For those of us born after Nov. 22, 1963, it was always something of a mystery to us when our parents and our uncles and our grandmothers would speak of the phenomenon everyone alive on that day understood for the rest of their lives: they remembered exactly where they were, exactly what they were doing the moment they heard the awful news from Dallas.

For those who were either not yet born or were too young to have any memory of the night of Nov. 17, 1968, and whose fathers or older brothers or aunts were huge sports fans, NBC provided a similarly unforgettable cultural moment. With the Jets having taken a late 32-29 lead on the Raiders as the clock ticked toward 7 o’clock, TVs everywhere in the Eastern and Central time zones suddenly and jarringly switched from a football stadium in Oakland, Calif., to a meadow in Maienfeld, Switzerland.

And while hundreds of thousands of infuriated football fans threw bottles of Piels and Rheingold at their television screens, then flooded NBC headquarters in New York with 10,000 calls, jamming the switchboard, the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the game’s final 42 seconds – one on a long bomb from Daryl Lamonica to Charlie Smith, one on a Preston Ridlehuber fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff.

They won the game 43-32. Jets fans didn’t know it then but what was born that day was a Jets-specific way of losing impossible-to-lose games that would pockmark their colorful history.

Only not one Jets fan actually saw it.

They saw 11-year-old actress Jennifer Edwards bedecked as “Heidi” frolicking in that Swiss field.

It wasn’t supposed to happen. NBC swore to it immediately.

“I wanted to see the end of the game as much as anyone,” NBC president Julian Goodman told The Post about an hour after it happened. “We deeply regret the error. It won’t happen again.”

Fifty-six years later, it happened again.

It wasn’t football this time, and it wasn’t NBC. This time it was CBS, and this time it was the tail end of a Billy Joel concert commemorating the 100th performance of his residency at Madison Square Garden. The concert itself happened on March 28. CBS had been promoting it nonstop for weeks. You saw Billy more than Danny Hurley if you watched enough of the NCAA Tournament.

It was clearly a big deal.

Except the Masters ran a little long on Sunday. And that meant “60 Minutes” started about a half-hour late. And that meant “Tracker: Camden” started a half-hour late. Which meant that we didn’t see Cartoon Billy board the LIRR at the Cartoon Hicksville station, bound for Cartoon Penn Station, until just past 9:30.

The show was what you would expect it to be. Billy Joel might not be your cup of tea. But he does sell a lot of tea. Every ticket since his monthly MSG residency began in January 2014 has been sold. Every single one, for 10 years. When he takes his show on the road, he and his band fill football and baseball stadiums.

His fans are devoted. They may not quite reach the — shall we say — fervent levels of Springsteen fans …

(My friend and colleague Peter Botte has described those acolytes thusly: “It’s like a badge of honor to play ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ or some random B-side from the 12-inch import version of the ‘Nebraska’ album rather than, say, ‘Rosalita’ or ‘Jungleland.’)

… but put it this way: Billy himself never has to actually sing the words to “Piano Man.” He always has 20,000 people to do it for him. It’s an all-time singalong. In one of the great meta moments of all time, Billy Joel himself was caught on camera singing along to “Piano Man” in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the 2015 World Series.

And so right around 11:27 or so Sunday, Billy affixed his harmonica, thrummed out the familiar first few piano notes, and was off. Now, the Billy Joel demographic isn’t quite the same as Taylor Swift. I’ll admit my eyes were a little droopy by then. My wife barely could keep up by the time we learn about Davy (who’s still in the Navy). But the final chorus was coming. We were ready for that.

And as Billy crooned about his microphone smelling like a beer, and the camera turned to rapturous fans screaming themselves hoarse about sitting at the bar and putting bread in his jar …

Well. It stopped. Cold. And soon we were with the news. And, look, news is important. I make my living thanks to the news. But once again, 56 years after “Heidi,” some poor worker didn’t get the memo from some suit at CBS to use an ounce of common sense and realize that if we were all still tuned in at 11:30 p.m., we were most definitely all in the mood for a melody.

Julian Goodman and his cronies at NBC didn’t have to worry about social media. His CBS descendants weren’t so lucky. The venom began early, and often. Billy himself once sang in “Angry Young Man”: “I believe I’ve passed the age/of consciousness and righteous rage.”

For one day, at least that line has been proven wrong.

2024 © Network Today. All Rights Reserved.