We saw much to love and hate on TV in 1987, one of the best years for our Heidi Awards since 1968, when we gave the original to the eponymous moppet for knocking a thrilling AFL game off the tube. The envelopes, please....
THE HEIDI HEIDI AWARD—To CBS for pulling the plug on the stirring U.S.-Cuba gold medal volleyball match at the Pan American Games in August. The U.S. won, viewers lost.
BEST LIVE TELECAST—Game 7 of the World Series. ABC presented focused, energetic commentary by Al Michaels and Tim McCarver, plus proof-positive replays of the three missed umpire calls and the Gary Gaetti-Steve Lake collision at home plate.
TITANIC AWARD FOR DISASTER AT SEA—To ABC for its muff of the most important shot in the New York City Marathon: winner Ibrahim Hussein of Kenya crossing the finish line. Finishing-line unit director Larry Kamm had his cameras trained everywhere but on the winner until a disembodied voice, apparently that of Jim McKay, could be heard saying "Whoops!"
THE ROSEMARY WOODS EIGHT-MINUTE GAP CITATION—To Super Bowl producer Bob Stenner (CBS). When Denver receiver Clarence Kay's second-quarter pass reception was ruled incomplete, Stenner couldn't find a correct-angle replay. Eight minutes later—voila!—the tape appears. Sorry, Broncs.
CONSISTENTLY BEST PRODUCTION—To ESPN for the America's Cup series. Executive producer Geoff Mason's mast-affixed camera, which caught the sights, sounds and sheer adventure of high-seas racing, filmed unforgettable scenes.
OUR FIRST LITTLE BOY BLUE BUTTON—To Dan Rather, who walked off the CBS Evening News set, causing the network to go black for six minutes, when the Steffi Graf-Lori McNeil U.S. Open semifinal match ran two minutes into his scheduled newscast.
MOST MEMORABLE SHOTS—1) Pat Cash climbing into the grandstand to hug his father after winning at Wimbledon (NBC). 2) ABC's Metrodome decibel meter being rendered inoperative by the crowd noise following Kent Hrbek's grand slam in Game 6 of the World Series. 3) Mark Bavaro on one knee in the end zone after his third-quarter Super Bowl touchdown (CBS).
WORST LIVE SERIES—ABC's golf coverage whacked it out of bounds almost every time off the tee. The U.S. Open seemed a lock for the Titanic Award until the NYC Marathon came along. The British Open was top-heavy with bagpipes and scene sets. And at the Western Open in August, ABC could not show the leaders because it hadn't sent enough cameras to a backup course on which the tournament was decided after two days of rain postponements. Fore!
THE NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME AWARD—To Dick Vitale of ESPN. DV promised to stand on his head if Austin Peay beat Illinois in the NCAAs. After the game, Vitale rested his head on the desk and tried to do an HS (handstand), but couldn't get enough of the Big Mo (momentum). Then again, maybe his head was too pointy.
SPORTSCASTER OF THE YEAR—Bob Costas of NBC for his play-by-play on baseball, his nose for news in the studio and his ability to inform and entertain while not drawing attention to himself.
THE MALE CHAUVINIST PIG RIBBON—To Billy Packer of CBS for his questionable choice of words during the Pan Am Games. After commenting on U.S. basketball center Jennifer Gillom's "pleasant face," Packer, though he is a longtime supporter of women's athletics, opined that she'll probably "raise a big family" and make someone a "good cook" one day.
BEST-EDITED SPECIAL—1) Run To Glory (NBC). A sometimes lyrical, sometimes riveting one-hour documentary on the '86 Breeders' Cup by NFL Films and SMTI. 2) The Tour de France (CBS), a one-hour overview with original music composed by Entertainment Tonight cohost John Tesh. 3) The tape-delay of the Hagler-Leonard fight (HBO). More than just a tape rerun, it lent perspective to a historic moment.
WORST STUDIO COHOSTS—A tie between Becky Dixon of ABC's Wide World Of Sports and Jim Hill of ABC's College Football Scoreboard. Dixon doesn't seem to know sports, and Hill can't handle breaking news.
OUR FIRST DUMB-DUMB SHOTS—Jack Nicholson, shown again and again by CBS rooting for the Lakers during the NBA playoffs. (Yes, SI did a piece on him, too.)
BEST INTERVIEW—Brent Musburger's skeptical, persistent, yet fair questioning of Isiah Thomas on the Larry Bird tempest during the NBA playoffs (CBS). Thomas insisted he had been joking when he said Bird would be "just another good" player if he were black.
WORST INTERVIEW—Frank Gifford's spacy chitchat with union head Gene Upshaw the first week of the players' strike (ABC). Upshaw revealed he had been in touch with a "mystery" figure who might aid in ending the walkout, but Gifford never asked who the mystery man was. (It later turned out to be Pete Rozelle.)
THE MOST SHAMELESS PROMO—Brent Musburger's CBS-ordered 65-second cutaway during halftime of the NFC championship game to Mariette Hartley and Roland Smith, on the set of CBS's short-lived Morning Program. "Hi, Roland!" "Hi, Mariette!" "Hi, Brent!" Then Roland showed us his new refrigerator. Yeccch!
BEST JOURNALISM—1) NFL Lives pointed, comprehensive coverage of the players' strike (NBC). 2) ESPN reporter Jim Gray's newsbreaking interview with Eric Dickerson about his trade to Indianapolis.
WORST JOURNALISM—The CBS two-hour Super Bowl pregame show. A contrived mix of personalities, network promos and puff pieces about the super hoopla. Not a single mention of the deep animosity between Giants owners Wellington and Tim Mara.
BEST SHORT FEATURES—1) Bud Greenspan's brilliantly edited Olympic pieces during the World Track and Field Championships (NBC). 2) Frank Deford's moving Thanksgiving Day update on the fortitude of crippled Marc Buoniconti (NBC).
THE HEIDI FLIMFLAM BADGE—To Dick Enberg and Bud Collins for voicing over, as though they were announcing it live, a 1970 tape of Billie Jean King and Margaret Court during a slow moment in NBC's Wimbledon coverage.
BEST SPECIAL EFFECT—NBC Coordinating Producer, Olympics, Terry Ewert's 4½-minute, 107-frame montage on the history of the Summer Olympics, shown during the World Track and Field Championships. Evocative and oddly inspirational.
MOST BIZARRE APPEARANCE—That of NBC's Tom Brokaw, when, partly to capitalize on NBC's huge Fiesta Bowl audience, he delivered a "news digest" from the broadcast booth at half-time. The lead story was the hotel fire in Puerto Rico in which 95 people died, and as Brokaw spoke, the Penn State marching band merrily tootled in the background.
THE HEIDI SPITTOON FOR BONE-HEADEDNESS IN LOCAL SPORTS COVERAGE—To Ted Dawson of KDFW Channel 4 in Dallas. In November, Dawson announced that Woody Hayes had dropped his lawsuit against Ohio State. (Hayes died in March. Dawson meant Earle Bruce.)
ABC missed one shot at the New York City Marathon: winner Hussein crossing the line.
Did anyone get sick of the endless shots of Nicholson by the Laker bench? You betcha!
Rather walked off over a tennis match, and CBS went dark.