I don’t know about your family, but in my family, there are a number of “die hard” football fans. Basically the situation is this. If their team is playing, don’t walk in front of the television, unless it is a commercial. Now my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I are definitely “die hard” Broncos fans, but we don’t always watch the game. I suppose lots of people would say that if we don’t watch the games, we aren’t “die hard” fans, but I say we are. You will never see me going for another team if they are playing my Broncos. I will root for my kids teams, as long as they are not playing the Broncos. That’s just the way it is. Now, in our house, there is no big football fight, because both Bob and I agree that the Broncos are our team, but our kids have homes that are in football division, making game day a little more heated. Nevertheless, I doubt if game day was ever quite as heated in my kids houses as it was with the Heidi Bowl. For many of you, I’m sure that a question has now arisen…namely, “What is the Heidi Bowl?” In fact, I’m sure that many of you are wondering if I know anything about football at all. True enough, there are a number of Bowl games played, with the ultimate one being the Super Bowl, and yes, I do know about football, and I assure you that the Heidi Bowl did exist.
The Heidi Bowl was played on November 17, 1968. The two teams were the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets. The game between the Jets and the Raiders was a classic nail biter. It featured two of the league’s best teams and 10 future Hall of Fame players. With a little more than a minute left to play, the Jets kicked a 26-yard field goal that gave them a 32-29 lead. After the New York kickoff, the Raiders returned the ball to their own 23-yard line. What happened after that will go down in football history. The Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica threw a 20 yard pass to halfback Charlie Smith. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the Jets’ 43 yard line, and on the next play, Lamonica passed again to Smith, who ran it all the way for a touchdown. The Raiders took the lead…32-36. Then the Jets fumbled the kickoff. Oakland’s Preston Ridlehuber managed to grab the ball and run it two yards for another touchdown. Oakland had scored twice in nine seconds, and the game was over. Oakland won…43-32.
I’m sure you are still wondering how this was called the Heidi Bowl. Well, I’ll tell you. At the point where the game had just 65 seconds left, NBC switched off the game and put on the movie, Heidi, which had been scheduled to start at that point. The Oakland Raiders came from behind to score two touchdowns in nine seconds. They beat the New York Jets…and no one saw it, because they’re watching the movie Heidi instead. So the only people who got to see the end of that intense game were the people in the stands. Viewers were outraged, and they complained so vehemently that network executives learned a lesson they’ll never forget. “Whatever you do,” one said, “you better not leave an NFL football game.” It didn’t matter what was scheduled…the game is played out.
The Heidi Bowl was not a Bowl game that anyone, who loves football, ever wanted to watch, but it was one that was played, nevertheless. For anyone who doesn’t care about football, I’m sure that the thought was, “Oh for Pete’s sake, what is the problem?” Well, that was not the question for the NBC executives ever again. The problem is a huge one. Ratings!! If you want the ratings, don’t make such a big mistake as to jump out of a game 65 seconds before it’s over. Sure, most of the time there wouldn’t be much change, but you just never know…and if it does, you don’t want to deal with the aftermath.
Lots of people have been to a professional baseball games these days, but in years gone by, if you didn’t live in a city that had a professional baseball team, you just didn’t have much opportunity to attend a professional baseball game. I’m sure that attendance was never stellar, and maybe that was the reason for broadcasting the games originally by radio, and later by television, and then finally on our computers and phones. Lots of people can’t get to the games, and even if they can sometimes, it isn’t often. Since most of us have watched the games on television, we can attest to the importance, to an avid fan, of having a television broadcast.
Up until August 26, 1939, the radio or physical attendance was all we had. All that changed on this day in 1939, when the first televised Major League Baseball game, which was a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and The Brooklyn Dodgers was covered on television from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. What an exciting day that was!! People everywhere, who were previously unable to watch a professional base ball game, got to see it on television. I think this had an explosive affect on the fan base for professional sports. People could finally pick a favorite team and actually see them play sometimes, because let’s face it, not all of us live in a town that hosts a professional team in any sport. And yes there are a lot of fans that love sports of any kind, but can’t get to a game.
Of course, as anyone who has ever attended a game in person will tell you, the televised version of the game leaves a lot out of the actual view of the game. They do the best they can, and they do a very good job, but being able to see the instant replay helps clarify the actions of the game immensely too. And when you think about it, half the fun of being there is ball game food. That adds to the whole experience, and while you may be able to make ballpark franks at home, they just don’t taste quite the same as they do when you are at the game. Maybe it’s about all the food smells in general. So while televised games have definitely not taken away from the number of people in attendance at the games, it has expanded the fan base to include those who can’t be at the game in person. August 26, 1939 was a big day in Major League Baseball. It meant much more than just being able to see the game on television…it brought baseball into our homes in a very real way, and that was amazing.