Early Tuesday morning the game of football lost a pioneer as president of NFL Films, Steve Sabol, passed away.
Following in the footsteps of his Hall of Fame father, the younger Sabol made it his life’s passion to capture on film the history and evolution of the NFL. However, Sabol was so much more than a documentarian. He was a creative genius, cinematic visionary and brilliant storyteller. Set to a symphonic background, combined with the famed voice of John Facenda, Sabol possessed the natural ability to make even the most mundane moments of a football game seem as epic as the lunar moon landing. In his passing, Sabol will continue to live on through his countless phrases such as “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field,” humorous football follies, amd having the foresight to capture the sounds of the game bringing to the life the gladiators of the gridiron.
Sabol’s legacy even transcended football, being credited with inspiring such acclaimed movie directors as Sam Peckinpah and Ron Howard. Among his numerous awards, in 2003 Sabol was bestowed the distinct honor of a Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for “revolutionizing the way America watches football and setting the standard in sports filmmaking.” Every weekend, as we gather around the television to root on our fantasy team, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Sabol family for pushing football to the forefront of American culture.
As we reflect through the history of the NFL, there has been a select group of true visionaries who have made great advancements to this amazing game – Lamar Hunt, George Halas, Sid Gillman, Wellington Mara, Dan Rooney, Bill Walsh, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown (to name a few). Sabol is not only a future Hall of Fame inductee, but will forever be mentioned in the same breath as the most influential people the game has ever encountered.
And even now, in the wake of his passing, many of the games greats who knew him best are sharing their stories with the media. But they are rarely talking of Sabol’s cinematic accomplishment, but rather how he was a better man than he was a filmmaker, the greatest compliment any of us can receive.
Rest in peace Steve Sabol. You will be missed.