Steve Sabol, founder and President of NFL Films, passed away this morning at age 69 after fighting with brain cancer for over a year.
Steve Sabol played football at Colorado College. “My father called me when I was out there and he said, ‘I can tell by your grades that all you’ve been doing is playing football and going to the movies. That makes you uniquely qualified for this business I’ve started,” Steve Sabol once said.
He was a movie maker who loved football, not necessarily in that order. In 1962, Ed Sabol earned the exclusive rights to produce films for the NFL and started NFL Films with his son, Steve. This partnership with the NFL exists, even today. The Sabols revolutionized sports broadcasting.
NFL Films was the first to utilize super-slow motion footage to the NFL sidelines. This allowed the pure emotion of the game to be captured. During an NFL football game, the players move so quickly that it’s hard to grasp what exactly is going on with regular speed footage. The Sabol’s introduced drama to the NFL presentation that set their films apart from the typical broadcast.
The famous NFL moments “The Catch” or “The Miracle in the Meadowlands” or “The Miraculous Reception” are forever captured thanks to the Sabol family and their revolutionary slow motion technique. So, while it was much more difficult to shoot, given that the films had to be changed more often, it made for much more interesting shots.
Steve Sabol also introduced the idea of having wireless microphones strapped onto the players. This idea had some bumps in the road, early. When players made a big hit, sometimes the microphones would break or become detached from the shoulderpads, but Steve insisted that this was the way of the future. What made NFL Films unique was the proximity to the players and it was ideas like the shoulderpad mounted wireless microphones that allowed this proximity to be possible.
One of the classic NFL Films video, in my opinion, that utilizes such technology is NFL Films: Cursing, which is a funny and interesting look at the passion (however misguided) that coaches and players have during a typical game.
But those are just a few of the influences Steve Sabol had on the NFL. He also introduced reverse angle replays, follies, and even the idea of orchestrating compositions for background music on football highlights.
As I said before, Steve Sabol wasn’t a simple sports broadcaster. He was a movie director that focused on the big, bold, honest and funny.
With tears in his eyes and a trembling lip, NFL Network personality Rich Eisen said, “It is beyond belief that this weekend’s games, week 3 of the 2012 season, will be the first in over half a century in which Steve Sabol will not be with us to enjoy. Once again, Steve Sabol has passed away at the age of 69.”
Rest in peace, Steve.