No major sports event was yanked off the air without notice this year, so there won't be a Heidi Heidi Award named in honor of the little Alpine brat whose movie bumped a thrilling AFL game off the air in 1968. But Heidi has a whole mess of other awards for the best and worst in sports TV. Oh, does she ever.
THE FIRST HEIDI SPACE CADET MEDAL—To Mary Anne Loughlin, co-host of the Goodwill Games (TBS). During a bizarre interview with two Soviet cosmonauts, who were aboard an orbiting space station, Loughlin asked if the two had been able to watch the opening ceremonies of the Games. Her next question: Which sports did they play in the space station?
BEST LIVE TELECAST—Game 4 of the World Series (NBC), in which the Mets got even with the Red Sox. Finest moments: director Harry Coyle's shots of Dwight Evans dropping Lenny Dykstra's homer over the bullpen gate in rightfield; a fan retrieving a homer from under a van on Lansdowne Street; Gary Carter at bat, his eyes as big as saucers as he waited for a fat pitch. TV doesn't get any better than this.
THE DEWEY BEATS TRUMAN AWARD—To the increasingly tiresome Jimmy the Greek (CBS). Last January he said that the Patriots had "zero chance" against the Dolphins and that the Rams would upset the Bears. In September he picked St. Louis to go to the Super Bowl.
TITANIC TROPHY FOR DISASTER AT SEA—to college football producer Ric LaCivita (CBS), while taking a break for local commercial time, LaCivita missed Notre Dame's winning field goal in the USC game. And while directing cameras to get sideline reaction, he missed a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the '86 Cotton Bowl.
MOST MEMORABLE SHOTS—1) Evans leaning on his elbow at the fence in dejection and frustration after failing to rob Dykstra of his homer; 2) Rick Mears, at the Indy 500, embracing his mother and handing his watch to his girlfriend before climbing into his car like a high-tech Sir Galahad (ABC); 3) Jack Nicklaus, once again a winner, hugging his son (and caddie), Jackie, on the 18th green at Augusta (CBS).
WORST REGULAR SHOW—NBC's schizophrenic NFL '86. Does the show want to be an information center, a sitcom or simply a farce? It now has a peanut gallery that applauds and laughs on cue, a la the Howdy Doody show. And Bob Costas can't decide whether he's Ted Koppel or Bob Barker. Back to the drawing board, guys.
BEST COVERAGE OF A SINGLE EVENT—1) The Daytona 500 (Bob Fishman, CBS, director). The in-car shots and sounds of Richard Petty's crash—sparks flying, metal grinding—were like a punch in the gut. 2) The Kentucky Derby (ABC). Producer Curt Gowdy Jr. decided to stick an isolated camera on 17-1 shot Ferdinand. Guess which horse came from dead last to win?
THE ROYAL FLUSH TROPHY—To NBC executive producer Mike Weis-man, whose silent minute on the Super Bowl pregame show was designed to give viewers a chance to hit the bathroom or the fridge. Or was it? More people, it seemed, lingered to marvel at the blank screen.
BEST ANNOUNCER—For play-byplay, Al Michaels (ABC). For commentary, these three: 1) Tim McCarver (ABC), 2) Tim McCarver (ABC), 3) Tim McCarver (ABC).
THE SECOND ANNUAL HEIDI BIRTHDAY SUIT STATUETTE—To WCVB-Channel 5, Boston. During the Red Sox' division-clinching locker room bash, WCVB's live cameras showed pitcher Rob Woodward head-on nude for upwards of two minutes. The cameraman's excuse was that his eyepiece had fogged up. NudeCenter 5, anyone?
WORST LIVE TELECAST—Wide World of Sports' $1 million "Super Run" for mediocre runners (ABC). A pretentious, hokey event made worse by constant shots of a race sponsor's trucks in the background and by Bob Beattie's hyperventilating. One of the featured runners was a woman seven months pregnant. "I don't know what that goes to show," Beattie squealed as the cameras focused on her, "but she's right out there charging!"
BEST SHORT PIECE—1) Feature producer Rick Bernstein's prefight profile of Michael Spinks's revolutionary training methods, which helped him to upset Larry Holmes for the heavyweight title (HBO). 2) Charlie Jones's tender perspective piece, "I'm Holding a Miracle," which suggested that the World Cup soccer championship was irrelevant compared with the life of a baby who survived the Mexico City earthquake (NBC). 3) Nicklaus's and Tom Watson's sweet, brotherly retrospective on their '77 British Open matchup at Turnberry (Producer Terry Jastrow, ABC). Sportsmanship is alive and well.
THE HEIDI COMMERCIALGATE CITATION—To ABC, which decided to take a local commercial break as Bob Tway was approaching the sand trap on the final hole in the PGA Championship. The ABC feed resumed the very instant Tway struck his sensational winning shot from the bunker, but viewers in several parts of the country missed it, because local stations crammed in their own promo "bumpers" before rejoining the network.
BIGGEST SLIPPAGE, ANNOUNCER—Frank Gifford (ABC). He keeps on talking until he finds something to say, offers little in the way of analysis and doesn't listen to what his broadcast partner says. Gifford also has developed a propensity for misinformation (e.g., "Joe Walton succeeded Al Michaels as coach of the Jets").
OUR FIRST AND (WE HOPE) LAST VIGILANTE VASE—To sportscaster Mike Bryant of KMPH-TV, Fresno, Calif. After a video store that Bryant owns was robbed, he went on the air, produced a rifle, pointed it at the camera and proclaimed "open season on crime." After KMPH sacked him for the incident, Bryant said, "Sports is a tune-out for a lot of people. I'm not a scores-and-highlights kind of guy."
BEST INNOVATION—1) ESPN's "whiparound" format that transported viewers to several live venues each night during the NHL playoffs. Kudos also to ESPN for its two-minutes-before-the-half-hour update of game scores and to NBC for its "Ten-minute ticker" during NFL telecasts.
WORST JOURNALISM—1) Ted Turner for his cream-puff treatment of the Soviets during the Goodwill Games (TBS). 2) Buddy Diliberto of WDSU-TV, New Orleans, who created a Super Bowl furor by airing the bogus report that Jim McMahon had called New Orleans women "sluts" and the city populace "ignorant."
THE ESTEEMED HEIDI FLIMFLAM RIBBONS—Blue ribbon to CBS Producer Frank Chirkinian for showing a tape of Andy Bean's sudden-death victory in the Doral Open, leaving the viewer to assume it was live. Yellow ribbon to anchor Dan Rather for transparently hyping CBS's boring Ivan Lendl-Miloslav Mecir U.S. Open final when Rather was interviewed in the stands early in the match.
BEST LIVE INTERVIEW—Al Trautwig's spellbinder with Ray Floyd after he won the U.S. Open (ABC). Something in Trautwig's manner encouraged Floyd to lay his emotions bare. For month-in, month-out consistency, Larry Merchant (HBO); he continually asks the right questions.
WORST LIVE INTERVIEW—1) Don Drysdale's cloying chat with Vice-President George Bush during the All-Star Game (ABC). When Bush allowed as how Babe Ruth was "a great symbol for the whole country," Drysdale gushed, "And you, too, Mr. Vice-President!" 2) Pat Summerall's palsy-walsy talk with Tex Schramm during a Redskins-Cowboys game in November (CBS). It was as though Larry Speakes were questioning Ronald Reagan.
BEST-EDITED SPECIAL—Producer David Neal's music-video tributes to the Mets and Red Sox at the end of the Series (NBC). To accompany Kenny Rogers's Don't Look in My Eyes, Neal chose a shot of the Sox' Wade Boggs, head bowed, tear rolling down his cheek.
THE FOOT-IN-MOUTH AWARD—To Dennis Walker of WEBN radio, Cincinnati. After the Bengals' Boomer Esiason likened his relationship with coach Sam Wyche to a marriage in which the partners had just been "separated," Walker asked Wyche, "If this is a marriage, who is the man and who is the woman?"
MOST HACKNEYED SHOT—1) The face of Vinny Testaverde's dad after Miami football games (ABC and CBS). Enough already! 2) Baseball wives cheering for their hubbies (ABC). To show a batter, then his wife, then the batter, then the wife, then the batter, then the wife—well, it's ridiculous.
THE HEIDI CANDOR CUP—To Alex Wallau (ABC). Prior to the Mike Tyson-Marvis Frazier fight last August, Wallau painstakingly explained why Frazier wouldn't last a round. The honchos at ABC must have cringed at such unheard-of honesty, fearing that the remarks would kill their ratings.
WORST COMMENTARY CUP—Scott Hamilton on the World Figure Skating Championships (CBS). He gushed, shouted, shrieked and forever told us what we could see ("Oh, no, there she goes down again!"). The tone was jingoistic, too, especially when an on-screen graphic identified one of U.S. star Debi Thomas's competitors, Kira Ivanova, as "the Soviet Threat."
BEST LIVE SHOW—Sports Tonight with Nick Charles and Jim Huber (CNN). All the news that's fit to show and then some. Clearly the most comprehensive daily sports report on TV, over-the-air or cable.
THE HEIDI SPITTOON FOR BONE-HEADEDNESS IN LOCAL SPORTS COVERAGE—To Susan Warnick of Boston's WCVB. Called upon to provide an update on the leaders in the Boston Marathon women's division, Warnick noted that Ingrid Kristiansen was in front but that Joan Benoit Samuelson was nowhere in sight. In fact, Benoit Samuelson was at the finish line, serving as a WCVB commentator, a fact the station insists Warnick knew all along.
To many fans, the Super Bowl's silent minute was TV sports at its very best.
Beware of Greeks bearing playoff tips.
Drysdale's Bush interview was bush.