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In professional American football, the Heidi Game (often referred to, facetiously, as the "Heidi Bowl") refers to a famous American Football League (AFL) game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, played on November 17, 1968 in Oakland, Californiamarker. This game is memorable largely because the NBC television network terminated the broadcast in the Eastern and Central time zones with 65 seconds left to play in the game in favor of broadcasting a pre-scheduled two-hour airing of Heidi,  a new made-for-TV version of the classic children's story. (The telecast included commercial breaks; the actual film ran 104 minutes.)

With the Jets leading 32-29 with only 65 seconds left in the game, NBC executives attempted to reach their broadcast operations unit to extend coverage of the game but were unable to reach them in time to delay the cutover or reinstate coverage before the game ended. In the meantime, the Raiders came back and scored 14 points, winning 43-32. As a result, no fan following the game on TV was able to see Oakland's comeback live. The complaints to the network indicated a new height of popularity for the game in the United States.

The game

Both teams entered the game with 7-2 records, and were considered two of the best teams in the 10-team AFL. The Raiders were the defending AFL champions from 1967, and the contending Jets had superstar quarterback Joe Namath in his fourth pro season.

The game was televised by NBC Sports, with announcers Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis, and shown to most of the country as the second game in an AFL doubleheader. The broadcast was scheduled to be followed by the premiere of Heidi, an adaptation of the classic children's story about the Swissmarker girl. Kickoff for the game was at 1:00 pm in Oakland, or 4:00 pm Eastern Time , allowing three hours before the scheduled 7:00 pm ET start time for the movie. Typically, professional football games in that era were completed in under three hours. Additionally, up until this time it was not uncommon for games to not be shown in their entirety, especially if the game's outcome was likely determined, or there was a more attractive matchup following (in fact, NBC had cut away from San Diego at Buffalo – the first game of that afternoon's doubleheader – to showcase the entire Jets-Raiders game).

The game was a hard-fought offensive contest, with a number of fights and penalties. The first half ended with Oakland leading 14-12. The game remained competitive throughout the second half when, with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter, Jim Turner kicked a 26-yard field goal to give New York a 32-29 lead. The field goal was kicked near the end of the game's three hour time slot on the network.

The ensuing kickoff was returned by the Raiders to their own 23-yard line, and NBC went to a commercial break just before 7:00 pm.

The incident

Because NBC was contractually obligated to the movie's sponsor, Timex, to broadcast Heidi from 7 pm to 9 pm that evening, the network had instructed Dick Cline, NBC's Broadcast Operations Supervisor, to cut to Heidi at exactly 7:00 pm, whether the football game was over or not. As the game approached its exciting ending, however, NBC's executives changed their minds and decided to air the game to its conclusion and delay Heidi by several minutes if necessary. However, because so many football viewers were calling the network requesting the network not cut away from the game (and others asking if Heidi would air on-schedule) the NBC executives could not get through. NBC tried to contact the mobile unit in Oakland to call Broadcasting Operations, but Broadcasting Operations countered that they needed direct orders in order to rearrange scheduled programming.

With the game fed on telephone lines instead of satellites, Cline could not see what happened in the final minute. In an NBC Burbank studio where the TV feed was being controlled, Cline received no late instructions otherwise, and when the network came back from commercials, Heidi started on schedule at 7:00 pm.

Cline later said that he was called directly by the president of NBC after the network ended its coverage, demanding that the game be put back on the air. However, the video link to the stadium had already been disconnected; reestablishing it would have required action by a multitude of telephone switching stations across the country. AT&T, which handled NBC's remote feeds, was unable to reach all of the necessary offices before the game ended.

While millions of stunned football fans east of Denver suddenly found themselves watching Jennifer Edwards in Heidi, the Raiders scored two touchdowns on three plays and won the game 43-32 in what has been voted by fans as one of the 10 most memorable games in American football history. Daryle Lamonica completed a 20 yard pass to Charlie Smith. Jet Mike D’Amato grabbed Smith's facemask on the play and the 15 yard penalty put the Raiders into Jets territory on the 43 yard line. On the next play Smith caught a pass and ran by D'Amato for a 43-yard touchdown with 42 seconds left, putting Oakland ahead 36-32. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Jet Earl Christy fumbled the ball at the 10 yard line. The ball landed on the two yard line where Raiders special teamer Preston Ridlehuber recovered it and took it in for a touchdown with 33 seconds left in the game.


At 8:40 PM, a crawl across the bottom of the screen announced the ending to the game (during a dramatic point in the movie when Heidi's paralyzed cousin Clara fell from her wheelchair and had to summon enough courage to try to walk). So many fans called NBC to complain about missing the fantastic ending of the game (and to make various and sundry threats) that the switchboard ceased to function, blowing at least 25 circuits in the process. Many irate viewers also called NBC affiliates, radio stations, newspapers such as The New York Times, the telephone company and the NYPD, nearly crashing the telephone network in metropolitan New York. This resulted in NBC making a public on-air apology at the end of the film, at 9:00 PM.

The next morning the incident was covered on the front page of The New York Times.

NBC bought advertisements in several major newspapers soon after the incident, proclaiming rave reviews for Heidi, along with a tongue-in-cheek quote from Jets quarterback Joe Namath: "I didn't get a chance to see it, but I heard it was great."

Neither Curt Gowdy nor Al DeRogatis knew they were off the air after 7:00 pm. After the game, they were packing up when the stage manager yelled at Gowdy to "do those two touchdowns again." Gowdy reconstructed the call, which ran on NBC's news programs as well as Monday morning's Today show. Due to the technology of the time the participants in the game were unaware of what was going on. John Madden, the assistant coach of the Raiders at that time, reported that when the Raider coaches and players found out what happened they thought it was funny. The wife of Jets coach Weeb Eubank called him to congratulate him on the "victory" only to hear grumbling.

NBC President Julian Goodman issued a statement following the game, calling the incident "a forgivable error committed by humans who were concerned about children expecting to see Heidi at 7:00 pm." He added, "I missed the end of the game as much as anyone else." According to Cline in the book Going Long, Goodman used his direct line phone (as the switchboard was down) to tell Cline, "This is Julian Goodman. Put the football game back on now." Other accounts claim no such direct-line phone was installed until after the "Heidi Bowl".

The following evening, on the ABC Evening News, anchor Frank Reynolds was seen reading excerpts from Heidi (with the title of the book clearly visible), with cut-ins showing the two Raider touchdowns.


Ultimately, the NFL's television policies were amended, requiring games to be broadcast in their entirety in the markets of the teams involved, this rule was then later imitated by other professional sports leagues such as the MLB, NHL, and NBA to help prevent such a similar incident in their respective sports games. In addition, rule changes to keep the game clock running after out of bounds plays were instituted to speed the game. At NBC, the network installed a new phone in the control room wired to a separate exchange, becoming known as the Heidi Phone.

Neither team would lose again that regular season, the Raiders finishing the season 12-2 and the Jets finishing 11-3. Both teams would also win their respective divisions, the Raiders the West and the Jets the East. Six weeks after the "Heidi Game", the Jets came from behind to defeat the Raiders in New Yorkmarker in the 1968 AFL Championship Game, 27-23. Two weeks later, the Jets upset the Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III.

In a 1997 poll taken in conjunction with the NFL's 10,000th regular season game, the "Heidi Game" was voted the most memorable regular season game in pro football history by a select group of media.

Nearly 35 years after the game Jennifer Edwards briefly chatted about the incident with Joe Namath after bumping into him on a cross-country flight. It took Earl Christy 20 years to be able to talk about his crucial fumble.

The issue of 4 pm NFL games ending during the 7 pm-8 pm ET hour has been handled by networks in various ways. Fox averts most program pre-emptions during the football season by making the 7 pm-8 pm ET hour a buffer for late-running games, airing expendable repeats of their animated and comedy series or a postgame analysis program called The O.T., thus football only causes delays to Fox's lineup if a game continues into the 8 pm hour, a relative rarity (since The O.T. airs live in all time zones, the 7-8 pm hour in the Pacific Time Zone [6-7 pm in the Mountain Time Zone] is filled by Fox with reruns of various network programs during football season). CBS delays the start of its weekly newsmagazine 60 Minutes until the completion of the late game in many Eastern and Central time zone markets, and the entire Sunday night lineup is delayed to the time that program starts. Viewers watching the tail end of a 4 pm game on CBS often hear the line, "60 Minutes will be seen in its entirety after the conclusion of the game, except on the West Coast, where it will be seen at its regular time." Since the 2007 season, CBS has offered a text messaging/email service to alert viewers to what time the primetime lineup starts to allow adjustment of viewing and recording schedules.

Another problem of the 4 pm games is that many stations in the Eastern and Central time zones, having their Sunday-evening program schedules "slide" back due to NFL games running past 7 pm eastern time, find that their late newscasts might not come on until 11:30 pm and run until midnight due to overtime(s),etc. Today, CBS and Fox let their local affliates have a 5-minute newsbreak during halftimes of their "late" Sunday games. Some CBS affiliates would like to see that network's Sunday night schedule altered during football season so that late local news airs on-time at 11 pm Eastern.

Recent references

  • NBC's 75th Anniversary Special in 2002 showed clips from the Heidi Game incident. Shown was footage of the game being cut to the movie, followed by an apology by David Brinkley on the next night's Huntley-Brinkley Report, who then showed highlights of the touchdown that would have been seen live if NBC had not cut the game off (in the east). The clips were later replayed on another NBC special, Most Outrageous Live TV Moments 2. In these instances, the pre-emption was depicted as an abrupt cut from the game to the opening titles of the movie; however, the movie actually began after a commercial break, station identification and the NBC Peacock "living color" opening.

  • A late 1990s ESPN commercial promoted the cable network by depicting a disappointed Jets fan stunned at not seeing the game in its entirety.

  • On the 35th anniversary of the game in 2003, the NFL Network broadcast the 1968 Heidi movie along with interviews and footage of the two Raiders touchdowns viewers missed. Additionally, rather than directly competing against a Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers, the network had a continuous on-screen scrolling graphic showing football statistics from 1968.

  • ESPN parodied the Heidi Game during their presentation of "The Match-up of the Millennium" in which using old NFL Film clips to pit the greatest team of the NFL's History against each other. (such as 1960s Packers, 1970s Steelers, 1980s 49ers, 1990s Cowboys). During the end of the "game" between the 1980s 49ers versus 1960s Packers, the 1980s 49ers drove down the field for a chip-shot FG which would win them the game. Just as the ball is being kicked the "feed" is lost and a shot was shown with the title Heidi and a speaker announces it is the beginning of a TV movie. The shot is quickly taken off and shows the 80's 49ers distraught after they missed the chip-shot FG.

  • During Cartoon Network's former tradition of "The Big Game", during a "game" between Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, the "score" had gotten ridiculously one-sided (Coyote's "score" was in negative points), that Cartoon Network "cut" to the beginning of Heidi, to which commentator John Madden interrupted and mentioned it was a joke.


Similar events

Before this game

  • In 1961, Wisconsin station WISN-TVmarker, a then-CBS affiliate, opted not to carry that year's annual telecast of The Wizard of Oz, running a Green Bay Packers football game instead. In contrast to the Heidi telecast, the popularity of The Wizard of Oz as an annual TV event at that time was such that the station was forced to run the movie locally at a later date.
  • On June 25, 1963, in the second to last over of the 2nd Test match between the England and West Indies cricket teams at Lord'smarker, the BBC left the match for the scheduled news at 5:50 p.m., even though England only needed eight runs to win and the West Indies two wickets and a draw or tie was also possible. However, Kenneth Adam, Director of Television and a cricket fan was watching and managed to order the news off the air and a return to the cricket. So the first news story, which was about President John F. Kennedy, was faded out and the last part of the match was shown, which ended in a draw with England at 228-9, six runs short of winning.

Since this game

  • On December 22, 1968, CBS interrupted coverage of a Western Conference championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Colts in order to show a broadcast of the Apollo 8 mission. The interruption began approximately three minutes before halftime of the game, and lasted 17 minutes. CBS showed highlights of the missed action (which involved no scoring) when the network returned to football; nonetheless, the network received approximately 3,000 complaints after the game.

  • In 1982 the team handball world championships were played in West Germanymarker. The final stood between USSRmarker and Yugoslavia and went into double overtime. In Denmark, the game was broadcast on Danmarks Radio (DR), then the only television station in Denmarkmarker. During overtime, the game was cut off for a scheduled newscast. The anchor promised that the final minute of the game would be shown following the newscast. A couple of minutes into the news, the phone on the newsreader's desk rang (they did not use earpieces then). He answered it: "Yes... right now? ...yes", then hung up and told viewers that they would rejoin the game. As it turned out, the chief executive of DR television had been watching the game at home and was so displeased with the cutoff that he called the studio and gave a direct order to resume the broadcast of the game.

  • Up until the mid 1980s, Hockey Night in Canada also used to switch from the end of late running games to show the start of The National. Dave Hodge once threw a pencil in the air after he had to announce CBC's decision to not show the end of an overtime game, and was subsequently fired.

  • In the late 1990s, WTRFmarker, Wheeling, West Virginia's CBS affiliate, left coverage of the NASCAR Bud Shootout for local programming as the field came to the white flag (indicating the start of the final lap of the race).

  • On May 16, 2001, another NHL hockey game on the CBC was abruptly cut off on CBUTmarker Vancouvermarker at 7:58 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time during the second overtime of a playoff game involving two American teams, as the provincialmarker polls were about to close, even though the election was a predicted landslide. The CBC had the ability to warn its viewers in BC that they would switch to election coverage at around 8 pm (through text scrolls, overtime intermission news breaks), yet failed to do so and thereby surprised viewers with the sudden cutoff.

  • In 2000, the NASCAR Busch Series Albertson's 300 from Texas Motor Speedwaymarker was delayed by rain for over 4 hours. CBS switched to a Final Four pregame show at 4 p.m. EST, stating that the race would resume live on TNN, which was then a sister cable network, whenever it started (the race was cut to TNN at 4 pm ET the previous year because of the NCAA Final Four Pre-Game Show). However, at 6 pm ET, a crawl on the bottom of the screen on TNN said that due to continuing delays, the race would not be broadcast (even though the race actually restarted at about the time the crawl came on the screen). The program on at the time of the crawl was a children's cartoon movie called An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Some attribute this incident to new Viacom management which had taken over CBS Cable operations in advance of Viacom's takeover of CBS (which was official a month later), and ignored the CBS Charlotte division that ran the network's motorsports operations, which was shut down by MTV that November. In 2001, MTV Networks, the division of Viacom that ran TNN, was sued by two auto racing sanctioning bodies (American Speed Association and World of Outlaws) for breach of contracts CBS had signed; CBS had owned 25% of the American Speed Association, which they purchased after losing NASCAR rights at the end of the 2000 season, and extended their World of Outlaws contract after also losing NHRA rights. This led to the demise of the original American Speed Association, and a short-lived split in winged dirt sprint car racing. Viacom still owns the re-named Spike TV, but the CBS network's parent company was spun off into CBS Corporation in 2005.

  • In 2004, ABC cut away from the final round of the Buick Classic PGA Tour golf tournament at 7 p.m. ET to show a rerun of America's Funniest Home Videos. Three players were involved in a sudden-death shootout when ABC signed off. Again, this was only in the Eastern and Central time zones; West Coast viewers stuck with ABC until the end.

  • On April 24, 2005, as the San Marino Grand Prixmarker reached its climax, and Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher were fighting for the win, ITV went to a 2' 30" advert break and missed two of the final three laps, rejoining in the middle of the final lap, in which Alonso won. ITV later apologized for the incident.

  • An April 11, 2007 NHL first round Stanley Cup playoff Game 1, which had the Dallas Stars playing in Vancouver against the Canucks, went into quadruple overtime. The game, which started at 10:00 p.m. ET aired in the United States on Versus, and lasted 5 1/2 hours, but was interrupted on some cable systems in the fourth overtime period by an infomercial, preventing viewers from watching Vancouver score the winning goal two minutes before the start of a fifth overtime, and win, 5-4. It is somewhat common for some cable systems to sell their own infomercial time on networks during non-programming overnight hours. After hearing complaints from viewers, Versus stated it would review its policies to prevent this from happening again, and try to figure out what triggered the infomercial to air.

  • One month later, on May 19, 2007 NHL Eastern Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs Game 5, which had the Ottawa Senators playing in Buffalomarker against the Buffalo Sabres, went into overtime. The game, which started at 2:00 p.m. ET aired in the United States on NBC. NBC pre-empted overtime coverage outside of the Buffalomarker and Rochestermarker areas though in order to show pre-race coverage of the 2007 Preakness Stakes. The remainder of the game was televised on Versus. However, some cable providers do not carry Versus; thus, some viewers were unable to see the game's end which resulted in an Ottawa victory and their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup finals. The deciding goal of the hockey playoff game ended up being scored an hour before the actual Preakness race was run. However, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the first half-hour of horse racing preshow coverage earned a 3.8 rating, whereas the last half-hour of hockey, which immediately preceded it, had just a 1.5.

  • On May 26, 2007, only the first 19 laps of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Ohio 250 race were shown on Fox, due to a long rain delay that followed. When it ended nearly three hours later, the broadcast window had ended and regional telecasts of Major League Baseball replaced it. SPEED showed the entire race, with Fox graphics and other production elements, on tape delay at 11 p.m. ET that night. The oddity of this situation was that SPEED Channel showed live continuing coverage of the race from when it resumed on lap 20 at about 5:30 p.m. ET. However, when it started raining again on lap 107 at about 6:45 p.m. ET, SPEED Channel left the race and said that the conclusion would be seen on tape-delay at 11 p.m. ET under terms of NASCAR's television contractual restrictions. Under terms of NASCAR's television contracts (one for each national series), two live NASCAR broadcasts of different national series are prohibited from airing at the same time. ESPN2 was scheduled to begin live coverage of the Busch Series Carquest Auto Parts 300 from Lowe's Motor Speedwaymarker at 7:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR Countdown.)
    • A 2002 Busch Series Race race on FX at Kentucky Speedwaymarker that was stopped because of a rain delay for the evening and restarted the ensuing Sunday afternoon aired on tape-delay later in the evening after a Winston Cup race at Michigan International Speedway on Fox finished.
    • After further discussions, NASCAR intended that it only applies to race start times. On July 18, 2009, Speed's coverage of the Camping World Truck Series Built Ford Tough 225 in Sparta, KY, overlapped into ESPN2's NASCAR Countdown for the Nationwide Series Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 in Madison, IL, and was allowed to continue. The Truck race ended 30 minutes before the green flag of the Nationwide race.

  • An August 18, 2007, Canadian Football League game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Eskimos was delayed for 55 minutes with Edmonton leading 32-27 due to thunderstorms at Mosaic Stadiummarker in Reginamarker. The CBC subsequently switched to a film, The Good Thief, starring Nick Nolte. By the time the game resumed, senior managers had turned off their cell phones for the evening and were unreachable, and an employee in the CBC programming department subsequently took control of the situation and refused to switch the network back to the game, except in Saskatchewanmarker. The Roughriders subsequently scored 12 points and won the game 39-32. A senior manager of CBC Sports later criticized their network's failure to show the entire game live from coast to coast, and the network eventually broadcast the game on tape delay the following evening. However, the CBC has refused to discipline (or even name) the employee responsible.

  • On September 30, 2007, ESPN coverage of the LifeLock 400 from Kansas Speedwaymarker was switched from ABC to ESPN2 between the second rain delay at 6 p.m. in order for local ABC affiliates in the Eastern and Central time zones to air local news, ABC World News, and then to show ABC's primetime schedule. This was contrary to a recent NASCAR practice which is for a race that runs long because of rain delay to finish on the broadcast network. The practice began in 2002 when the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedwaymarker on NBC was delayed by rain; NBC stayed with the broadcast, instead of moving it to TNT, allowing Jamie McMurray's upset win to be broadcast on network television in primetime. The practice continued was kept by both Fox and NBC afterwards, and pushed other races (notably the Daytona 500) into primetime intentionally. In April 2005, the Aaron's 312 Busch Series race at Talladega Superspeedwaymarker had a three hour rain delay, starting shortly after 4:35 p.m. CT. The 500-kilometer, 117-lap race ran into prime-time, nearing the end of available light, and into green-white-checker finish, where the race ended after 120 laps. Fox continued with the broadcast, marking the first time NASCAR's #2 series had a network prime-time broadcast. Two months later, NBC had a 2 1/2-hour rain delay during the Pepsi 400 at Daytona, airing the start as the race started at 11 PM, even though it ended after 2 AM ET the morning, and that September, the Busch Series made its intentional debut in network prime-time. With the Nationwide Series, ESPN has discontinued the practice of having that series on broadcast network television in prime-time.

  • Just 13 days after the LifeLock 400 (October 13), KTKAmarker in Topeka, Kansasmarker left ESPN on ABC's coverage of the NASCAR Bank of America 500 at 10 p.m. Central time (11 p.m. ET) to carry the local newscast and did not return for the final six laps once the race resumed after a red-flag delay that had started at the time of the newscast.

  • Equivalents also exist on radio, though usually in these cases it is usually due to a station being the flagship station for a certain team and being required to place priority on that team no matter the scheduling and broadcasting circumstances. For example, KSPN, the local affiliate for ESPN Radio in Los Angelesmarker, joined the network for its coverage of the 2008 Orange Bowl (January 3), but did not air the finish of the game, in fact leaving it at halftime to join the USC conference college basketball opener at California.

  • On June 10, 2008, ABC Wichita, KS affiliate KAKEmarker broadcast an EAS test during the last few minutes of the 2008 NBA Finals.

  • On November 9, 2008 (almost 40 years to the date of the Heidi Bowl), ESPN moved the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff race #9 from ABC to ESPN2 during a red flag on Lap 274 of 312 (it was extended to 313 laps because of green-white-checkered). This took place except on the West Coast to make room for America's Funniest Videos, a regularly scheduled program, and also to protect Desperate Housewives, which airs at 9 p.m., and unlike other network programming, is not permitted to be delayed by sports overrun. NASCAR's Brian France blasted ESPN for this move.

  • On Wednesday February 4, 2009, millions of viewers watching an FA Cup 4th Round replay between Liverpool and Everton on most of the ITV network missed the winning goal in the last two minutes of extra time as a technical error meant the feed was switched to an advertisement break at the wrong time. Viewers in southern England, Wales and Northern Ireland missed the goal entirely - the picture returning to show the celebrating Everton players. Viewers in northern England and southern Scotland returned to the live feed around five seconds before the goal was scored.

  • On Sunday February 1, 2009, during the Super Bowl XLIII, millions of viewers in Mexico who were tuning the game in Canal 5 and Azteca 7, suddenly saw the game getting abruptly cut every dramatic moment or in the half time show to broadcast electoral propaganda for the upcoming Mexican legislative election, 2009 that lasted 3,4 or even 6 minutes. This caused many irated calls to the stations to explain what was happening. And that of course caused the IFE to get into an emergency press with journalists to explain about the interruptions in every sports programmes, which more male viewers sent threats to Televisa and TV Azteca. The IFE later explained that the propagandas were about to be shown from 6:00am until midnight. A few days later, all television networks in the country stopped making this interruptions to stop getting irated calls from viewers. In Tucson, Arizonamarker and surrounding areas, the analog but not digital feed of the Comcast cable service was interrupted by an unknown party, when 30 seconds from Playboy Enterprises-owned adult cable television channel Shorteez was broadcast to homes just after Larry Fitzgerald scored his fourth quarter touchdown to take the Cardinals to a 23-20 lead. Minutes before this occurred, 10 seconds of an end credit segment from ClubJenna, another Playboy-owned channel, was shown. Comcast offered a $10 credit for customers who claimed to have seen the incident, and the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would investigate the cause of the incident.

See also


  1. It's been 40 years since NBC called audible: Heidi Newsday November 16, 2008
  2. Oakland Raiders


  • P.123, 203-205

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