Mr. Steppe was a sports addict who, Jane says, "only recently forgave me for being a girl." The old man must have been proud when his daughter, just two years out of high school, became "Coach Friday," a glamorous character who predicted football results for an Atlanta television station and occasionally was rewarded with a pie in the face when her prognostications were wrong. Since then Chastain has been in syndication with 195 different short segments explaining sports. She established a solid reputation throughout Florida.
"Tokenism?" she says. "I can't accept that. I've been doing this too long. I have too much confidence in my ability to believe some 'movement' helped get me hired. 'Attractive' is not an antonym for 'intelligent.' Joe DiMaggio once looked at me and said, 'You do know what you're talking about.' Right then the interview stopped being a bore. I'm the first to ask why the touchdown pass was dropped or why somebody didn't play the shooter up tight. My whole life has been hard news, but on the network I've been through more wife interviews already than I had been in the last 12 years. I just want to go back to being a reporter and get into the meat stories. I didn't go with CBS to be a celebrity."
The Chastains live near Fort Lauderdale with a pet squirrel. Recently they decided to give up a couple of their favorite restaurants because too many autograph seekers were interrupting them. That is a far cry from the climate prevailing when she arrived in Miami six years ago and was met with open hostility and a cameraman whose career seemed bent on having her fired. Bad camera angles, screaming scenes and general uncooperation followed. Chastain says that for a year she cried every day during the hour's drive home from work before the atmosphere finally cleared and she was accepted.
Vestiges of animosity still remain at the network level. During a late-season regional telecast of a Houston- Dallas football game, Chastain was busy doing sideline interviews when the only touchdown of the contest was scored by the Cowboys' Doug Dennison. Left unprotected by the director who did not relay any information to her, Chastain asked along the Dallas bench and was told that Robert Newhouse had run in for the six points. During her minute-long live feed into the national game of the week, Chastain reported this misinformation and, in addition, was so flustered she called the Houston team the Astros instead of the Oilers.
It was a moment she had diligently prepared for all week, and it was botched. What Chastain did not know was that a member of the CBS staff called down from the press box to the network's truck to inform the crew about her error. The director picked up the phone and said, "We know it. That's all right. She doesn't know what she's talking about anyway."
That incident provoked Chastain into demanding better communication and longer advance notice of her assignments. She says things have been improved ever since. At the same time, she was promised chances to work as a lead announcer, a position she already has filled at the American Professional Surfing Championships. Chastain will be seen in similar roles at other events before and after the birth of her first child, who is due in July. The extent of her success after only seven months at CBS probably is best indicated by the network's hiring of two other women sportscasters.
SPLENDOR BEHIND THE GLASS
At the U.S. Open golf tournament two years ago, Lee Arthur, then of KDKA, Pittsburgh, showed up at the Oakmont Country Club clad in a skimp of a tank top and a short, short skirt. Since she was doing live interviews, the folks at home got a load of Arthur almost as soon as the gasping crowds at Oakmont did. Immediately, station officials received so many calls of protest that Arthur's cameraman was ordered to avoid her bare middle and shoot the rest of the interviews from the neck up. "I'm the only woman in history to be sunk by her own navel," Arthur said. It was a typically glib and gleeful reaction from sportscasting's own ingenue.
Arthur says she is not the prettiest sportscaster in the country—" Frank Gifford is"—and she says it is difficult to get her best side on camera "because I'm sitting on it." She says the photograph of her and Jim Brown that she has in her apartment 16 floors above the Golden Triangle in downtown Pittsburgh was taken "just before Jimmy threw me out the window."
Arthur says to make it as a woman sportscaster a girl must have "all-day make-up, a credential and a strong bladder. Jimmy the Greek had it 50 to 1 against me making it. Then he saw me at the Evel Knievel jump and changed the odds to 5 to 1. I forget what I had on."