Slow motion replay. Mic’ed up players and coaches. Close-ups of players on the sidelines. Steve Sabol, the President of NFL Films, helped us see the NFL in a different way. He helped us learn more about the game we love. He helped us love the game even more. Sabol died this week at 69 years old, but his innovations will live on as long as professional football exists and even longer.
NFL Films was founded by Steve’s dad, Ed and became successful pretty quickly. This despite the fact that Ed’s only previous film experience was Steve’s high school football games and a movie about whales, which flopped when he couldn’t find any whales. From 1962, when Ed convinced Commissioner Pete Rozelle to let him film the NFL Championship game, NFL Films became as much a part of the game as tackles, touchdowns and bemoaning the calls of the referees. ESPN, HBO, ABC, NBC – anyone who broadcasts football games uses their images, their shots and their discoveries. Even Hollywood got into the act with directors like Ron Howard crediting NFL Films for inspiring aspects of their movies. Ed may have been the founder but, in a 2008 interview, he said about his son ““I may have started it, but he has been the engineer behind it…he comes up with these great ideas and is a great student of the game.”
To honor his memory, the NFL has created an extremely powerful video, which is going to be shown at stadiums across the country, prior to games this weekend. Perhaps one of the most important things that can be said about a person after they pass, is that they made a difference. Sabol did that and more. He helped millions of people understand the game a bit better, created phrases we’ll never forget (Frozen Tundra, for example) and helped propel the NFL to the height of popularity. Here is the video and I know I speak for all football fans when I say “Thank you, Mr. Sabol. You’ll be missed!”