1968: Another election everyone was sick of

Just yesterday, a friend sent me a message saying he and his wife were deactivating Facebook because the politics is just too crazy and the attacks too personal.  

Indeed, social media is out of control.  I do not do politics on my Facebook anymore because you can't win.  It was really bad in the middle of the Cruz-Trump primary.  

Back in 1968, we had one crazy election, too.  I remember talking to my father a lot about it back then.  Our family was supporting Nixon, but it seemed as though the neighborhood was angry, and no one was happy with the choices.  Sound familiar?  All the kids were into the election, and especially into that fellow named George Wallace, who had a running mate named Curtis LeMay, who had a cigar and allegedly talked about nuclear weapons.

Well, one Sunday afternoon, our family got to enjoy a day without post-Election Day politics.  We did not realize that a movie about Heidi would start another national argument.

Before cable TV or Internet, we had three or four channels in most cities.  On Sunday afternoons, we used to get NFL football on NBC and CBS, and that was it.  The old AFL was on NBC, and the NFL was on CBS.  There was no ESPN postgame show or instant information on the status of games.  Most fans got their scores by print or next day's sports page.

On this day in 1968, my little sister was all pumped up to watch Heidi.  My brother and I were really into that Jets-Raiders game from Oakland.  After all, what kid wasn't a Joe Namath fan in 1968?  He was cool.  Girls loved Joe.  He had that classy way of passing the ball!

Then Heidi changed football and TV forever:

On November 17, 1968, the Oakland Raiders score two touchdowns in nine seconds to beat the New York Jets – and no one sees it, because they're watching the movie Heidi instead.

With just 65 seconds left to play, NBC switched off the game in favor of its previously scheduled programming, a made-for-TV version of the children's story about a young girl and her grandfather in the Alps.

Viewers were outraged, and they complained so vociferously that network execs learned a lesson they'll never forget: "Whatever you do," one said, "you better not leave an NFL football game."

The game between the Jets and the Raiders was already shaping up to be a classic: It featured two of the league's best teams and 10 future Hall of Fame players.

By the game's last minute the two teams had traded the lead eight times. The game's intensity translated into an unusual number of penalties and timeouts, which meant that it was running a bit long.

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: Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica threw a 20-yard pass to halfback Charlie Smith; a facemask penalty moved the ball to the Jets' 43; 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, and 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: They'd won 43-32.

But nobody outside the Oakland Coliseum actually saw any of this, because NBC went to commercial right after the Jets' kickoff and never came back. Instead, they did what they'd been planning to do for weeks: At 7 PM, they began to broadcast a brand-new version of Heidi, a film they were sure would win them high ratings during November sweeps. ...

Shortly after the Heidi debacle, the NFL inserted a clause into its TV contracts that guaranteed that all games would be broadcast completely in their home markets. For its part, NBC installed a new phone – the "Heidi Phone" – in the control room that had its own exchange and switchboard.

Such a disaster, the network assured its viewers, would never be allowed to happen again.

So now we have to watch the end of the game thanks to a cute girl named Heidi and the Raiders scoring 2 TDs in 9 seconds!

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