Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Steve Sabol JR NFL Films-Dream Seller Tribute

A man died this week who had a big influence on my life who I have never met.
I never considered him a big influence on my life until I thought about his life's work.
Steve Sabol Jr died this week at the age of 69 from brain cancer.  Steve Jr, with his father, started what became NFL (National Football League) Films in the early 1960's.  You have probably seen his work.
They started as a small company and by the 1970's they filmed every snap of the football of every play of every NFL game.  You have the work of Steve Sabol Sr and Jr if you have seen NFL clips on the networks, ESPN or on the NFL Network.

Father and son sold NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle on the need for NFL films after they paid for the rights to make a film of the Green bay Packers and New York Giants NFL Championship Game in 1962.
This pre-dated the Super Bowl.
Soon the men and their company became a part of the NFL.
These men were not getting money for filming obscure football games.
They made their living selling dreams.
A whole lot of little boys bought those dreams.

You saw these giant men in awesome uniforms colliding in the sun, mud or rain.
Dramatic music echoed as the eloquent voice of John Vasinda, nicknamed the voice of God,
told of the challenge, the conflict and the dire hopelessness of a football team and somehow, someway through heart and talent, though the world was not fair, this team, these mean slayed their dragon and played like champions.
It was a dream and I bought it.

As a boy I went to high school and college games because they were fun events.
My concentration was more on Cokes, popcorn souvenirs and running around than the game being played.
In 5th grade I went out to play football for my elementary school team the Candler Street Greenies.
I started to really pay attention to football then.
I also noticed this show that randomly showed up on Saturdays or Sundays called NFL Films Presents.
NFL Films told me about the glory of Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboy Doomsday defense, and the swagger of the Oakland Raiders.
Great men did great feats.  Victories were won for the ages.

Later I saw that they also had team highlight films.
Every team had a highlight film no matter if they had a winning record or not.
Even the hapless Falcons of the late 1960's through the 1970's seemed to have a chance in their films.
NFL Films could find the one good play in a blow-out loss by the worst team in the league, perhaps a 14 yard run by a free agent rookie, and show it from five angles, full speed and then slow motion with that hero music, and added that voice that set the story of challenge and hope.
The winner conquered and the losing team was lost valiantly.
Everybody always had a chance for hope.

In fifth grade I went from playing Army and drawing Air Force bombers to getting an Atlanta Falcon uniform
and a tackling dummy (yes I really did) for Christmas.  My father had the tackling dummy chained up between two trees.  I could whack it like Tommy Nobis and Claude Humphrey and be in my own backyard world.   On many Sundays, at all times of year, father and son would throw the football in our front year.  I would run down the slope of our front yard and get my father to throw passes out in front of me so I could make the heroic diving catch - just like I saw Fred Biletnikoff of the Raiders do.  One Sunday he had to give me a talking to.  I saw in TV Guide that NFL Films was supposed to be on channel 9 at 4PM one Sunday.  Another show came on the TV channel instead of NFL Films.  I had a bad reaction and an attitude adjustment to follow.

Steve Sabol Sr and Jr sold dreams.
They were good dreams.
They were heroic dreams.
They were fun and happy father and son dreams.
Thank you men for a good life’s work.


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