Wouldn't you know it? The TV industry has outdone itself in an effort to win one of our coveted year-end Heidi Awards. In the true spirit of the competition, one network all but reenacted our namesake event, in which Heidi bumped a thrilling NFL game off the air in 1968. So, Heidi ho, and away we go....
THE THIRD ANNUAL HEIDI HEIDI AWARD—NBC's foggy-headed decision to take 35% of the country away from the Skins Game golf match last month minutes before Jack Nicklaus sank a $240,000 putt. Instead of the putt, viewers saw some spellbinding pregame stuff on NFL '84. Host Bob Costas left the impression that NBC had to cut away because of contract commitments to the NFL. "Nonsense," said the NFL.
THE BEST LIVE TELECAST—The "Doug Flutie Game," Boston College versus Miami (CBS). Director Larry Cavolina's sideline shots were marvelous. Close second: Opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games (ABC). For grandeur and inspiration we may never see their like again.
THE RICHARD M. NIXON DINNERGATE MEDAL—Reggie Rucker (NBC). During a Browns-Bengals game, Rucker claimed to have had dinner the night before with Bengals coach Sam Wyche. Wyche said he had never had dinner with Rucker, hardly knows him and didn't make any of the statements attributed. Maybe it was breakfast, right, Reg?
December 24, 1984
MOST MEMORABLE SHOTS—1) Torvill and Dean's exquisite ending of their Bolero routine at Sarajevo (ABC). 2) Valerie Brisco-Hooks embracing her husband and baby and being tackled by her joyful coach after winning the gold medal in the 400 meters at L.A. (ABC).
TITANIC AWARD FOR DISASTER—Virtually any day at Sarajevo (ABC).
THE FIRST WRONG WAY CORRIGAN AWARD—Kathleen Sullivan (ABC). She was superb as an anchor during the Winter Olympics, but a big disappointment in L.A. Her fawning, apologetic interview of a pouting Mary Decker ("We, as reporters, sometimes badger.... You're a true champion") was embarrassing.
ANNOUNCERS OF THE YEAR—Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola, the World Series (NBC). All-seeing, all-knowing. There was Scully on Tony Gwynn misplaying a fly ball, Garagiola calling pitchouts, Scully reading lips, Garagiola reading hips of likely base stealers.
HEIDI PEYTON PLACE AWARD—Howard Cosell, Game 2, AL playoffs (ABC). His posturing and incessant bickering with Al Michaels and Jim Palmer turned a tense game into a travesty. It's late, but maybe Howard could still enroll in a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people.
THE HOW'S THAT AGAIN PRIZE—Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray (WGN). During an on-air chat with analyst Steve Stone he said, "[Dodger outfielder] Mike Marshall just got back from Los Angeles, where he was getting cocaine for his injured foot." Stone: "That's novocain, Harry."
BEST COVERAGE—The Summer Olympics (ABC), 180 hours that lived up to the hype. Cameramen on motorcycles, on catamarans and underwater. Shots so close you could see the designs on Florence Griffith's fingernails.
THE FIRST AND, WE HOPE, LAST BAD LANGUAGE AWARD—Both John McEnroe and Bernie Kosar uttered the word on the sidelines of CBS telecasts. Totally uncivilized. The worst thing Heidi ever said was "Du liebe Zeit!"
BEST REPLAYS—1) Nebraska's "Fumblerooski" deception in the Orange Bowl (George Finkel, NBC). 2) Myrella Moses hiding her face in her hands as her husband, Edwin, ran the high hurdles at L.A. (Chuck Howard, ABC).
WORST SHORT FEATURE—Terri Blair's insipid up-close-and-intimate Monday Night Football report on the love lives of NFL bachelors (ABC).
BEST SHORT FEATURES—1) Jim McKay's sweet lyric on the moods and faces of Sarajevo (ABC). 2) Filmmaker Bob Giraldi's romantic period piece on the origins of the World Series (NBC).
THE NEW LET'S PRETEND AWARD—To John Denver for lip-synching his way through the Winter Games (ABC).
BEST EDITED TELECAST—The Paris-Roubaix bicycle race in July (CBS). Producer David Michaels (Al's kid brother) caught the race's flavor and told us something important about the value of perseverance.
HEIDI NURSERY SCHOOL PRIZE—Jim Wacker for his TCU coach's show. Wacker has his players count the score in the locker room after each game. Example: "How many points did we get today, guys?" "Twenty-seven," the players will answer. Then they count to 27.
MOST HACKNEYED SHOT—Jack Nicholson over and over and over again during the NBA finals (CBS). Please, not next year.
BEST COMMENTARY—Marty Liquori (ABC). When Gabriela Andersen-Schiess staggered home in the Olympic women's marathon, he correctly called for someone to come to her aid. He also was honest enough to change his earlier opinion and absolve Zola Budd of blame in the Mary Decker tripping incident.
WORST COMMENTARY—Cathy Rigby McCoy (ABC). Her yahoo whooping for the U.S. and snickering when a Romanian gymnast literally fell on her face was the pits.
BEST JOURNALISM—1) Howard Cosell for a Sports Beat piece on how the media fosters gambling (ABC). 2) Len Berman's interview with Kansas City's Willie Mays Aikens in which Aikens admitted having hit home runs while taking drugs (NBC).
HEIDI RUSH TO JUDGMENT MEDAL—Curt Gowdy (Katz Sports). During the Pittsburgh-South Carolina broadcast, Gowdy reported as gospel a phony, planted story that coach Gerry Faust had been ejected by the officials from the Notre Dame-Air Force game.
MOST HEARTWARMING MOMENT—U.S. Olympic wrestler and one-time cancer victim Jeff Blatnick weeping for joy and choking out the words, "I'm a happy dude!" after winning a gold medal (ABC).
THE FIRST "GONE AWOL" AWARD—ABC for failing to give live coverage to Carl Lewis's historic fourth gold medal run. ABC caught up on tape, but the moment was gone.
BEST VERBAL FUMBLE—Harvey Martin (NBC). During the Bills-Cardinals game Martin said that Bills fullback Booker Moore had recovered from a "fatal disease." In '81 Moore did have Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potentially fatal nerve disorder. But unless we're missing something, Moore has not returned from the dead.
THE ANNUAL SHAMELESS PROMO AWARDS—1) ABC'S Olympic plugs for Call To Glory. ABC hyped it so much I was seeing jet planes and pillbox hats in my sleep. 2) NBC's Breeders' Cup promos featuring John Henry after the network knew he'd been scratched.
BEST INNOVATIONS—1) Behind-the-backboard "Midgi-cams" for WTBS's NBA games. 2) ESPN's football stereo. You haven't heard anything until you've heard gruntin' and groanin' in stereo. 3) Your choice: ABC's Super Slo Mo or NBC's Super Duper Slo Mo.
HEIDI'S FAVORITE INTERVIEWER—Roy Firestone of Sports Look (ESPN). His questions bring out the best—or worst—in his guests. He got Raider Lyle Alzado to talk vividly about his days as a young tough in Brooklyn.
MOST GRATING CLICHÉS—1) "How do you feel?" (Diana Nyad, ABC, each time she interviewed a swimmer). 2) "It's really exciting here, Jim" (typical ABC announcer receiving a feed from anchor Jim McKay).
BEST CABLE SHOW—NFL Films, Monday Night Matchup (ESPN), preceding the ABC game. A football education every week, complete with shots you never see on over-the-air stations.
Finally, our coveted HEIDI SPITTOON FOR BONEHEADEDNESS IN LOCAL SPORTS COVERAGE—Once again it goes to WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. Last year sportscaster Bob Hillman came up a winner for picking up an 8-year-old story from the University of Cincinnati student newspaper and, without checking, passing it off as fresh news. This year another WCPO-TV sportscaster, Lee Vlisides, saw one of ESPN's taped Super-Bouts, thought it was live and, because the bout was for the "heavyweight championship of the world," made it the lead item on his sports report. The only problem was that the fight, between John Tate and Gerrie Coetzee in South Africa, was five years old. Hillman and Vlisides no longer work at WCPO-TV, but here's a message for their successors: Heidi is watching.