September 18, 2012
Hundreds of people who knew Steve Sabol far more than I did have spent today remembering the man and his contributions to the NFL. I won’t be able to add anything more eloquently or thoughtfully, but I know there are millions of NFL fans my age who owe a debt of gratitude to Sabol and his father Ed.
They created NFL Films, and the Game Of The Week and pioneered innovations in sports television that are considered commonplace today. The Sabols were the first to use slow motion instant replay, put microphones on coaches and players and edit highlights to popular music. Ed was inducted into the NFL Hall Of Fame posthumously last year by his son…and by the dictionary definition of bittersweet, so too will his son after his death following a long battle with brain cancer.
My contribution to the discussion of Sabol’s mark on the game is more personal. One of my earliest memories as a child was living in Glens Falls, NY at the age of 5 or 6. Back then (circa 1975) television consisted of maybe 12 channels, and that was WITH cable. I would wake up on a Saturday morning and head downstairs to the family TV before anyone else in the house was awake.
I knew that the “NFL Game Of The Week” came on early Saturday morning, but at that age, I wasn’t sure of a time or channel and I couldn’t really peruse the TV Guide in kindergarten. So I would spin the dial hoping to catch any part of John Facenda’s narration of the best game from the previous Sunday. I can remember catching it from time to time, fascinated by not only the sport, but by the way it was presented.
That experience, as well as others as I grew up, led me to my chosen profession. While I was much like every other boy in America pretending to win the Super Bowl in my backyard on a weekly basis, I also pretended to be the guys in the booth calling the action, and then in the studio discussing wins and losses. Steve Sabol and NFL Films had a big hand in shaping my future, and here I sit today, having realized several of my childhood daydreams that came out of the Game Of The Week.
I never had the chance to meet Steve Sabol, but I thank him today for what he contributed to the game, to the industry, and to guys like me. Think of people who are truly pioneers in any given walk of life. It’s a short list. So read it in slow motion.