The Soul Of The Game: Sundays, NFL Films & The Theater Of The Imagination

Steve Sabol with his father Ed, founder of NFL Films

What makes us love NFL football as much as we do? The game itself with its players giving their heart and soul on the field is what keeps us coming back. We love the game, its players, strategies & coaches. Yet it was the work of Ed and Steve Sabol with NFL Films that helped fuel our imagination through great story telling. You were able to get an account of eras gone by that you could only read about. Now most feel as though the book is always better than the movie, well not in this instance. If you’re like me you’ve grown up with these images of iconic figures over the decades. What makes it such an interesting test subject is football is a very visual sport.

I can still remember the day I saw my first NFL Films production back in the summer of 1977, ironically on a Sunday. Living in Denver, Colorado at the time they had just previewed the upcoming Broncos season. I had come inside to cool off when a new show came on featuring The Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL Championship played in -15* weather between the Packers and Cowboys. The frozen images burned into my mind as John Facenda’s legendary voice gave it such theatrics, I felt like I was watching a monumental event. From that point on I looked for anything NFL Films to supplement reading about players in the old Punt, Pass, and Kick books at the local library.

Through the years everything they did I gobbled up. Whether it be their work in 1982’s History Of Pro Football for HBO, Inside The NFL highlights, NFL Yearbooks on ESPN, Monday Night Matchup on ESPN hosted by Chris Berman, Steve Sabol, and Allie Sherman. It was because of that relationship Chris Berman had instant credibility with me. All of this before we get to the Super Bowl highlights every year and then their own Lost Treasure series starting in 2000.

Yet it’s the images through the years that come to mind when you think of NFL Films. Jackie Smith’s touchdown drop and the call “Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.” You don’t remember that from a live broadcast, this was their work covering Super Bowl XIII. How about Jack Tatum hitting Sammy White in the Super Bowl XI highlight knocking off his helmet then hearing “Helmet flying one way! Chin strap the other! Holy Toledo!” Those were rebroadcast productions with radio voices Verne Lundquist and Bill King layered over slow motion captured video. What’s funny is you can’t remember the call from either NBC broadcast. Yet these legendary calls are playing in your mind as you read this. Dramatic…that was the power of NFL Films

All these images and great story telling helped sell the game to the American public as great as the game itself. Ed Sabol’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was great to watch for how great an ambassador he and his company had become. What started out as Blair Motion Pictures filming the 1962 NFL Championship between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, has become a crown jewel of the NFL. The history of the NFL game can’t be told without them. Thanks Ed and Steve Sabol.

Dedicated to the memory of John Facenda (voice of God) 1913-1984

Re-Dedicated to the memory of Steve Sabol (President of NFL Films and brother in spirit) 1942-2012

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