MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- Steve Sabol was and is NFL Films to many people. And now NFL Films always will bear his name, just as it bears his spirit.
Members of Sabol's family and NFL Films employees gathered Friday outside the suburban Philadelphia compound to formally change its address from One NFL Plaza to One Sabol Way on the entrance sign. Other touches to remember Sabol included the planting of a dwarf redwood tree (he was a noted nature lover), the raising of a flag with his initials (SDS) and the planned memorialization of his parking space, with three stars representing NFL Films' past, present and future.
NFL Films no doubt will have a bright future because of Sabol and his father, Ed, who brought football to America's living rooms in a way that raised the game's profile and turned what some saw as a barbaric game into a work of fine art. This was my first visit to NFL Films, and I immediately was struck by how the legacy of Steve Sabol, who died in September after a lengthy battle with brain cancer, could be seen throughout the building, even before Friday's more-than-fitting additions.
Sean Coffey of the Playbook crew gave me a tour that would be the envy of NFL fans. The walls are adorned with bobbles of football's glory days, and the facility is spacious and comfortable, giving the employees whom Sabol loved so much ample room to breed the creativity so integral to NFL Films. But the tour's highlight was stepping into Sabol's game room, which remains untouched, just as he left it. Artifacts worthy of the Hall of Fame, including an autographed Sammy Baugh helmet, stand in tribute to the lifelong love and commitment that Sabol had for the game. To the right stood Sabol's office, also untouched, but we dared not enter. That's sacred ground.
After the outdoors ceremony wrapped, with many a teary eye and the sun shining bright, NFL Films employees headed into the lobby for a reception and a chance to share stories about their late leader. Looming above them was a new photo, of the Sabols accepting one of NFL Films' 107 Emmys, and adorned with this quote from Steve: "Life is great. ... Football is better."
Wise words from a man who made it so.