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Sports Then and Now

Steve Sabol: Turning Football Films Into Works Of Art 0

Posted on September 18, 2012 by Dean Hybl

NFL Films president Steve Sabol has passed away at the age of 69.

Though he never played a down in the NFL, few have done more to fuel the amazing growth of the NFL more than Steve Sabol, who passed away today at the age of 69.

As a kid growing up in the 1970s we never had cable, but occasionally I had the great pleasure of seeing an NFL Films movie on a regular channel or later on ESPN when in a hotel or visiting someone who did have cable. Then when in college I had a chance to become indulged with NFL Films on a regular basis. In many ways, watching NFL Films were better than watching the games themselves (and still are).

While Ed Sabol founded the company, it was his son, Steve, who developed many of the creative touches that turned NFL Films into a national institution. An art history major in college, Steve brought an artistic approach to football filmmaking that turned simple game films into epic works of art. Thanks to climactic music, skillfully written narrative and innovations such as slow-motion replay and putting microphones on players and coaches, NFL Films made the NFL feel larger than life.

While Steve made his mark behind the scenes, it was in front of the camera where Steve has become well known over the last 25 years as host of such shows as NFL Films Presents and Lost Treasures.

In 2011 Ed Sabol was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I truly hope it isn’t long before Steve joins him. Though it is a shame that he won’t be there to accept such a well deserved honor, we are all fortunate that his great work will live on forever.

Below are a some remembrances by Steve as well as examples of the special magic that NFL Films has produced over the last 50 years.

Read the rest of this entry →

NFL Wouldn’t Be a $9 Billion Industry Without Ed Sabol 10

Posted on August 06, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Ed Sabol helped turn the NFL into a $9 billion industry by capturing the sport like never before.

It seems fitting that just days after the NFL and its players finally figured out how to split $9 billion dollars that one of the men most responsible for turning the league into such a financial juggernaut is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Interestingly enough, the person I refer to, Ed Sabol, is the one person among the seven inductees that never played a down in the league.

Instead, as the founder of NFL Films, Sabol created a platform that showed the NFL players in a completely different light and elevated the sport into a national favorite.

Considering that unlike baseball and basketball, football players are hidden being a facemask, it would seem to be much harder for football players to become recognizable figures compared to players in other sports.

However, thanks to Sabol and NFL Films, which captured the grace and elegance of football through the use of slow motion and zoom cameras, generations of NFL fans are familiar with the style and power of players ranging from Jim Brown, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers in the early days to Walter Payton, Earl Campbell and Mike Singletary in the 1970s and 80s to current stars such as Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson and Ray Lewis. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

      Read more »

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