Wednesday, September 19, 2012
It was like a most unexpected kick in the gut when I heard the news of Steve Sabol passing yesterday. If you know anything at all about the NFL (National Football League) then you know, at least, of the work of Steve Sabol and his father Ed Sabol. The two launched NFL Films way back in the 1960s and unwittingly set the NFL on a trajectory of popularity that no one could have anticipated.
Mike Greenberg of ESPN's Mike and Mike In the Morning, used the best word possible in describing what Ed and Steve Sabol did through their amazing camera work, editing, the unmistakable voice-talent of John Facenda and the inspirational music of Sam Spence. They made the games of the NFL mythic events and the players mythic heroes. NFL Films has done for football players as much as Marvel and DC have done. They have all given us modern-day myths; tales of challenge, heroism, bravery, defeat, brokenness, determination, restoration and victory. We shared these moments, these stories, with our fathers, and with our children. Somehow the stories about "a game" have become woven into the culture of this nation: The Ice Bowl, The Immaculate Recption, The Catch, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Red Grange, The Monsters of the Midway all would be fading memories of the preceding generation without the work of Steve Sabol. What an astounding and unexpected legacy to have.
I recall spending many-a Super Bowl eve watching NFL Films presentation of every single Super Bowl leading up to the live game that Sunday. Steve Sabol introduced each one and so I felt like he was a mentor, a keeper of the lore of the NFL, and yearly telling us the unforgettable stories of the gridiron. The images and sounds they created are more like memories of personal experiences, as if I had attended each of those games, more than they are of watching a television program. There aren't many television show producers or film directors that I can say the same about.
So it's with a rather profound amount of sadness that I right this post and perhaps even greater sadness that all of the tributes and notes of thanks being poured out everywhere cannot be heard by Steve himself. I, like many others, I'm sure, wish they had known about his illness so all of these expressions of love and thanks could have been given to him prior to yesterday.
In any event, we re-present our special feature THE THEMES OF FALL: The Music of Football and Film as a tribute to the great Steve Sabol.