Imagine this is Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, and San Francisco leads New Orleans, 32-29, with 50 seconds left.
The network goes to commercials but, instead of coming back to the game, the credits begin to roll for "Heidi: The Untold Story," staring Miley Cyrus.
Meanwhile, the Saints score twice in that 50 seconds to win 43-32.
And the Red Zone doesn't exist. Neither does ESPN.
You don't even know how many fantasy points Drew Brees earned.
Is this hell?
Actually it was reality on Nov. 17, 1968, when the visiting New York Jets had that same 3-point lead over the Raiders in Oakland. NBC switched to "Heidi," which was kind of like "The Sound of Music" without the music and never switched back. It became known as "The Heidi Bowl." It's thought of as a historical mistake involving the AFL/NFL and TV, but I've always thought it was great for the NFL by showing the networks how much America cared about the game.
The details of the miscue are great:
Timex had bought advertising to sponsor the movie, starting at 7. NBC brass were not fools. They met earlier in the week to decide what to do if the game was not over by 7. And they decided to cut the game and roll the movie. Dick Cline was in the network truck at the game and had last call to cut away from the game. What he did not know was that NBC president Julian Goodman changed his mind and decided to stick with football.
One problem: The phone lines were tied up and Goodmen couldn't get through.
Think about it, kids: No cell phone. No text. No twitter. Not even e-mail. How did anyone survive?
Again, America went nuts — although many supported Heidi and blamed the NFL for not being able to get its stupid games over on time.
Comic columnist Art Buchwald later wrote, "Men who wouldn't get out of their chairs during an earthquake rushed to the phones to scream obscenities."
NBC apologized and installed "the Heidi phone" in all its football production trucks to insure better communication in a communication industry. And the NFL demanded all televised games be shown to conclusion at least to the home markets, insuring that in the future we must get all Jacksonville road games to the bitter end.
As for "Heidi," it was almost as bad as "Rudy."
In defense of innocence
We all have soap boxes that we lug around so we can stand on one when the occasion arrives. This strange story out of Tallahassee that throws suspicion of terrible behavior on FSU QB Jameis Winston has forced me to stand on my biggest box — the "innocent until proven guilty" box. Maybe we finally have some understanding by the time you read this. But even if he is not guilty of any crime, he has been punished. Some Heisman voters say they are not judging him but, of course, can't vote for him unless he is cleared of wrong-doing. What? In other words it is a "possibly guilty until proven innocent" world. That's wrong — and think how you would feel if it happened to you.
Five fabulous football picks
LAST WEEK: Now it's becoming a habit. Another bad week at 8-6 straight up (94-53 for season) and stinky 5-8-1 against the spread (73-71-3 for season). Can I stay above .500 against the jelly? Probably not. Did call the Colts' win Thursday straight up but game was a push against the spread. Sunday/Monday is odd because first 11 games range from fair to putrid but final three are enticing.
Atlanta (2-7) at Tampa Bay (1-8) — No favorite
If you ask me (or even if you did not), that point spread indicates our unwillingness to accept Atlanta's excellent imitation of a Hoover vacuum cleaner. The most important thing for the Falcons to worry about is if there is an opening at the University of Arkansas. The last time they were almost this bad was 2007 when Bobby Petrino's team was 3-6 before he caught a Greyhound to Little Rock and dumped the NFL. Hey, if Falcon Coach Mike Smith is looking for work, he could apply in Gainesville. The Bucs? Can you say juggernaut?
Jerry says: Bucs by 2.
Arizona (5-4) at Jacksonville (1-8) — Cards favored by 8.5
While I'm in love with the Bucs (for one more Sunday) I'm not buying the Jags for another second (although they might beat Houston at least once in two tries). And the Cards are at least mediocre, which is why they beat Tampa, Atlanta and Houston. The Cards have a good defense but the Cards stink and Jags reek on offense. Thank the football gods that this is at Jacksonville so nobody needs to watch. Ugly.
Jerry says: Cards by 11.
San Diego (4-5) at Miami (4-5) — Chargers favored by 1.5
Fish opened as 2-point favorites but gambling America said "I don't like the smell of that." Did I already use the word "reek" before talking about smelly Fish? Unfortunate. However, while nobody wants to pick Miami, this is a virtual coin toss. Both offensive lines are awful and Miami has the better D. But Fish QB Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 37 times — which leads the league. Chargers QB Phil Rivers also leads the league — in completed passes at 72.2 percent. I'm going with America on this one.
Jerry says: Chargers by 3.
Minnesota (2-7) at Seattle (9-1) — Seahawks favored by 12.5
Jerry says: Pick a number. Let's say 'Hawks by 16.
San Francisco (6-3) at New Orleans (7-2) — Saints favored by 3
Hooray! A really good-looking one for late Sunday afternoon. Alas, records may be deceiving because the Saints at home look like a lock. The only man who can save the Niners is RB Frank Gore. Saints still have no run D, so Gore could keep QB Drew Brees (and his 25-TD arm) off the field. But I doubt it.
Jerry says: Saints by 17 or "Heidi: The Untold Story" by 7.
(For all my picks and other stuff, please visit thebeatofsports.com.)
'Good Omen' or cheap shot?
I'm reading a first edition of "Good Omens," a wonderfully funny take on the apocalypse by beloved Neil Gaiman and beyond beloved Terry Pratchett. It was written in 1990, which shows I'm really behind on my reading list. But even 23 years ago, did they have the right to write on page 178 about a guy reading a newspaper who "ignored page two (never anything on there)?" Hey! From now on guys, when I read one of your books, I'm skipping the second page. Payback.
These are the notes, folks
• When did the Britney Spears become an actual singer and, you know, almost an adult?
• Dolphins are offering free tennis at the Chargers' game. Great idea because tennis doesn't require blocking.
• How have times changed? Friday was the 207th anniversary of when Zebulon Pike discovered a 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado and got to name it Pike's Peak, now Pikes Peak without the apostrophe. When was the last time anybody discovered a mountain?
• Remembering Joe Flacco's new contract after Baltimore won Super Bowl, will any QB be able to get that kind of cash any time soon?
• Finally, it's said the Yankees won't even think about signing reliever Brian Wilson unless he shaves the briar patch that surrounds his face. The Yanks should consider anyone who has a fastball or a slider even if he also has tusks.
Jerry hasn't had tusks in years but does have a prehistoric voice Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. until noon on The Beat of Sports, hosted by Marc Daniels on 740theGame. Send messages to email@example.com. And if you are a turkey — run! All others have a great weekend and consider attending The Festival of (Christmas) Trees at The Orlando Museum of Art.