.blogspot.com/2013/06/it-aint-over-til-its-over.html which jogged my memory of one of the most interesting events in sports come-from-behind victories.
The Heidi Bowl.
In November 1968, the New York Jets were playing the Oakland Raiders in a grudge football game. I don’t remember if the game had any particular importance in the leagues standings, but these two teams were major rivals at the time and every game was for blood. The game was being televised nationally on NBC. The game was expected to end by 6:30 pm in the evening, giving ample time for a post-game show and a scheduled 7:00 broadcast of a highly publicized movie “Heidi.”
The game ran long. It was high scoring and there were several injury timeouts. With less than one minute to play, and the clock about to strike 7:00, the Jets were winning 32-29. A three point lead was far from game over. A field goal would tie the game up, so fans around the country were on the edge of their seats.
And then the unthinkable happened.
Non-football fans that tuned in to watch “Heidi” were alarmed that there was still a football game being televised. These non-fans called into NBC to inquire if “Heidi” was going to be delayed. These calls jammed the lines and a NBC executive’s call to keep the game on and delay “Heidi” did not go through.
With less than a minute to go and the Raiders driving to within field goal range, the opening of “Heidi” suddenly came on the screen.
While a little girl was seen dancing in the hills of Switzerland, Oakland threw a 50 yard touchdown pass to take the lead over the Jets. No one saw that TD and fans across the country were screaming at their TV sets. Then, while Heidi was still twirling through the mountain flowers, the Jets fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Oakland returned it for another TD to make the score 43-32.
Football fans around the country were outraged, and this incident resulted in a TV directive to never pull away from a live event in favor of another scheduled program.
The Heidi game is well known in pro-football lore, but one point always seems to be left out of the story.
The New York Jets were 7 point underdogs to the Raiders in this game. When NBC cut to “Heidi,” half of the New York tri-state area had money bet on the Jets; bets that with the spread, looked to be a sure win. Perhaps the Raiders might pull out a tie in that last minute, they could even, maybe, win the game, but never did anyone in all of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut think for a minute that they might lose their bet. After all, with the spread they were leading by 10 points.
When Oakland returned a fumbled kickoff for a touchdown with less than 30 seconds in the game, they also covered the spread and a lot of New York Jets fans lost a lot of money, and they lost this money while Heidi was dancing on the TV screen.
Much of the commotion and anger at the “Heidi Bowl” incident was not because fans missed the final exciting minute on TV, but was generated by superstitious gamblers who blamed “Heidi” on the Jets incredible failure to cover the spread when Oakland scored 14 points in less than a minute.
And now, thanks to Val the Victorian, you know, “the rest of the story!”