The Heidi Bowl and Liturgical Celebrations

On 17 November 1968, the Oakland Raiders of the then American Football League were playing host to the New York Jets.  The Jets were winning 32-29 late in the game when the NBC television network which was covering the event ended its broadcast on the East Coast at 7pm local time in order to air the movie Heidi.  As it turns out, the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final minute of play to secure a 43-32 victory.  Viewers on the East Coast were left wondering what happened and many viewers in the New York City region were no doubt disappointed to learn the result.  Fans subsequently referred to this game as the “Heidi Bowl.”

I mention this incident because I regularly use the Internet on Sundays to attend virtually a Mass at a parish on the West Coast, where I worshiped for about a decade.  As a recent Mass got underway, the livestream feed ended suddenly during the opening song.  “The video will be posted later” said my computer screen.   I was disappointed, of course, and I thought about how long I would wait to see if the feed could be restored.  On this occasion, at least, the feed resumed after only a minute or two.

Even though I had checked the readings and the order of worship in advance and thus I knew in broad outline what was going to happen, I had a lot in common with the East Coast viewers of the Heidi Bowl.  In truth, I did not know what was going to happen.  For example, I did not know how many verses of each song the musicians would use.  I did not know how the readers were going to inflect their proclamation of Scripture nor how the presider would speak the Eucharistic Prayer.  I did not know how any of these elements of the liturgy would affect me.

It occurs to me that I ought to have this mindset whenever I am involved in liturgy (in person or virtually).  I should always have that sense of wondering and openness to what God may do in and through the celebrating assembly and it ministers.  Perhaps God’s grace will reach me by scoring two touchdowns in the final minute but really I could be touched at any moment.  Every liturgical celebration should have a Heidi Bowl aspect to it.

 

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