Heidi, our rosy-cheeked bundle joy, is here again to hand out her year-end awards for the best and worst in sports TV. The little brat can get impatient—remember how she bumped that thrilling AFL game off the tube in 1968?—so let's get right to it....
THE FOURTH ANNUAL HEIDI HEIDI AWARD—To PBS, for cutting away from the Penn-Princeton football game Nov. 2 with Penn leading 31-21 and Princeton on the march with four minutes left to play. PBS didn't reserve satellite time after 4 p.m., and it cut to a talk show on which Howard Cosell plugged his new book. For anybody still wondering, there was no further scoring in the game.
BEST LIVE TELECAST—Villanova defeats Georgetown, NCAA basketball championship (CBS). A near-perfect telecast of a near-perfect game. Brent Musburger and Billy Packer were tough but fair on the Hoyas' roughhousing and John Thompson's strategy. Close second: World Series Game 6, the Dane Iorg Game (ABC).
REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE CERTIFICATE—To President Steve Reagan, who made congratulatory phone calls to the 49ers after the Super Bowl, Pete Rose after hit No. 4,192, Grambling coach Eddie Robinson after victory No. 324 and the Royals after the World Series. Reagan capped his chit-chat blitz by referring to the outstanding pitching of "Jim" Quisenberry.
December 23, 1985
MOST VIVID REPLAYS—1) Joe Theismann's 90-degree leg fracture (Bob Goodrich, ABC). To show it 911 times, though, was a bit much. 2) Don Denkinger's safe-at-first call on Jorge Orta, ninth inning, World Series Game 6 (Dennis Lewin, ABC). Orta was out from three different angles.
DON'T-SQUEEZE-THE-CHARMIN POOR TASTE AWARD—To ABC for nauseating viewers with its exhaustive coverage of Grete Waitz's intestinal problems during the New York Marathon. Report on her condition, sure, but don't linger on shots of her clutching what looked like toilet tissue or call on a doctor for color commentary.
BEST-EDITED SPECIAL—ABC's Race Across America by bicycle. An exquisite celebration of the U.S. and sport by producer Amy Sacks and director Joel Feld. Sweet, tender and above all, human.
THE ET TU BRUTE PRIZE—To Cosell for knifing Frank Gifford, Don Meredith. O.J. Simpson and sundry other ABC colleagues in his book, I Never Played The Game. This is the way Howard goes out. Criticizing performance is one thing; biting the hand that has fed you is another.
THE HEIDI BIRTHDAY SUIT STATUETTE—To KCST-TV, San Diego, which showed a number of Chargers, including Don Macek and Ed White, totally unclothed during a live postgame telecast from the San Diego locker room Nov. 17. Is privacy passé?
BEST JOURNALISM—PBS's Frontline series for its searching, balanced, understated piece on boxing, "Down for the Count."
WORST JOURNALISM—Dead heat between CBS and NBC. Incredibly, CBS ignored the breaking Tulane basketball point-shaving scandal throughout the final weekend of the NCAA tournament. And NBC never once specifically mentioned baseball's drug problems during some 40 hours of the playoffs.
BEST STUDIO SHOW—ABC's College Football Scoreboard. Jim Lampley & Co. were all over the rule-breaking players and boosters and had up-to-the-minute scores. Beano Cook predicted in Week 3 that Penn State would play Oklahoma for the national championship.
WORST LIVE TELECAST—Alexis Arguello's comeback fight, syndicated nationally by Tiffany Productions. Producers Frank and Rich Belmonte missed Frankie Warren's knockout of Michael Bradley on the undercard because they were replaying a low blow from the previous round.
HEIDI'S KEN AND BARBIE LOVING CUP—To Ahmad Ra-shad (NBC) for proposing on NFL '85 to Phylicia Ayers-Allen, Bill Cosby's TV wife. What self-absorption. As Phil Mushnick of the New York Post wrote, "You won't want to miss next week's show...when Phylicia and Ahmad go shopping for a dinette set." The couple got married last Saturday.
BEST CAMERA WORK—NBC, for the baseball playoffs. Coordinating producer Harry Coyle's crew knows baseball so well that when Toronto's George Bell threw to the wrong base against the Royals, the cameramen instinctively covered the right base before catching up with the action. Coyle 1, Bell 0.
TITANIC AWARD FOR DISASTER AT SEA—ABC for botching the switch of its national feed from the Penn State-Notre Dame blowout to a tight Auburn-Georgia game on Nov. 16. It took three tries. Then, even WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pa., which was supposed to stay with Penn State, wound up getting Auburn.
MOST MEMORABLE SHOTS—1) Golfer Payne Stewart and his wife holding hands and walking forlornly through a field after he blew the Byron Nelson Classic (Frank Chirkinian, CBS); 2) Lawrence Taylor of the Giants waiting anxiously for the medics after his hit caused Theismann's leg fracture (Chet Forte, ABC).
PENCIL-NECKED GEEK TROPHY—To Hulk Hogan for putting a headlock on Richard Belzer, host of Hot Properties, on the cable-TV Lifetime network show. Belzer lost consciousness, hit the floor and suffered a gash in his head that required nine stitches.
HEIDI MONIKER MEDAL—To ESPN studio host Chris Berman who went overboard with nicknames until he was told to cool it. His baseball dream team: Oddibe (Young Again) McDowell, Butch (Oil And) Wynegar, Rick (Innocent) Lysander, Glenn (Hey) Abbott, Jose (Can You See) Cruz and Julio (Won't You Let Me Take You On a Sea) Cruz.
BEST INTERVIEW—Dick Schaap (ABC) with Pete Rose just after the hit. Schaap asked Rose what he would say to Cobb if he could meet him. "I'd take a batting lesson from him," Rose said. "I'd try to do things that would make me a better hitter."
WORST INTERVIEW—1) Masters chairman Hord Hardin with '85 winner Bernhard Langer (CBS). Opening question: "Well, Bernhard, do you pronounce your last name LANG-er or LONG-er?" Langer: "LONG-er." Hardin: "Long may you wave." 2) Pete Axthelm's fawning talk with Cosell on NBC's Great Communicators of Sports.
BEST COMMENTARY—Joe Garagiola (NBC) for his season-long work on baseball. He has made a remarkable about-face from being loud, verbose and overbearing.
OUR FIRST MORE TRUTH, LESS FIBBING CITATION—To former outfielder Bobby Bonds for claiming in a beer commercial that he stole 681 bases in his 14-year career. The correct number is 461.
BEST INNOVATION—1) The field-level "pickoff camera" showing the base runner leading off first and the pitcher in the background (Coyle, NBC); 2) The Corner Story, a videotape collage run after championship bouts that shows how the fighters' cornermen reacted between rounds (Bob Levy, NBC).
Finally, a special SID SACCHARINE AWARD for the cloying way announcers sign off the air, thanking their capable cameramen, sharp-eyed spotters, hardworking stats crews and, of course, all the people in the truck.
So there we have them, the Heidis for '85. In closing, I'd like to thank my reporter, Nicholas Dawidoff, for the superb job he did providing the research for these awards; my editor, John Papanek, for his invaluable guidance; the men with the blue and red pencils for their wisdom; the gang in the copy department—nice catches, folks—and also the maid who comes by at 4 a.m. to clean the office.