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Remembering Steve Sabol – A Media Pioneer

by Bart Weiss 19 Sep 2012 5:32 PM

Guest blogger Bart Weiss reflects on the lasting impact that the co-founder of NFL Films had on the media landscape.


Guest blogger Bart Weiss is Artistic Director of VideoFest

As we approach the 25th edition of VideoFest, I have been looking through the old program books. I was reminded of a program we did in Year 1 called “Sports as Video Art.” We talked about how watching Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on TV over and over again brought us instant replay, we had film critic J Hoberman talk about why a World Series game was in his top 10 films of the year, and we talked a lot about NFL Films, the company that change the way sports was filmed and appreciated. (Incidentally, it’s also the company that dubbed your Dallas Cowboys “America’s Team.”)

I bring this up because Steve Sabol – the heart and soul of NFL Films – passed away Tuesday. Sabol and his father, Ed, created a new way to look at a sporting event. Not just observing it, but searching for the drama. Instead of just following the action, he looked for the sweat, the character, and he created the story. In every NFL film, there is a story that works like any story you would see in a movie or on TV – three acts with conflict and music.

NFL films was also dedicated to its name, using celluloid to make the moments larger than life. Well, that and music. Sabol said we get married to music, we go to war with music and we should watch football with music. And along with that music, NFL Films had one of the greatest sounds in sports – the voice of John Facenda.
Part of the reason football is so big is because of the legend-making of NFL Films. And the chief legend-maker there was Steve Sabol.