18 September 2012

R.I.P. Steve Sabol

One of the greatest and most important pioneers in NFL history was never a player, a coach nor an executive. Rather it was a New Jersey native, a Colorado College graduate, somebody who worked under and later alongside his father and helped build an iconic company, the most honored filmmaker is sports history, the company that helped make the National Football League the most powerful and popular league in sports as well as changing the way we watched football forever. The company is NFL Films and the man in Steve Sabol.

Steve Sabol died earlier today at the age of 69, two weeks before his 70th birthday and 18 months after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Sabol, as the longtime President of NFL Films, was a key part in how the players were no longer portrayed as brute athletes, but rather artists practicing their craft on the gridiron. The slow-motion shots, the iconic tight focus on the spiral, the "Voice of God," the epic background music made every game look like a battle, a scene from an opera. NFL Films also showed the human side of players; everybody makes mistakes and the Football Follies series helped portray NFL players, even with all their prodigious talent, are as prone to mistakes on the gridiron as your next door neighbors. The Ice Bowl, Hank Stram and 65 Toss Power Trap, the Immaculate Reception, "Old Man Willie," the Holy Roller, Marcus Allen's epic run, "The Drive," "Montana's Drive," and the legendary John Candy anecdote, Wide Right and so many more classic moments all remembered in history in an even greater way, thanks to NFL Films.

When I was in elementary school, there was a channel, must have been like 705, that showed NFL Films all the time. And every day, as soon as I would get up, I would turn on that channel and would watch. Usually it was Football Follies or some other production (I particularly remember fondly the production of the Bills' legendary comeback after the Oilers in the 1993 NFL playoffs hosted by Paul Maguire). There was nothing I loved to watch everyday than these old NFL clips, it helped turn me into an NFL history buff and I was sucked in for life. Whenever Sabol would come on the screen to introduce another great NFL Films program, I was glued to the television.

NFL Films founder Ed Sabol was inducted in the Hall of Fame a year ago and Steve Sabol will join him in Canton soon. One cannot describe the role that the Sabols have played in NFL history.

Stephen Douglas "Steve" Sabol - October 2, 1942-September 18, 2012

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