Believe it or not, it was two decades ago last month that NBC cut away from a dramatic New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game to show that little bundle of joy named Heidi traipsing through a meadow in the Alps. What better way to celebrate her 20th than to hand out our annual Heidi Awards for the best and worst in sports TV for 1988? So Heidi ho, and away we go....
•THE REVERSE HEIDI—To KYW-TV, the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia, which outraged viewers by preempting the first half of the national championship game between Miami and Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to give its viewers extended coverage of the Mummers' Parade.
•BEST LIVE TELECAST—The women's Olympic figure skating finals on ABC. Director Doug Wilson caught all the key elements of the competition, including the poignancy of Debi Thomas telling her coach, "I'm sorry," the joy of Canada's Elizabeth Manley unexpectedly getting a silver medal and the exuberance of Japan's Midori Ito, who won the hearts of millions.
•BEST ANNOUNCER—ABC's Al Michaels. He was incisive, witty, enthusiastic and well-informed on whatever sport he covered, whether it was baseball, football or Olympic hockey. His work on the National League playoffs with Tim McCarver and Jim Palmer was best-ever material.
December 26, 1988
•OUR FIRST ARCHIE BUNKER MEMORIAL MEDAL—To Dale Hansen, sports anchor at WFAA-TV in Dallas. Commenting in September on Robin Givens's assertion that life with Mike Tyson was "pure hell," Hansen said, "If my wife had gone on national television and said that about me, I'd probably slap her upside the head, too."
•THE LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD NAIVETÉ RIBBON—To ABC's Barbara Walters for her two prime-time interviews with Givens. Heidi is no cynic, but it seems to her that there's a chance—just a chance—that Givens took Walters for a ride through the woods.
•MOST MEMORABLE LIVE SHOTS—1) Kirk Gibson pulling the throttle in emotion as he rounded second after his ninth-inning home run in Game 1 of the World Series (NBC).
2) The stunned reactions of Dan Jansen and his family after his second fall in Olympic speed skating (ABC).
•BEST STUDIO SHOWS—ESPN's football troika of College GameDay, NFL GameDay and NFL PrimeTime. No glitz, just substance. Each program has a nice variety of elements, never talks down to the viewer and imparts an inside-the-sport flavor.
•WORST STUDIO SHOW—The Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford patter-and-drivel exercise during the Winter Olympics. The most memorable observation Kathie Lee had in two weeks was how healthy the Canadian farm babies looked. Or maybe it was her comment on Billy Kidd's cowboy clothes: "I want that hat. It goes with my outfit!"
•BEST INTERVIEW—The skeptical Q-and-A by Bryant Gumbel, NBC's Summer Olympics anchor, with Angel Myers, the U.S. swimmer who was barred from the Games for using a banned substance.
•WORST INTERVIEW—By the woefully insensitive David Santee at the Winter Games. "I have good news for you and bad news," he told figure skater Brian Orser of Canada seconds after Orser came off the ice following the freestyle performance that would determine the outcome of his showdown with Brian Boitano. "Those were tremendous style and competition marks, but you came in second." Morton Downey could have handled the moment better.
•MOST INANE INTERVIEW—To Al Trautwig, who during the Winter Olympics asked Dr. Ruth Westheimer whether skiers should have sex the night before competing. She responded that "a quickie" with one's "wife or partner" would be O.K. but that oversexed athletes should "take a shower or do something to relieve themselves."
•BEST SHORT FEATURES—1) The life-imitating-art segues before Game 2 of the World Series between the Gibson homer and a similar scene from The Natural. 2) A slo-mo Winter Olympics piece depicting the duration of 1/100 of a second—the margin sometimes separating Olympic competitors—by showing a drop of milk landing and an apple being pierced by a bullet. 3) An ABC profile on Olympic figure skaters Natalie and Wayne Seybold, and how the town of Marion, Ind., sacrificed for them.
•BEST JOURNALISM—1) NBC's Olympic boxing coverage. Marv Albert, Ferdie Pacheco and Wally Matthews handled complex stories extraordinarily well. 2) ESPN's daily SportsCenter. Consistently thorough and fast-paced.
•BEST ANALYSIS—1) McCarver, for insightful, even prescient, commentary during the National League playoffs. 2) Passionate yet precise Dick Button on Olympic figure skating.
•THE TITANIC AWARD FOR MAJOR DISASTER—To Charlie Jones and Frank Shorter for their call of the men's 800 run in Seoul. At one point Shorter had Johnny Gray of the U.S. in first place when, in fact, Gray was running sixth. Jones, who otherwise did an excellent job, declared Kenya's Nixon Kiprotich the winner instead of actual winner Paul Ereng, also of Kenya.
•THE AL CAMPANIS MEMORIAL TROPHY—To Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder for his shameful generalizations about race. In an impromptu interview given to WRC, NBC's affiliate in Washington, D.C., in January, Snyder said that blacks are better athletes than whites because blacks had been "bred" to have "big thighs." He further said that blacks are taking so many jobs in sports that "there's not going to be anything left for the white people." CBS immediately fired Snyder, who had been a fixture on NFL Today for 12 years.
•THE ATTILA THE HUN CITATION—To Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, who during a prime-time interview in April with Connie Chung, had this to say on the subject of rape: "If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it." Why did NBC even allow this kind of ignorance to be broadcast?
•THE DEWEY BEATS TRUMAN AWARD—To Trautwig, who announced during a break with five minutes remaining in the Michigan-Miami football game that "the top-ranked Hurricanes have lost." Miami rallied to win 31-30. This was not a scintillating year for Trautwig.
•BEST-EDITED SPECIAL—The masterpiece by NFL Films president Steve Sabol on the Columbia football team's losing streak. The show appeared this fall on the syndicated This Is the NFL series. Full of feeling and emotion, it spoke not of winning but of endurance, courage and honor.
•WORST-EDITED SPECIAL—ABC's Super Bowl pregame show. With the exception of a piece on Super Bowl rings, it was a motley mess that often had little or nothing to do with football or America's fixation on the game. NFL players on Dennis Conner's yacht? A reporter visiting Mexico? Live shots of the masses in Beijing hustling to work on the subway? Give us a break.
•THE TIP-TOP SECURITY BADGE—To the West Virginia state police for their performance during the West Virginia Breeders Classic horse race, which was broadcast on ESPN but produced by Thoroughbred Sports. When director Doug Wren ordered his stage manager over an open headset to "shoot the governor—someone has to shoot the governor!" two troopers pulled out their guns to protect Governor Arch Moore. "I thought I was about to be shot," said interviewer Chris Lincoln.
•REPLAYS OF THE YEAR—1) The grisly shot of diver Greg Louganis cracking his head on the Olympic springboard. 2) Isiah Thomas kissing Magic Johnson before Game 3 of CBS's telecast of the NBA Finals.
•AIRHEAD QUESTION OF THE YEAR—Heidi likes the one Bill Swan-beck, sports reporter for KDFW-TV in Dallas, asked Cowboy wide receiver Everett Gay immediately after Dallas's 43-3 drubbing by the Minnesota Vikings: "Was it the play-calling?"
•THE HEIDI MONIKER MEDAL—To ESPN's Chris (I'll Never Be Your Beast of) Berman. Among his '88 creations were: Wally (Absorbine) Joyner, Cookie (Days of Wine and) Rojas, (Riders on the) Storm Davis, Walt (Three Blind) Weiss and Greg (Life Is a) Cadaret.
•BEST PREDICTION—Beano Cook, who stated on WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh that the Washington Redskins would beat the Denver Broncos 41-10 in the Super Bowl. Washington won 42-10. Cook has also predicted that West Virginia would win the national college football championship this season. Stay tuned.
•OUR FIRST SHABBY TREATMENT TROPHY—To NBC for the way it handled Joe Garagiola. Garagiola, whose contract ran through the end of the year, resigned last month after the network left him twisting in the wind. NBC wanted to postpone his renegotiation until it had a new contract with major league baseball; in fact, CBS got the contract, but Garagiola, a 26-year veteran with NBC, deserved better.
•Finally, our coveted HEIDI SPITTOON FOR BONEHEADEDNESS IN LOCAL SPORTS COVERAGE—To Denver stations KMGH and KUSA, which each had a reporter and cameraman accompany Bronco wide receiver Rick Massie, who has claustrophobia and is unable to fly, on a train to San Francisco, where Denver had a game against the 49ers. When the cameras began shooting, Massie became frantic just two miles outside of Denver and tried to escape from the train while it was moving. The Broncos charged that the lights, cameras and microphones had helped bring on Massie's attack. According to Massie, the two stations agreed not to run footage, but KUSA sent its tape to ESPN and CNN, both of whom aired it nationwide.