The Genius of Steve Sabol

On a missed understanding of the game of football
Share |
Steve Sabol, co-founder of NFL Films

Photo courtesy of Black and Right

“The autumn wind is a Raider.” What the hell does that even mean, anyway? Regardless, that line ran through my head in a continuous loop all day on Tuesday after I heard the news of Steve Sabol’s passing. “The autumn wind is a Raider.” Somewhere, deep inside, I know what that means even if I cannot verbalize it. That’s ultimately what made Sabol, the late head of NFL Films, a genius—the ability to reach us in places we didn’t know we had; the ability to make us feel rather than think; the ability to, in a game replete with punishing and concussing hits, touch us ever so lightly but oh so deeply.

The genius of Steve Sabol is that he made Americans passionately care about something they never showed much interest in caring about at all. It may seem heretical to speak of the NFL this way today, but before Ed Sabol and his son Steve arrived on the scene in the early 1960s, pro football was something to occupy the periphery of our attention between the end of the World Series and the start of Spring Training. The Sabols (mainly Steve, the artiste of the family) took a game that was at once too fast and too slow for the American populace and recalibrated it. Through their films (which is how most of us recall the seminal moments of the game, rather than through the actual broadcasts), they removed the tedium of the endless huddles and replaced them with non-stop action, augmented with booming soundtrack and drama-laden narration. At the same time, they slowed the action itself down to half-speed to present for the first time the hidden game of pro football—one full of grimacing giants, precision blocking, beauty and grace. While the networks presented the game much as it was viewed from the stands, with stationary cameras perched high above the frustratingly intermittent “action,” the Sabols understood that people at home wanted something different, something better, something much more intimate. Largely as a result of their genius, the NFL became a multi-billion dollar industry.

For those who question the power and influence of Steve Sabol: Watch the replays, in their entirety, of the network broadcasts of the legendary moments memorialized within his films, which are now increasingly available on the NFL Network. Watch CBS’s coverage of the 1975 Cowboys–Vikings playoff game—the “Hail Mary” game, for example. In Sabol’s reimagining of the game, Roger Staubach’s pass to Drew Pearson was epic, the pinnacle of a game slowly building to its dramatic, last-second climax. On CBS, it was something else altogether – a second-down pass with 32 seconds left, still time enough for Dallas to maneuver down the field had the pass not connected. Even after it did, the Vikings got the ball again with 24 seconds left and three timeouts—long enough to change the outcome. On CBS the game was interesting; through NFL Films it became legendary. Watch NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl III—one of the most boring games you’ll ever force yourself to sit through. After Sabol got through with it, however, the half-hour film of that Jets–Colts game is miraculously full of the storylines and drama we recall the game as having. Watch almost any game on network TV up through the 1980s, and then compare it to Sabol’s recreation of it after the fact and ask yourself if pro football would be where it is today without him.

Where the game is today, however, is most likely not where it will be twenty years or perhaps even a decade from now. The game is in the initial stages of decline. Despite the technological advances in broadcasting, or perhaps because of them, storytellers like Sabol are losing ground to the ugly reality show that is the NFL in the 21st century. The welter of microphones and cameras now embedded in virtually all live NFL telecasts (in an ironic twist, all innovations credited to Sabol) record the game at its worst with harrowing regularity. . The crush of bodies, twisting of limbs, the sick pop of helmet-to-helmet hits are all there in HD and in Dolby 7:1 surround sound every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, and. Add in the tragic postscripts written by former players such as Junior Seau, Andre Waters and Dave Duerson, and a national participatory decline in youth football, the decreasing television ratings (slow but steady), and the increase in available seats in several NFL stadiums begin to make perfect sense.

In a way, the NFL is today where boxing was in the 1970s. Who would have thought, with stars such as Ali, Frazier, Foreman and Leonard on the scene, that only a few decades hence boxing would exist solely on the fringes of big-time sports? Alas, as boxing’s storytellers died out—the journalists who gave the sport its context and emotional heft—boxing, at least as a major spectator sport, died along with them. Today, absent the mythmaking bards and existing only in real time on outlets such as HBO, boxing alternatively bores and horrifies the sporting public. Itself increasingly a real-time only sport as well, the NFL is headed toward the same fate.

In fact, all that really preserves the NFL from boxing’s eventual fate is gambling. Despite waning interest by casual fans, the sport nevertheless is a gambler’s paradise. Which is one reason why the referee lockout so troubles the league (although not enough, apparently, to compel it to sit down with the NFL Referee Association and resolve it). Whenever the NFL talks of the “integrity” of the game, know what it is referring to: its ability to present a game to the public that can be reliably wagered upon, whether through the point spreads set in Vegas or through the multitude of fantasy leagues that likewise produce millions upon millions in revenue in various ways. Blown calls by inexperienced refs threaten the confidence in the game as a wagering tool. And once the gamblers go, the NFL’s “bubble” will pop, exposing the truly sorry state of the game that has hidden inside of it for many years. And then the NFL will join boxing on the periphery. It is no longer a question of if but merely when.

Steve Sabol was one of the last remaining wedges against the inevitable.  He presented the game as we wished it to be, rather than how it was, giving us the poetry we yearned for rather than the brutal honesty we preferred not to acknowledge. Now that the poet, the storyteller, is gone, so are the poetry and the story. All the NFL has left is the truth, laid bare before the American public in real time. When it comes to professional football, that may not be something the American public wants to confront.

Share |


Much obliged to you for peopling get the data they require. Incredible stuff of course. Keep up the considerable work!!! Điêu khắc lông mày SonaLy

Hello! I recently would wish to give a massive thumbs up for your fantastic information you could have here on this post. I’ll be returning to your blog to get more detailed soon. real cbd

Incredible post, and awesome site. Much obliged for the data! prostate massage london

Thanks for your information, it was really very helpfull.. voyance par téléphone

Thanks so much for sharing this awesome info! I am looking forward to see more postsby you! sengkang grand

When I view your RSS feed it puts up a bunch of garbage, is the issue on my end?

Amazing article! I need individuals to know exactly how great this data is in your article. It's fascinating, convincing substance. Your perspectives are much like my own particular concerning this subjec garage concrete sealer

Thanks for your insight for that wonderful written piece. I’m glad I have taken the time to read this. 토토사이트 추천

Hello! I simply would like to give a massive thumbs up for that wonderful information you could have here during this post. I am coming back to your blog to get more detailed soon. 먹튀다자바

Incredible post I might want to thank you for the endeavors you have made in composing this fascinating and learned article. 먹튀검증

On the off chance that more individuals that compose articles truly fretted about composing extraordinary substance like you, more perusers would be occupied with their compositions. Much obliged to you for thinking about your substance.

It was a very good post indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in my lunch time. Will surely come and visit this blog more often. Thanks for sharing. BittFlex

Amazing! This could be a standout amongst the most helpful web journals we have ever go over on thesubject. Really great data! I'm likewise a specialist in this point so I can comprehend your exertion.

The post is composed in exceptionally a decent way and it contains numerous valuable data for me. helios7

I am upbeat to discover this post exceptionally helpful for me, as it contains part of data. I generally want to peruse the quality substance and this thing I found in you post. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing. voyance gratuite immediate

I am upbeat to discover this post exceptionally helpful for me, as it contains part of data. I generally want to peruse the quality substance and this thing I found in you post. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing. voyance gratuite immediate

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little study on that. And he really bought me lunch because I discovered it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch! best merchant cash advance companies

Awesome post I might want to thank you for the endeavors you have made in composing this fascinating and learned article. 여유증 수술

I might want to say this online journal truly persuaded me to do it! Much appreciated, great post. wedding love letters

This is an incredible rousing article.I am basically satisfied with your great work.You put truly exceptionally accommodating data... 일본서버

This is a really decent site post. Not very numerous individuals would really, the way you simply did. I am truly awed that there is such a great amount of data about this subject have been revealed and you've given a valiant effort, with so much class. In the event that needed to know more about green smoke audits, than by all methods come in and check our stuff. Sverige

Great – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your site. I had no trouble navigating through all tabs as well as related info ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it at all. Reasonably unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, web site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Excellent task. Womax

Much thanks to you for peopling get the data they require. Extraordinary stuff of course. Keep up the colossal work!!! Refrigerator Repair in service Laguna Niguel

Seriously this valuable help is incredible it really helped me and even my children, thanks! tweede woning costa blanca

It would be ideal if you let me know in case you're searching for an article essayist for your site. You have some truly incredible posts and I feel I would be a decent resource. On the off chance that you ever need to take a portion of the heap off, I'd totally love to compose some material for your website in return for a connection back to mine. It would be ideal if you send me an email if intrigued. Much obliged to you! Oursainsburys co uk

hello!! Very interesting discussion glad that I came across such informative post. Keep up the good work friend. Glad to be part of your net community. best furniture stores vancouver

Every one of the substance you said in post is too great and can be extremely helpful. I will remember it, much obliged for sharing the data continue upgrading, looking forward for more posts.Thanks

I needed to thank you for this great read!! I certainly cherished each and every piece of it. I have you bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post. singapore wedding photographer

Die Online Druckerei erstellt hochwertige Drucksachen, wie Flyer, Broschüren, Präsentationsmappen, Banner und mehr extrem gut und extrem günstig. drucken lassen

i truly like this article please keep it up. follow insta

Amazing and extremely energizing site. Affection to watch. Continue Rocking. villas

“I am a big fan of this web site would like to go on updated” Exotic Kenya

This is a savvy blog. I would not joke about this. You have such a great amount of learning about this issue, thus much enthusiasm. You additionally know how to make individuals rally behind it, clearly from the reactions. new orleans foundation repair

How are You? I have been searching for great doing Web Design Glasgow, do You know any? See You! Kilimani escorts

I am glad to locate your recognized method for composing the post. Presently you make it simple for me to comprehend and execute the idea. Much obliged to you for the post. กําจัดปลวก

Oh my goodness! a fantastic article dude. Appreciate it However My business is experiencing problem with ur rss . Don’t know why Can not join it. Is there anyone acquiring identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx Parklands escorts

Really a great addition. I have read this marvelous post. Thanks for sharing information about it. I really like that. Thanks so lot for your convene. Remote Server Administration Tools download free

We - Transpens Translation Team - are a full service translation team dedicated to serving Chinese-Other languages (or other languages-Chinese) translation of large and small clients. Our demanding clients have always depended on our team of experienced project managers, translators, proofreaders, editors, and graphic artists to accurately translate their written materials for almost a decade. English to Chinese translation

This is exceptionally intriguing substance! I have completely appreciated perusing your focuses and have arrive at the conclusion that you are right about a large portion of them. You are incredible. router admin

Eminently composed article, if just all bloggers offered the same substance as you, the web would be a far superior spot.. liteblue

You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time follow your heart. 안전놀이터

I don’t agree with this particular article. However, I did researched in Google and I’ve found out that you are correct and I had been thinking in the incorrect way. Continue producing quality material similar to this. Buy Adsense safe Traffic

This is exceptionally intriguing substance! I have completely appreciated perusing your focuses and have arrive at the conclusion that you are right about a large portion of them. You are incredible. projector price in bd

I’m interested in using some of your material for my website. Please let me know if that’s OK and I will link back to this page. Upholstery Cleaning

magnificent put up, very informative. I ponder why the other specialists of this sector don’t realize this. You should proceed your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers’ base already! day pass cancun

You make such a variety of extraordinary focuses here that I read your article a few times. Your perspectives are as per my own particular generally. This is incredible substance for your perusers. training and development courses

I and my buddies were analyzing the nice information found on your site while at once came up with an awful feeling I never thanked you for those techniques. Those boys were as a result glad to see them and have in effect in actuality been tapping into them. Many thanks for getting simply considerate as well as for opting for this form of impressive issues millions of individuals are really desperate to be aware of. My honest regret for not expressing appreciation to sooner. golf swing speed

Can I merely say thats a relief to find somebody that really knows what theyre discussing on-line. You certainly discover how to bring an issue to light and make it critical. The diet have to check this out and understand this side of your story. I cant believe youre less common when you certainly develop the gift. alquiler vacacional

Hi, have you ever before asked yourself to write about Nintendo or PSP?

I needed to thank you for this awesome read!! I certainly getting a charge out of each and every piece of it I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post. best Los Angeles Chiropractor