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A neighbor asked him to help coach the girls' basketball team his daughter played on. Forte grabbed the chance like a life preserver. "I haven't enjoyed anything as much since I played," he says.
Still, he needed to work. But the people he had been close to did not call. In television they shoot the wounded. There were no calls from Arledge or from any of the networks. Nor from Ohlmeyer or Cosell or any of the others from Forte's glory days. Nor from anyone in the new generation that had grown up watching his work and copying it so assiduously that all sports programming now bears his mark. There was talk of something with TBS. A college football package. Forte would direct and Hornung would be an announcer. The NCAA vetoed the package because it was not consistent with the spirit of college football. Forte and Hornung were known gamblers.
Howard did call. With a job. A Breeders Crown race to be broadcast on ESPN in November.
"Chet's still a great director," Howard says. "But it's going to be tough for him. People look at him like he's a walking time bomb."
The only other calls from people in Forte's past came on Monday nights a few minutes before kickoff—his old crew, calling from the stadium from which Monday Night Football was about to go out on the air. If the brass had forgotten, the grunts remembered. To them it was still his show, even though the old teaser that had shown Forte at the control panel, counting down the seconds, had been replaced by Hank Williams Jr. banging out "Are you ready for some football?"
Forte would take the calls and weep.
Sentencing was postponed. Forte was offered the job of directing the broadcast of the St. Patrick's Day parade. On March 12, the day his daughter turned 12, he traveled to New York. He would miss not only her birthday, but also her basketball tournament and his weekly GA meeting. He thought he could find a meeting in New York. But missing the tournament hurt.
"We got calls from some of the best people in the business, at all the networks, when they heard Chet would be doing the parade," says Dave Marr Jr. (son of the golfer), a former production assistant at ABC and the man who hired Forte to direct the show. (Howard was the producer.) "Everybody wanted to work with Chet. It was unbelievable."
A former secretary of Arledge's came by to see Forte in the van. So did one of the FBI men who had produced much of the evidence against him. After the broadcast Forte hung around the truck, talking to cameramen about business. It was terrible, they said. Nothing like the old days, Chet.
"No," he said. "It'll never be like that again, will it?"