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Forte's life in the sports world began as an All-State basketball star at Hackensack High School in Hackensack, New Jersey. He was named to the Star-Ledger's Team of the Century in 1999. From there he starred at Columbia University. In the 1956–57 season, he was named first-team All-American as a point guard, and beat out the legendary Wilt Chamberlain for player of the year. He was short for a basketball player, but shot with deadly accuracy from the outside—the approximate location of today's three-point circle.
Forte began working in TV, joining ABC Sports in the mid-1960s. On April 8, 1967, due to an AFTRA strike, Forte and producer Chuck Howard filled-in as commentators for Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
In 1970, Forte was named the first director of Monday Night Football. His ability to present the game as entertainment spectacle as well as sporting event, under the mandate of executive producer Roone Arledge, made the show a huge success in both sports and pop culture.
Departure from ABC Sports
Despite his professional success, Forte had a huge gambling addiction which he kept behind the scenes. ABC executives feared his gambling activities were affecting his job which led to his departure from ABC in the mid-1980s. He was also indicted by a federal grand jury on three-counts of mail fraud and tax evasion. He cooperated with the government and was spared prison time, receiving a five-year probation sentence.
The next year, he became a talk show host at San Diego's XTRA, also known as "XTRA Sports 690." He co-hosted the Loose Cannons show with Steve Hartman. On the show, he openly discussed his addiction and offered to help others in a similar situation.
Forte was working on-the-air days prior to his death on May 18, 1996 in San Diego, California; he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 60. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his cardiologist, Dr. Steven Gross, alleging that the doctor was negligent in his treatment of Forte. The jury agreed and awarded the family US$1.7 million.
- "Chet Forte, 60, an Innovator in Television Sports", The New York Times, May 19, 1996. Accessed February 12, 2008.
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