It was set to be a good Week 11 matchup between two top teams in the American Football League. But, on this date 50 years ago, a game between the Jets and Raiders would change professional football forever.
On Nov. 17, 1968, the Jets took a late 32-29 lead over the Raiders with 1:05 left to go in the fourth quarter. The game was being aired on NBC, and after cutting to a commercial following the score, the game never came back on.
Instead, the movie "Heidi" ran at its 7 o'clock start time despite the game not being over. And, of course, the game ended in dramatic fashion with the Raiders scoring two touchdowns in the final nine seconds to win 43-32.
Fans were up in arms that NBC could cut away from the game, and SNY's Senior Vice President of Production, Executive Producer Curt Gowdy Jr. remembers it all too well. His father -- legendary broadcaster Curt Gowdy -- was on the call for the game, and he recalled how it all went down.
"The first thing I remember him saying actually was in a couple of specials about the Heidi Bowl -- that's what they called that game," Gowdy Jr. explained when asked what he remembers his father saying about the game. "He thought it was the greatest promotion for the American Football League...I think that game was called the greatest game of the decade in professional football.
"We all know the next year, the Jets win the Super Bowl. And then the merger happened where, because of the Heidi Bowl, they had to go to protecting the home and visiting markets for television, so that wouldn't happen again."
Today, we all know how vital TV rights are for any professional sports league, let alone the NFL. But this was the game that kickstarted the movement to make sure no game was interrupted, so there wouldn't be a repeat like this.
But why didn't NBC think to keep the game on if it was still running?
"So because the NBC hotline and switchboard was so flooded with people as the time approached 7 o'clock, people were calling in to ask if they were going to stay with the game.," Gowdy Jr. said. "Other people were calling in to see if they were going directly to "Heidi." The switchboard was flooded, it melted down so to speak, and Julian Goodman -- the bench president of NBC -- couldn't get through to the control center and/or the truck to tell them that plans had changed and no longer were they going to "Heidi." They wanted to stay with the game until conclusion."
After that meltdown, Gowdy Jr. pointed out that the "red phone," an emergency direct line, was implemented so orders could be given without a hitch.
And while NBC going through this frenzy, Gowdy was up in the booth still calling the game, not knowing the station switched to "Heidi."
"My father never knew that they went off the air to go to "Heidi," Gowdy Jr. recalled. "So he continued to call the game, but after the game, they went down to the truck and the producer told him, 'Look, you guys have to go back up and re-record the final minute and five seconds so we can feed that to NBC News to show the two touchdowns that happened and also to late-night news and primetime."
Gowdy proceeded to go back up and re-record the final minute, but this time, without his in-game analyst who had already left for the airport.
It was certainly a wacky and wild Sunday -- one that changed the football landscape for the better.