Looking back at the 50th anniversary of The ‘Heidi’ Game

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Half a century ago, what former NBC broadcast supervisor Dick Cline believed to be just “another week of the NFL,” came an event that would forever alter how people experience live sports. It’s been 50 years since the famous ‘Heidi game’, a historic matchup between the American Football League rivals the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders on November 17th, 1968.

The showdown aired live on NBC and was famously nicknamed after Heidi, a movie about a young Swiss orphan, unceremoniously cut in to the game’s live broadcast. Cline was in charge of making sure the children’s movie aired on time – even if there was 1:05 seconds left in the game and the Jets are up 32-29.

That week in particular, NBC, the sales department and the telephone company confirmed that the 7:00-9:00 pm time slot had been sold to Timex. That slot was to be used to air Heidi and Cline was under strict instruction to make sure it aired at its allotted time.

“When the sales department said at 7:00 o’clock we have to go to Heidi, we didn’t think anything of it because a game never ran long, ” Cline said, as NFL games never ran over 7:00 pm in the past.

At 7 sharp, just as scheduled, Cline aired Heidi. Not long after, phone calls flooded the station, causing NBC’s switchboards to blow out. There was such a large volume of angry callers waiting to demand the game be put back on that the station required new fuses to keep the switchboards running. Many people called, but no one at the station could answer.

When asked if there were any complaints in particular that he could remember, Cline said that because of the rate at which the calls were coming in that caused issues with the switchboards, the calls couldn’t even be answered.

“They didn’t do a whole lot of talking,” Cline said jokingly.

One of the many incoming calls came from NBC’s president at the time, Julian Goodman. Goodman was eager for the game to be back on air and made efforts to contact Cline using a private line, but by then, there was nothing Cline could do.

“In 1968, there were no satellites, there were no cellphones. I had no way of getting back to the telephone company which was controlling the lines and telling them to go back to the game.”

As some viewers sat back and enjoyed Heidi, the Jets ended up blowing their lead. The Raiders scored two touchdowns in just nine seconds, winning 43-32. That’s when the wrath from fans really surfaced.

“They were more unnerved that not only did they not see the last minute and a half of the game, the Jets lost the game.”

Cline had been prepped by the network on how to handle situations where time runs over, but the Heidi game was the first time they experienced that. That game changed the standard for televised football games today, where the protocol now is to air the game until it is complete.

Looking back, Cline has no regrets about the decision he made to air Heidi instead of finishing the game. Though he didn’t see it as such at the time, that very choice changed the course of televised sports.

Sunday Night Football odds: Rams field-goal favorites at Bears

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It is, perhaps, a sign of the times – and of the Los Angeles Rams’ capabilities – that a first-place Chicago Bears team is an underdog at home in December.

Los Angeles, with quarterback Jared Goff behind center, are three-point road favorites on the NFL odds for Week 14 against the Bears with a 51-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

This is the first time since 2013 that a Bears team with a winning record has been an underdog in a December game at Soldier Field. The Rams are 12-2 straight-up and 8-6 against the spread on the road over the last two seasons. The Bears, who are getting No. 1 quarterback Mitch Trubisky back from a shoulder injury, are 6-1 SU and ATS in their last seven games at home.

The Rams, favorites on the Super Bowl odds, are 11-1 SU and 5-5-2 ATS this season, but this is only their second game where they have been favored by fewer than 6 points. The main question surrounding the Rams will be how often Goff will have a clean pocket in the face of a pass rush led by Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

Chicago’s defensive unit is in the top five of the NFL in total defense and scoring defense. The teams are also Nos. 1 and 2 in the NFL in takeaway/giveaway ratio. Bettors will need to make a call on what they think is more likely – the Rams’ offense and running back Todd Gurley, whose 11 turnovers include zero lost fumbles in the running game, coughing up the ball or the Bears, with a NFL-most 30 takeaways, continuing their ball-hawking ways.

The Bears, 8-4 both SU and ATS, have shown a strong tendency to be a first-half team this season, allowing just 6.2 offensive points in the first two quarters vis-à-vis 13.3 in the last two quarters. Those in doubt about the final outcome could scoot over to taking Chicago to cover as 1.5-point underdogs for the first half in NFL betting at the sportsbooks.

Whether Chicago can avoid another second-half regression could depend on whether dual threat Trubisky and running back Jordan Howard, the main options in a ground game that is sixth-last in the NFL in yards per rush, can produce sustained drives, giving the defense time to rest in between bouts with Gurley.

Another concern regarding the Bears is whether an offensive line that gives up sacks at a higher rate than its Rams counterparts can slow down Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald, whose 16.5 sacks have him on the verge of the NFL single-season record for a defensive tackle.

The total has gone OVER in six of the Rams’ last seven games in December. The total has gone OVER in four of the Bears’ last five home games, with an average combined score of 52.4 points.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

SNF Week 13 odds: Steelers favorites at home vs. Chargers

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One positive reason for why the Pittsburgh Steelers can seem like a soap opera at times is that they inevitably bounce back quickly from bad games.

Coming off a road loss to sub-.500 Denver, the Steelers, with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger behind center, are 3.5-point betting favorites against the Los Angeles Chargers with a 52-point total on the Sunday Night Football odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Steelers are 7-0-1 straight-up in their last eight games after a loss, but are 1-5 against the spread in their last six home games against teams with winning records. The OddsShark NFL Database also notes the Steelers are 6-3 SU and 4-5 ATS in their last nine home games as a favorite of 3.0 to 7.0 points. The Chargers are 4-10 SU and 9-4-1 ATS in their last 14 road games as a underdog in that 3.0 to 7.0 range.

The Chargers are 8-3 SU and 6-5 ATS behind the leadership of their own 15-year veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, but only one of their wins is against a team with a winning record. Some skepticism about a Southern California-based team going into Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field in December minus feature running back Melvin Gordon (MCL sprain) is understandable, but the Chargers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven road games against AFC North teams and 8-1 ATS in their last nine road games after consecutive home games.

Austin Ekeler, Gordon’s replacement, is actually averaging more yards per touch than the starter. If strong safety Morgan Burnett (back, doubtful) is out for the Steelers, the Chargers passing game could get receivers such as Keenan Allen into more favorable matchups against a Steelers pass defense that allows just 6.9 yards per throw (fourth in the NFL).

The Steelers are 7-3-1 SU and 6-4-1 ATS, and have been electric in prime time, where they are 14-1 SU in their last 15 night games under coach Mike Timlin. The big question for bettors might be determining whether some recent issues – such as seven turnovers in their last two games, and a ground game built around James Conner that has cooled off – are anomalous or actual regressions.

In the passing phase, Roethlisberger and his two favorite receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster seem to have a challenging matchup, as the Chargers cornerback tandem of Casey Hayward and Michael Davis have helped Los Angeles limit teams to 7.2 yards per pass (ninth in the NFL). With Marcus Gilbert ruled out, the Steelers will also have right tackle Matt Feiler lined up against a top edge pass rusher in Joey Bosa. With all that being said, the Steelers have shown a propensity for rising to the occasion at home.

The effect of Gordon’s absence could be more acute in the totals, since he tends to churn out first downs that keep the clock rolling.  The total has gone UNDER in eight of the Chargers’ last 11 road games, with an average combined score of 39.18 points. The total has gone OVER in three of the Chargers’ last four games against the Steelers, with an average combined score of  56.75 points. The total has gone OVER in six of the Steelers’ last seven games at home, with an average combined score of 62.86 points.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.