Steve Sabol: A True NFL IconBREAKING NEWS, News, NFL Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
I was browsing the update status on my Facebook page yesterday when I saw that Steve Sabol, President of NFL Films, had died after dealing with a brain tumor for the last 18 months. I was thinking of him only last week, wondering why there had been no news or updates concerning his health. Steve and his father Ed are major players, pioneers in sports media, much of which we take for granted today. ESPN and the NFL Network are just pieces of the fruits of the Sabol’s vision, Steve in particular.
He helped make players and coaches alike, household names. Their sound bites and quotes have become staples in NFL and sports history. What started out as a local Film company, NFL Films has spawned many shows today like NFL Films Presents, America’s Game, Sound FX’s, A Football Life, Lost Treasure’s of the NFL and The NFL’s Top 10. And the sports “blooper” has transcended sports to become a media fixture because of him.
I used to think NFL Films was only local since there were many Philadelphia Eagles clips used in the films. Steve was a huge Eagles fan. And of course there was WCAU’s anchor man of the 60’s and 70’s, John Facenda who narrated most of the early productions. But NFL Films were big time!
Watching all those years helped educate me about the game historically as well as statistically. I had the privilege to meet Eagles great Steve Van Buren back in 1994. I had my Step-son with me and began to share with him many of Van Buren’s greatest achievements on the football field, championships, scores and game stats. Years before my time, I would not have known them if not for NFL Films.
While working for WCAU in the mid 90’s I worked an Eagles game at Veterans Stadium. They were playing the Dallas Cowboys. As an employee I was trying to be professional but as a fan I was in my world, watching all the pre-game activity, players sprinkled about here and there and TV broadcaster standing around. I happened to see this guy with an NFL Films sweatshirt on under a red jacket, it was Steve Sabol.
He stopped and talked to me for what seemed a long while, asking many questions about what I did for Channel 10. I thought maybe he would offer me a job. Then, out of the corner of my eye I see Cowboys owner Jerry Jones walking across the Veterans Stadium turf right at us. As if I wasn’t even standing there, Jerry Jones interrupted our conversation, never making eye contact with me and begins talking to Steve. I was like… “What?!”
Mr. Sabol looked at me as if to say “I’m so sorry”. He shook my hand and said “Enjoy the game”. I’ll never forget the moment or the man and the class that he showed me that day and what I saw from him over the years on TV. When I watched last year’s NFL Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony when his father Ed Sabol was inducted, I was so proud for them and seeing Steve with his shaved head…there was sadness and hope. This man was a legend and it’s so hard sometimes to realize that the greatest legends still are not invincible.
I didn’t know Steve personally, but it sure feels like I did. I’m sure he had that affect on most people. If you’ve seen any of the NFL Films over the years, especially the earlier shows, then you know that he wasn’t a great actor. But he could tell a story and match it with great shots of NFL players and moments of the game. As it turns out, it wasn’t the “Film” but Steve Sabol who is the “Treasure” of NFL Films.
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