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Handing out the Heidis

Here are the best and the worst that TV sports had to offer in 1983

Remember Heidi? She's the rosy-cheeked bundle of joy who knocked a dramatic Jets-Raiders game off the tube 15 years ago, seconds before Oakland came from behind to win. The little brat. How could she be so sweet and nasty at the same time? In her spirit, we hereby present our second annual Heidi Awards for the best and the worst in sports TV in 1983. Heidi ho, and away we go....

THE BEST LIVE TELECAST—Redskins vs. Cowboys, Dec. 11 (CBS). A near-perfect show. Pat Summerall and John Madden were incisive, yet didn't make the game out to be the SALT talks. The replays were restrained and wonderfully revealing, with the one of Tom Landry yelling "No! No!" on the sideline likely to become a classic.

OUR FIRST GUTTER BALL AWARD—To ABC for giving the incorrect winner of the Southern California Pro Bowlers Open in June. ABC flashed a graphic identifying Don Genalo as the champ instead of Jimmie Pritts. Commentator Nelson Burton realized the goof and started shouting as ABC was cutting away to a commercial. Chris Schenkel corrected the record during the wrap-up, but by then thousands of viewers probably had gone to the alleys.

HEIDI MEMOREX AWARD—To Howard Cosell for adamantly denying in the third quarter of a Monday Night Football game that he had called the Redskins' Alvin Garrett a "little monkey" in the second quarter. The remark was innocent, the denial ludicrous. It's the age of videotape, Howard. Gotcha!

MOST MOVING TELECAST—The International Special Olympics in August (ABC). Producer Amy Sacks and announcer Frank Gifford created a show that touched our hearts.

PEST OF THE YEAR—Ronald Reagan. He's a nice guy and all, but he monopolized the phone for five minutes, 53 seconds after the World Series by talking to everyone in the locker room except the security guards. He also droned on for 2:48 after the Super Bowl. They'd better take the phone off the hook with an election year coming up.

BEST COVERAGE—For one shot, NBC producer Larry Cirillo's explanatory view of Dolphin Cornerback Don McNeal falling down as John Riggins of the Redskins skirted left end and ran off with the Super Bowl title. For general reporting, CBS's coverage of the Wayne Rollins vs. Danny Ainge "Tree Bites Man" incident during the NBA playoffs. Director Bob Fishman came up with replays following the free-for-all, suggesting that Rollins may merely have been defending himself.

THE JAMES WATT AWARD—To Tom Brookshier (CBS). Following a promo for the N.C. State vs. Louisville game, Brookshier said: "Denny Crum has a great team at Louisville. They have a collective IQ of about 40, but they can play basketball." Dishonorable mention to John Brodie (NBC). When the Jets' Mark Gastineau did one of his post-tackle whoop-de-dos this fall, Brodie declared: "He looks like he's got palsy."

BEST EDITED TELECAST—Great American Bike Race in April (ABC). The show captured a wonderful part of the human spirit and the essence of competition.

TITANIC AWARD FOR DISASTER AT SEA—To ABC for its coverage of the Kentucky Derby. Darkness knocked out the isolated cameras, Jack Whitaker had to have the person he was interviewing tell him the next question, and Cosell talked on as Bill Hartack, buffeted by the wind, tried to shield him (and his toupee) with an umbrella.

BEST ANNOUNCER—A tie between Al Michaels (ABC), who's becoming a cinch, and Bob Costas (NBC), a surprise. Costas rates high because of baseball and football, but his work on other telecasts can be bizarre. More on the little big man later.

AWARD FOR FICTION—To Frank Chirkinian, CBS's golf producer, who had Ken Venturi tell viewers how he just happened onto an exclusive interview with Ben Hogan while taping golf tips in May. In fact, the talk had been arranged weeks earlier. CBS told it like it wasn't as a favor to the reclusive Hogan, who didn't want to be bothered by other interview requests.

BEST JOURNALISM—For its week-to-week excellence, Cosell's Sports-Beat (ABC). One more Heidi and he'll retire the award. His piece on a basketball "loan" sham at Cal State-L.A. could've made 60 Minutes envious. For late-breaking news, a nod to Brent Musburger's reporting on the Pan American Games drug scandal (CBS).

WORST JOURNALISM—PBS's An Unauthorized History of the NFL, the opening episode of the Frontline investigative series. Unsubstantiated would have been better.

MOST MEMORABLE SHOTS—1) N.C. State Coach Jim Valvano racing frantically about the court in search of someone to hug after the NCAA basketball final (Fishman, CBS). 2) Rod Dixon exulting in his victory at the finish of the New York City Marathon while runner-up Geoff Smith collapsed in the background (Craig Janoff, ABC).

OUR FIRST SHAMELESS PROMO AWARDS—1) For Costas' tub-thumping talk with Mr. T on the Super Bowl pregame (NBC). Sure enough, The A-Team rolled to a ratings bonanza that very night. 2) For Joan Rivers' appearance on NBC's 30 Rock sports show during a break in a Dodgers-Expos game to plug Saturday Night Live and her new album.

BEST COMMENTARY—CBS's boxing trio of Tim Ryan, Gil Clancy and Sugar Ray Leonard on the Roberto Duran-Davey Moore fight in June. They properly denounced Referee Ernesto Maga√±a for not stopping the bout when Moore was out on his feet.

SOUNDS-LIKE AWARD—To New York Mets announcer Ralph Kiner. He called Dave Kingman "Ed Kranepool," Darryl Strawberry both "Darryl Throneberry" and "George Strawberry," and himself Ralph Korner. Another Kiner Klassic: "Al Oliver gets no respect. He's just like Roger Dangerfield."

LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE RIBBON—To Earl Weaver (ABC). Weaver can wear it in his perm next season.

MR. OCTOBER AWARD—Reggie Jackson (ABC). His work in his first Series was superb, especially in the clubhouse when You Know Who was burning up the phone lines.

CHARLIE CHAPLIN SILENT MOVIE AWARD—To Costas for the Arlington Budweiser Million. NBC wanted him to serve as host, even though he knows little about horse racing. Despite the producers' promise not to expose his lack of expertise, during the telecast they ordered him to fill some air time without warning. Costas showed his displeasure by remaining silent. Listeners heard "Back to you, Bob" and then Talkies begin next year.

THE HEIDI HEIDI AWARD—To CBS for cutting out of sudden-death playoffs at the Phoenix Open in January and again at the Colonial Invitational in May when the regularly scheduled time for 60 Minutes arrived. 60 Minutes gets pushed back for football, but not for golf. Tick tick tick tick tick tick.

BEST INTERVIEW—Cosell with Pete Rose, discussing his benching before the start of Game 3 of the World Series. Give Howard this: He gets honest reactions out of people. "It hurts, doesn't it?" he asked Rose. "Certainly, certainly," Rose conceded. "It's embarrassing."

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY AWARD—To Sal Marchiano (formerly of ESPN). During renegotiations on his contract, he closed a SportsCenter show by saying, "Happiness is seeing Bristol in your rearview mirror." ESPN didn't think the remark very funny, because "Bristol" referred to Bristol, Conn., the home of ESPN. Guess what appeared a few days later in Marchiano's mirror.

AWARD FOR CONFLICT OF INTEREST—To Ferdie Pacheco, NBC's boxing analyst, who negotiates for the TV rights to the fights he comments on.

Finally, our coveted HEIDI SPITTOON FOR BONEHEADEDNESS IN LOCAL SPORTS COVERAGE. A gold spittoon goes to Bob Hillman of WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. Given a clip of a story from the University of Cincinnati News Record saying that two Bearcat football players had been convicted of larceny, Hillman put it on the air without checking. The story was from a 1975 front page that the paper was specially reprinting.



Cosell droned, Hartack dripped, on ABC.


NBC's pre-Super Bowl show hailed Mr. T more than it did the Redskins.



When it's time for 60 Minutes, CBS doesn't mind teeing off golf fans.