Even the most knowledgeable of NFL fans have trouble explaining the way the league handles their broadcasting rules. You can show this game until this point, but not against a team playing at home, but not when a full moon is in the southern sky.
Usually the NFL only now cuts off the ending of a game when another game is coming on (even if it is on another channel). Forty years ago today, NBC decided to cut from switched off a Jets-Raiders AFL game to show the movie Heidi. The Raiders, who were trailing by three with 1:05 left in the game, scored 14 points and won the game. Everyone outside the Pacific Time Zone missed the comeback.
Several things came from this game.
First, the networks finally realized how popular pro-football was. At the time, networks routinely cut off the end of football games to show their regular programming. But this was in the third season of the Super Bowl era and the game was becoming part of our TV culture.
When Heidi comes on, viewers flooded their local NBC affiliates with complaints. Even before they made the switch, calls were coming in asking them to keep the game on (there were other calls to ask if Heidi would start on time). All the calls jammed the NBC phone lines that they couldn't get through to their mobile broadcast unit in Oakland to turn the game back on.
Because of the fuss, both the AFL and NFL demanded that the networks (NBC and CBS, respectively).
It's taken a while, but both networks who carry games on Sunday afternoon (CBS and Fox) have figured out the best way to handle this. Fox airs removable programming from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. as a buffer for games that run over. CBS doesn't really care if their programs are moved back since we all know that "60 Minutes will be seen in its entirety" after the game. In the era of TiVo and DVRs, that can play havoc with people's primetime viewing.
And because of that, we all get the chance to see officials screw up the end of the Steelers-Chargers game..
The Heidi Game's 40th Anniversary originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Mon, 17 Nov 2008 10:57:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.