The Voice of God has received the praises of Canton.
The late John Facenda, a Philadelphia broadcaster and sports announcer whose unique style, cadence and baritone voice captivated generations of football fans, was announced as the 2021 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Monday.
"For nearly 20 years, John Facenda's resonant voice was, and even today still is, synonymous with the power, strength and character of the NFL," Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show. "His narration of the league's history, the legacies of those who played and coached in it and the stories of its greatest moments and memories helped generations of fans fall in love with the game and make it America's passion."
Facenda brought an iconic sound to the budding production company that was NFL Films and helped cement its tone -- a grand, elegant one that made every scene momentous -- from its earliest years. Slow-motion highlights of the game's gladiators entranced viewers while Facenda's narration told the story of the events unfolding on the screen, helping the NFL explode in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s.
One can't imagine a scene from an NFL Films production, or even recall the game's greats of those decades without hearing Facenda's voice.
"John Facenda could read a laundry list and make it sound like the Constitution of the United States," the late NFL Films founder Ed Sabol once said.
Always one to embrace the splendor of Hollywood, Sabol sought to bring the same magnificence to his football films. His eureka moment came when he heard Facenda on WCAU-TV's nightly news and decided to offer the anchor a chance to narrate Sabol's gridiron movies in 1965.
Paired with Hollywood-style composer Sam Spence, Facenda became one half of an audio talent duo that would change the way the world viewed football for generations.
"I remembered our films more for John Facenda and our music than anything else," Sabol said.
Facenda is often remembered for the way his legendary voice popularized the phrase "the frozen tundra," but it was a poem penned by Sabol's son, 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class member Steve Sabol, that Facenda burned into the brains of football fans everywhere with his delivery. That poem -- "The Autumn Wind" -- described the then-Oakland Raiders as part of their 1974 yearbook film and became the franchise's anthem that is still played at Raiders games today. It perhaps captured the power of Facenda's voice better than any other film.
This isn't the first time the Hall of Fame has honored Facenda. He received the Ralph Hay Pioneer Award in 1986, an award presented to an individual who has made "significant innovative contributions to professional football."
That was certainly Facenda, whose recognition for his on-screen contributions with the Rozelle Award was long overdue. There's no better time than the present, though, especially with another NFL Films pioneering legend, Steve Sabol, posthumously entering the Hall in the same year.