Name given to the November 17, 1968
game between the New York Jets
and the Oakland Raiders
, more famous for decisions made by the television network NBC
than for what happened on the field.
The Jets and Raiders were both 7-2, and considered by many to be the top teams in the AFL. (The Jets would go on to win Super Bowl III weeks later.) In a back-and-forth game, the Jets took the lead, 32-29, with 1:05 to go. NBC went to commercial following the proceeding kickoff return. However, the time was 7:00 PM Eastern and NBC was scheduled to show the made-for-TV movie "Heidi" at that time in the Eastern and Central time zones. NBC was obligated to the sponsors of the showing of Heidi, but there was about a minute to go in the close game. Tough decision?
Easy decision. NBC had written procedures about such things. The person in charge of what NBC was broadcasting hadn't been told anything different, so he switched the network broadcast over to "Heidi", on-time.
Half of the country, including New York, missed the Raiders shockingly scoring two touchdowns in the final 1:05, to pull out a 43-32 win.
NBC's switchboard was flooded with calls from thousands of irate football fans. The network president was forced to issue a public apology.
This game helped establish the importance of sports to television, such that NBC (and the other networks) altered their policies to allow sporting events to be shown until their conclusion.
The effects of the Heidi game can be seen recently. In February 2001, an XFL game between the Los Angeles Xtreme and the Chicago Enforcers (coincidentally, also broadcast on NBC) went into double-overtime. The game's length pushed it into the time period of Saturday Night Live, which was to be a first-run episode hosted by the insanely popular Jennifer Lopez. However, NBC stayed with the XFL game, to the anger of many. SNL was performed live, on-time, but was shown on television after the game, tape-delayed by 45 minutes. The conclusion of a sports event (even the XFL...) had priority over J-Lo.