The Heidi game, 50 years later

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When it comes to the birth of the modern professional football, many point to the 1958 championship game between the Colts and the Giants. And that may be the case. But the modern game learned to walk and/or to speak 12 years later.

That’s when, 50 years ago on Saturday, NBC switched from a game between the Jets and Raiders (then of the AFL) to Heidi.

David J. Halberstam of carefully looks back at the moment when, for fans who had just seen the Jets take a 32-29 lead with less than a minute to play, all hell broke loose.

NBC had previously decided that Heidi would air as scheduled at 7:00 p.m. ET. As the game lingered deeper into a three-hour window from which NFL games didn’t typically deviate in those days, viewers both wanting to see Heidi and wanting to see the end of the game called NBC headquarters, jamming the phone lines. This prevented a call from  then NBC president Julian Goodman to reach then-head of broadcast operations Dick Cline with the message that plans had changed.

In the end, the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the remaining seconds, after a 43-yard touchdown pass followed by a fumbled kickoff returned for a score. And the rules thereafter changed to require all games to be televised until they end.

The change was inevitable; the Heidi game simply happened to be the one that triggered it. A half-century later, it’s taken as a given that all NFL games will be televised until conclusion.

25 responses to “The Heidi game, 50 years later

  1. Interesting side note. The girl who played Heidi was sitting next to Joe Namath on a flight years later and they had a memorable conversation about that day.

  2. Thanks Mike for the great memory. With the state the current Raiders are in, my main consolation are those memories (and my game film collection) of when there were lots of good times.

  3. This a good rule change that we probably take for granted. I’m also glad we have access to OnDemand/streaming services so we can rewatch any of those missed shows if necessary.

  4. If you were around then and remember this, cheers to you. I tip my cap to the elderly who can get online to PFT and troll the youngsters!

  5. I remember that game. I also remember that I yelled at my brother because I thought that he had changed the channel. As a Chiefs fan, I was pissed at the outcome. As I remember it, the Raiders had the ball when NBC pulled the plug and I was like, wait a minute, this game isn’t over(scoring-wise). Big s-storm, back in the day.

  6. I feel for the fans of that game still today. I guess most people do not recall being in the last minutes of the early Sunday games (11am mtn time) where they go to the later game before the early game is over. Very frustrating, especially since there is supposed to be a rule.

  7. Most important game in the history of the AFL. Second was the Jets win over the Colts. First one gave the league untold publicity. The second gave it some credibility.

  8. OK, somehow the math has to be off. 50 years ago would have been 1968, but if the game was 12 years after the 1958 Championship, that would be 1970 or if the championship game was played in 1959, 12 years would be 1971.

  9. Louis Araiza says:
    November 14, 2018 at 1:59 pm
    Interesting side note. The girl who played Heidi was sitting next to Joe Namath on a flight years later and they had a memorable conversation about that day.


    At least Namath thinks it was that girl. All he knew is he wanted to kiss her.

  10. I was 16, a Raiders fan, and living in New York at the time.

    The New York Daily News back page sports headline the following day:

    JETS 32
    RAIDERS 29
    HEIDI 14

    I’ll never forget that headline…..or the game.

  11. If the 2018 Jets and Raiders played today, I think people would prefer watching Heidi instead.

  12. No it’s not! They cut away from unfinished games all the time to move to “more interesting” games.

  13. They cut every game short if the home game is on next. I hate this, I don’t mind missing 5 minutes of the home game to see the end of a good game.

  14. I was watching the game with my brother and Dad – we couldn’t figure it out when the Heidi show started and turned on the radio – all we heard was cheering and realized something crazy had happened as the game was in Oakland and a minute earlier it was very silent

  15. Freddie B was from my hometown, so this game was big. I thought my Old Man was gonna throw that 12″ B&W out the window. Remember it well. Thanks for bringing that memory back.

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