Hard Knocks, The Immaculate Reception, The Autumn Wind, Football Follies, NFL Game of the Week, on field microphones, overhead camera, and countless more. These are the things introduced to us by NFL Films, a company founded by a father and son combo of Ed and Steve Sabol. They brought film making concepts to the sports world. Famous film makers, such as Ron Howard, have been influenced by NFL Films. The only camera that captured Franco Harris scoop up the ball on the Immaculate Reception was a NFL Films camera. Yesterday we lost one of the true innovators in sports and film, Steve Sabol passed after an 18 month battle of brain cancer.
John Facenda had the incredible voice, but those incredible poems he recited…written by Steve. If you are like me, you grew up before the 3-4 hour pregame show on Sundays, but you were so excited to watch football you got up at 7 AM itching to watch it. You turned on ESPN and there he was, in a little room, sitting in a chair you see in many hotel lobbies, the Lombardi Trophy behind him, and old Packers helmet, a few other pieces of NFL memorabilia, Steve Sabol was talking football. Whether it be about the first Super Bowl, or the games last week, or the funny way the ball bounces in Football Follies, NFL Films Presents was always there early Sunday morning. I learned the history of the game, as introduced by Steve Sabol and narrated by John Facenda or Harry Kalas.
I remember the offbeat look at Jerry Glanville, or the giant cockroaches on the field in Dallas, or the slightly out of focus view of Franco Harris catching the ball just before it touches the ground, or Chris Carter saying to a defender, “Pray you can still play when you are my age”. All of those, were thanks to the incredible vision of Steve Sabol. I could go on and on, but why don’t I just leave you with his words, best remembered being delivered by the deep, smoky, syrupy voice of John Facenda, but to me, the best poem ever written.
The Autumn wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea
With a rollicking song he sweeps along
His face is weatherbeaten
He wears a hooded sash
With a silver hat about his head
And a bristling black mustache
He growls as he storms the country
A villain big and bold
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake
As he robs them of their gold.
The Autumn wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun
He’ll knock you ’round and upside down
And laugh when he’s conquered and won.
RIP Steve Sabol