CHICAGO -- Dick Ebersol is back in his favorite chair.
The NBC Sports chairman is huddled in Turin, Italy, getting ready for his network's marathon coverage of the Winter Olympics. This will be Ebersol's sixth Olympics at the controls for NBC and his ninth overall, dating to the days he served as a researcher for Roone Arledge at ABC.
Ebersol, excited as always, can't wait. The Olympics are his passion.
"They are the only reason why I still am doing this," Ebersol, 58, said during a December interview in Chicago.
His voice rises as he describes for the 98,000th time his favorite Olympic moment: conceiving and then helping to orchestrate Muhammad Ali lighting the torch at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. He speaks with great hope about the United States' chances to have a big showing in Turin.
Yet for all his anticipation, Ebersol knows this Olympics will be different than the others.
"The Olympics is a great place to move forward," he said, looking down. "But nothing takes the place of losing a son."
Ebersol's life changed forever when his 14-year-old son, Teddy, died in a plane crash on Nov. 28, 2004. Ebersol, another son Charlie, and Teddy were on a private plane taking off in light snow and fog in Montrose, Colo., 185 miles from Denver.
Teddy, an avid Boston Red Sox fan, was watching a DVD from their World Series victory. The plane rose no more than 40 feet before the pilots lost control. Charlie recalled in the eulogy that Teddy said, "Dad, I'm scared."
The crash also killed a pilot and flight attendant. Charlie eventually pulled his father from the wreckage, saving his life. Teddy was thrown from the jet, and a portion of the plane landed on him, killing him instantly.
Ebersol suffered numerous injuries, including a broken sternum that made it difficult for him to cry at the time. Remarkably, he says, everything healed in place.
"I had every blessing but the one that mattered the most," Ebersol said.
Teddy was the youngest son of Ebersol and his wife, actress Susan Saint James.
As with many father and sons, baseball was a big part of their relationship. Ebersol is a lifelong Yankees fan, making for a nice rivalry on the home front. Before what would have been Teddy's 15th birthday, the family attended the groundbreaking for the Teddy Ebersol Red Sox Fields in Boston.
Saint James, in an interview shortly after the crash, recalled an autobiography Teddy wrote in school in which he detailed how much his family meant to him.
"He was our little boy," Ebersol said. "He was the last one at home."
Paul Simon sang at the memorial service. Ebersol, despite his injuries, delivered a eulogy from a hospital bed in the church, wrapped in a Red Sox blanket.
Then the difficult process of healing began. Ebersol said the family was overwhelmed by thousands of letters expressing sympathy and support. Several came from parents who lost a child.
One stood out. Nearly two weeks after the crash, Ebersol received a handwritten note from Johnny Carson. The legendary talk show host lost his son Ricky in a car crash in 1991. Ricky once worked for Ebersol when he oversaw NBC's late-night programming.
In part, Carson's letter said: "You're going to hurt for a very, very long time. Then each day, it will get a little better. But there will never be a day in the rest of your life when you'll stop asking yourself, `Why?' "
Carson eventually reached out further, talking to Ebersol three times in the weeks after the accident. Ebersol said his voice sounded raspy, but he was surprised when he heard of Carson's death in late January 2005.
Other friends rallied to the family's side. Ebersol and his wife went to California to spend time with longtime friend Don Ohlmeyer, a former executive at ABC and NBC.
They went for long walks together.
"We are not wired to bury our children," Ohlmeyer said. "It was rough. Dick and Susan always will have a hole in their hearts."
Ohlmeyer saw the strong resolve in the family, even during their darkest hours, to carry on. Ebersol says he didn't leave the upstairs of his Connecticut home more than three times during the initial months of his recovery.
Yet he plunged back into his work, holding staff meetings from his bed. Less than six months after the crash, Ebersol negotiated the deal to bring the NFL back to NBC in 2006.
"He is the strongest, most caring person I've ever known," said David Neal, the executive producer for NBC Sports. "At a time when he was going through unspeakable sadness, he and Susan inspired all of us at NBC with the way they kept on living. It means more to all of us who work with him than he'll ever know."
Ebersol credits his wife for not allowing the tragedy to overwhelm the family. Saint James said it was OK to cry and mourn, but it wasn't OK to stop living.