On November 17th, 1968, the American television network NBC abandoned its coverage of an NFL game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders and went to its scheduled, and much-advertised family special, Heidi.
This shouldn’t have been a big deal. There was barely a minute of game time left and with the Jets leading, it didn’t seem likely that anything too exciting was going to happen. Except, it did. Football fans fortunate enough to be sitting in the Oakland Coliseum were treated to the spectacle of the Raiders scoring two lightening-fast touchdowns that secured them the win. Fans sitting around their TVs were treated to the opening credits for the heartwarming adventures of a little Swiss girl – and they were not amused. History (leastways, football history) had been made, and they had been deprived of witnessing it.
NBC executives had tried to get a message through to the broadcast operator, Dick Cline, and have him delay Heidi until the game was actually over but couldn’t because the phone lines were jammed with people urging that either (a) the game stay on the air or (b) the special begin on schedule. With no orders to the contrary, Cline went with his original instructions, which were to start Heidi at 7 p.m.
It was a decision favoured by our household. We enjoyed Heidi. And we got all of it.