Born: August 7, 1935
Died: May 18, 1996
Fulvio Chester Forte Jr. was born August 7, 1935 in Hackensack. Quick and quick-thinking, he inherited his brains from Chet Sr., a pediatrician, but his love of sports from his mother, Ida. Known as “Chet the Jet,” he was an unguardable guard for Hackensack High School, where he earned All-State honors and was also 1953 class president. Chet could can 25-footers or snake his way through big men for twisting layups. His greatest skill was the head and shoulders fake; defenders knew it was coming but somehow were helpless to from biting at it when it came.
Chet was accepted to Columbia University and became the toast of New York basketball. At 5’8” he ran rings around his Ivy League opponents and finished third in the nation in scoring in 1956–57 with a 28.9 average, behind Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. He was All-Ivy, All-American, and edged Wilt Chamberlain for UPI Player of the Year. His 45-point game against Penn set a record that stood until 1991.
Chet hoped to follow his father into medicine, but found courses like organic chemistry beyond his reach. After graduation, Chet was drafted by the Royals as the team moved from Rochester to Cincinnati. He failed to make the club, and ended up barnstorming with the Globetrotters for a time, and played minor-league basketball for Williamsport of the Eastern League. His coach was Jack Molinas, who would soon be indicted as the mastermind behind the 1961 college basketball point-shaving scandal. Chet had never bet a dollar before hanging out with Molinas. That would soon change.
Chet continued his sports career off the court when he got a job with CBS TV. He moved to ABC in the early 1960s, and became a top director and producer. In 1968, he impressed network executives with his work at the Olympics. In 1970, Chet was put in charge of ABC’s new sports project, Monday Night Football. He pioneered multi-camera coverage of pro football, often directing more than 20 camera operators at a time. He won a total of 9 Emmys during his time at ABC. He also directed ABC broadcasts of the Indy 500 and World Series.
The thrill of success wasn’t enough for Chet, however. Starting in the early 1960s, he developed a gambling addiction that would cost him millions. He dropped $204,000 at the tables in Atlantic City in one night, although sports betting was his major weakness. The member of Chet’s crew knew he was a terrible bettor, and would frequently bet the other way after learning who he’d wagered on. Chet was an addict—he often bet every game on the schedule and every race at the track.
At the end of 1987, three years after directing ABC’s 1984 Olympic broadcast, Chet was offered a buyout by ABC, which had become aware of his problem at this point. He needed the money and agreed to walk away. He was reportedly making $75,000 a month at the time. Shortly after losing his job, he suffered several heart attacks and was also treated for skin cancer.
Chet did some work for NBC and ESPN, but was unable to get steady work in television. In 1990, he pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion after swindling a New Jersey businessman out of $100,000 and misstating his assets on a bank loan. He was fined and sentenced to five years probation. Chet and his wife, Patricia, moved to Virginia and then to California, where he became a sports radio talk show host in San Diego. He quit betting thanks to Gamblers Anonymous. Chet died of a heart attack in 1996 at the age of 60. He was elected to the Columbia University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.