It was 44 years ago this past November 17th that the Raiders-Jets game was preempted by the movie Heidi in its last seconds. The Raiders went on to score twice in those few moments, causing millions of furious, beer-sodden football fans to rise from their Lazy-Boys and call NBC to scream. They crashed the entire New York City phone system.
It was a close game, with each team stealing the lead from the other six times before it was all tied up, 29 to 29. Then, Jim Turner kicked a 26-yard field goal. The Jets took the lead.
With 50 seconds left in the game, Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica hit Charlie Smith on a 20-yard pass. A penalty got them another 15 yards. The Raiders were crossing midfield when all of the sudden, Zirin says, fans watching NBC saw “a little girl with braids in the Swiss Alps starts walking down a hill.”
NPR aired a good recap of the incident last week while I was away (thanks, Nancy, for sending it along) but they missed the Old Greenwich connection. My creek neighbor and fellow realtor Sue Connal was one of eight children of “Scotty” Connel, head of sports for NBC in 1968 and later, a major figure in the founding of ESPN. The way I heard the story, as the game ran late and the time for the movie to start drew closer, a technician at NBC grew nervous and tried to reach Connal at home, but one of those eight kids (affectionately known by those of us on the other side of the creek as “the Bog People”) was on the phone and despite repeated attempts, the tech couldn’t get through, so he did what any moron would do and switched over to the children’s hour. The game went down in infamy and the Connal household gained a new phone line, one which the children were forbidden to touch, ever.