The NFL lost a member of its family Tuesday when NFL Films President Steve Sabol died after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. Sabol, along with his father, Ed, had a profound impact on the game and how it is viewed today. What are your memories of Sabol? How did NFL Films impact the way you watch the game?
It is hard to put into words what Steve Sabol meant to the NFL and football in general. The motto of NFL Films was: "The Keeper of the Flame." To me, Steve Sabol was "The Flame."
I never met anyone who cared more about the NFL or was as knowledgable about the NFL. Steve was the foremost authority on the history of the NFL and its personalities. He had met so many of the NFL greats through interviews or viewing their careers through his films that he was always a joy to talk to. He was a great person to work with and have as a friend. There was not anything he would not do for you. He cared about people and doing the job right. The only thing that mattered to him was preserving the game for all to see for years to come. To walk the halls at NFL Films was a testimony to his love of the game and appreciation for its history.
NFL Films is the greatest visual collection of material compiled on any sport. Besides television, there has not been a greater impact on the growth of the game than NFL Films. Steve Sabol played a major role in that growth.
Whether it was a game played last week or one played last decade, Steve Sabol's film genius always managed to make the scenes we saw on screen feel like a classic that deserved to last forever. Whether through the music selected to complement it or the equipment used to shoot it, Sabol's work made it tough to sit anywhere but on the edge of your seat while watching it.
The greatest plays in football are products of athletic brilliance, and Sabol managed to appropriately cement each one's place in history. As a result, he now has his own place in history, a legacy that also will last forever in the gifts of film he left behind.
My first interaction with Steve Sabol was at the NFL's league meetings a few years ago in Florida. I had been at NFL.com and NFL Network for a few years and he approached me and introduced himself. I'm there thinking, 'This is Steve Sabol,' the guy who had these great narrative films on the NFL. He could not have been nicer or friendlier. He was wondering why I'd never come to visit NFL Films in New Jersey and invited me to come check out the facility and its treasures. I told him I'd get there as soon as I could. I was flattered.
It's amazing how what seemed like a fleeting moment was so impressionable because he was such a down-to-Earth guy asking about me and my career with NFL Media. I was Joe Donut compared to him, yet he took the time to address me. I didn't know him well and that was just one of a few encounters we ever had, but it was clear, at least to me, that he was simply a solid guy. My kind of person.
What Steve and his father, Ed, did for the NFL was dynamic, but what they did for those of us who got to enjoy their work over decades was immeasurable. I got to meet Steve a few times, but I'm sure there are thousands of people who never shook his hand that feel they know something wonderful about him because of the craftsmanship, innovation and hard work he put into his films on the NFL.
Steve Sabol was sitting alone in a Cowboys Stadium luxury box waiting for the kickoff of Super Bowl XLV in North Texas when I slinked inside. I wanted to offer my congratulations for his father, Ed, being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Steve, although startled at first, shook my hand and was absolutely beaming over his dad's long due honor.
I loved the team yearbooks NFL Films made. Growing up here in Los Angeles, I only really got to watch the Rams and Raiders. The only real exposure to the other teams was through NFL Films. And sure, you'd watch the 1988 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team yearbook and rush to tell your friends on the school yard, "Hey, look out for the Buccaneers this year." That was the power of NFL Films.
I'm glad I got the chance to talk to him, to tell him how much I enjoyed watching NFL Films over the years. Especially for a kid who was grounded a lot and spent many hours indoors watching TV. We lost a great one today.
I don't even think we can fully understand the Sabols' influence on how we view the NFL -- and all other sports that incorporated their innovations -- because we now take for granted their methods.
Steve took the ball from his father, Ed, and ran with it with as much honor and strength as the players whose stories they told to millions of football fans each year.
Steve will be missed, but far from forgotten, for as long as professional sports are shown on television.
I'm a football fan because of NFL Films. Sabol and his father glorified the game first and got out of the way. Steve understood the emotion, the beauty, the brutality and the humanity of the game. He told the story in a way that fans could understand. He told it in a way that made football more than just a game. Sabol's love for football came through in every film.
Steve spent his life telling the story of pro football, and now the story of the NFL cannot be told without Steve Sabol.
- Jason Smith NFL.com
Memories of Sabol, NFL Films are too many to count
The memories are so many. Up She Rises. The Pony Soldiers. Mike Davis crashing to the ground after intercepting Brian Sipe to end the Cardiac Kids' season as "Classic Battle" hit its final crescendo. The Autumn Wind. Bob Griese operating like the chauffeur of a large limousine, content to let the parts do the driving. Water bug and whippet backs who rarely survive the wail and howl of the banshee. Super slow motion of Lynn Swann's midfield catch in Super Bowl X. Get The Man. West Side Rumble. Cossacks Charge. I could do this all day.
Steve, thanks for teaching me how November can be cold and gray, November can be surly. But most of all, Steve, thanks for showing me the game as a teenager and making me feel like I was hearing a great rock song for the first time.