As Sabol passes, the importance of NFL Films

Posted by Darren Urban on September 18, 2012 – 2:43 pm

Long before ESPN and any of the many highlight shows made the NFL a constant in living rooms, there was NFL Films. That’s the first thing that popped into my head today when the news came down that Steve Sabol — the son of the father-son duo that brought NFL Films to existence and prominence — passed away.

NFL Films is still around and doing fantastic work with the league providing those goosebump-raising packages with the cool movie score music and the slow-motion shots. But it’s one of many outlets anymore, and for many younger fans, it’s just part of the televised NFL crowd. I’m old enough to pre-date the internet, to pre-date ESPN, to remember the time when the NFL was growing to be king and NFL Films helped turn a game into something so much more. A run-of-the-mill Sunday matchup between two non-playoff teams could be made to look like a battle for the ages with the right shots, the right music. NFL Films was a mythmaker, much to my and many others’ delight.

Think of all the iconic shots that are iconic because of how NFL Films caught them on tape. Raiders defensive back Willie Brown running back an interception in the Super Bowl. Niners receiver Dwight Clark’s catch against the Cowboys in the 1981 NFC title game. The moves of Sweetness or the acrobatics of Steelers receiver Lynn Swann, my first favorite player thanks to my mom buying me his jersey at a garage sale when I was 9. When you are young watching NFL Films, how are the players not larger than life?

Ed Sabol, who started NFL Films, made the Hall of Fame. His son, such a huge part of the NFL explosion, may get there too. A statement from Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill:

“Steve Sabol’s incredible vision, talent and creative energy shaped the way millions of us enjoy and experience the National Football League.  His loss is a blow to all of us who love football but the passion he brought to the sport lives on in every fan who has been influenced by his amazing work.  The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the Cardinals are with the Sabol family as well as our friends and colleagues at NFL Films.”

From the last few years, here are some NFL Films moments of the Cards:

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Posted in Blog | 20 Comments »

20 Responses to “As Sabol passes, the importance of NFL Films”

  1. By SteveG on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    The man lived right..RIP

  2. By Andy Kw on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    You have been a great man Steve Sabol. May the best wishes be blessed upon you. The NFL has been greatly honored to have person like you and no one will ever forget you. Best wishes to your family. You have been a legend to this world and no one could ever replace you. I hope you live a happy life in the next world and you will most likely see the loved ones that has passed a long time ago once again. It has been a blessing to be around a courageous person like you. May God be blessed upon you.

  3. By D on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    Nice Tribute…

    darn your old, you must have covered the Cards when Larry Wilson was playing…

  4. By Darren Urban on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    D —

    RE: Age


  5. By cobra on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply


    As you stated, those were the stories you looked forward to when we were much younger, long before the internet and ESPN. He had a great impact on fans around the country who love the NFL. Best regards to his family and co-workers.

  6. By Dynosoar on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    I remember life before microwaves, vcr’s and cordless tellephones, but not quite old enough for Larry Wilson time.

    I do remmeber NFL Films and the halftime highlights on Monday Night Football. My brother and I lived for those more than some games. (I was a Cardinal fan in the 70’s)

    In our neighborhood football games, every day after school, tackle, no pads, a wonder I can only remember two sprained ankles in all those years, we always tried to emulate what we saw on NFL Films.

    That was our inspiration. Steve, thanks for the memories.

    Darren, thanks for your article that brought me a couple of September Roses just now. Have a good evening.

  7. By George on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    There is no question that NFL Films has played a part in the popularity of pro football. I will never forget the great voice of John Facenda doing the Super Bowl highlights that NFL Films is famous for. Steve Sabol and his father Ed has left a legacy on the american sports landscape. R.I.P.

  8. By brad oneill on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    The Sabols are a tremendous part of the NFL’s Success,

    Deep Dramatic voice- they took a boys game, played by men and turned it into something we all had to be a part of.

    There was an amazing special on nfl films i saw a year ago for the life of me I cant even remember what channel it aired on but it told the story of how nfl films got started and had interviews with father and son and really showed how they found that magic. I wish i could find the title of it because it is definitely worth watching for any nfl fan that likes seeing behind the curtain a bit.

    Rest in Peace Mr. Sabol and thanks for adding the perfect mix of humor and drama to our lives.

  9. By Geode1953 on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    That’s a real good tribute Darren.

    Ah Darren remember the days of Jim Otis, Terry Metcalf, Otis Anderson. Seems like a dream now. But what a time, eating Ritz crackers, Blue cheese and a bit if Dads Blue Ribbon watching the Cardinals beating the Cowboys or whomever they were playing.

    Whoops, my have went to far back. But hey when I was a kid growing up there was only a few hundred thousand people in the Valley of the Sun.

    Gonna miss you, Steve Sabol.
    I think he will rest easy now, He has done his Job.

  10. By AndyStandsUp on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply

    I agree with Dynosaur about the halftime replays with Howard Cosell were sometimes more apealling than the MNF game itself.(Big SD Chargers fan back then.)
    Back then youngsters, the only way you saw highlights of other Sunday afternoon games, (no Thursday, Saturday, Sunday night contests) was to watch the ABC five minute vignette. (And you had to walk barefoot through the snow both ways uphill just to find the correct channel out of the 3 available, not to mention not having this thing people call a remote control.)
    And BTW Darren, John Jefferson, Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner Dan Fouts > Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Terry Bradshaw.

  11. By Jzoully on Sep 18, 2012 | Reply


  12. By Blake on Sep 19, 2012 | Reply

    I remember as a kid waiting every week during football season to watch This Week in the NFL probably one of the most memorable episodes i saw was the one where Tom Dempsey kicked his 63 yard field goal…. Man what memories.
    RIP Steve , thanks to you and your dad and everyone else for the memories.

  13. By Dynosoar on Sep 19, 2012 | Reply


    I still have my childhood helmet with Anderson’s #32 inked on the back. It was him, Hart, Green or Gray and Otis won the honor.

    Andy Stands,

    My all time favorite NFL moment was on Monday night. Dan Fouts connected with JJ (That’s what all my friends and me called John Jefferson). He fell as he caught the ball on like the two yard line and proceeded to belly crawl into the endzone and reached the ball across the goal line before the opponents could touch him. Touchdown!

    My brother and me were both laughing and cheering at the same time; difficult to laugh while cheering, but that play inspired both.

    The best play ever! (All my friends were Sand Diego fans for a week because of that play)

    Even if we’d had that remote control, we’d have probably dropped it in the snow. Not to mention on Monday night, it’d never been used durring halftime.

  14. By Dynosoar on Sep 19, 2012 | Reply

    Darren, Steve, D, AndyKW, Cobra, George, brad, Geode and AndyStands,

    Nice to know the other “barefoot in the snow both ways fans” (which describes ST. Louis well) who I can share Sabol’s memories with.

    It’s good to be a part of this mighty tremendous blog group Darren’s created. Enjoy your day.

    Oh yeah, remember the day when the Eagles were at the bottom of the Division with us? I still can’t like the Cowboys, Giants or Redskins (sorry Russ), but never minded the Eagles our Division equals. Still don’t, but they’re going down this Sunday.

    And what’s with an writer calling him Cardiac Vick? Know your history, we had that Moniker while Michael’s parents were still in gradeschool and we’re not giving it to him.

    Go Cardiac Cards!

  15. By YmmyYames on Sep 19, 2012 | Reply

    Here’s my take on what Steve Sabol has meant to the sports landscape with football and all sports for that matter: Thanks to Sabol, we have shows like Sportscenter and ESPN. We have highlight reels, bloopers, and top 10’s because of Ed and Steve’s vision of the NFL on film. Pioneer doesn’t even begin to label this guy. It’s fitting his passing was during September, when the autumn wind is just beginning with the sights and sounds of football. Thank you Steve for all that you did in making football enjoyable for the masses. RIP Steve Sabol.

  16. By D on Sep 19, 2012 | Reply

    I know this is out of left field, but I think you may have mentioned before, if the rookie CB’s continue to improve, do you see a scenario where Cards may move Toler to SS next year if R. Johnson doesnt’ impress this year? Toler seems to have the size for that spot.


  17. By Darren Urban on Sep 19, 2012 | Reply

    D —

    RE: Toler to safety

    I think that’s still TBD. Toler has got to rebound all the way from his knee issues first.

  18. By jocards on Sep 19, 2012 | Reply

    For everybody who likes NFL films; There is one special that I believe is called “NFL Head Coach; A Self Portrait”. It is a great watch if anybody can find it! Good stuff!

  19. By johnnybluenose on Sep 19, 2012 | Reply

    i can remember watching NFL FILMS 35 or 40 years ago and thinking how great and how different this was from other things that were around then. the close-ups and the accompanying music were brilliant. there was often no commentary and none was needed. i think my favorite was one of fred bilitnikoff ( i know i’ve misspelled his name but many will know who he is ) running as hard and as fast as he possibly could. you can see the effort, determination and almost desperation etched on his face. i had no idea then who steve sabol was but i came to feel i knew him through listening to him and watching him on tv. he was always smiling, always interesting and informative. it is truly sad that he was not granted more time but no one can dispute that he made the most of his opportunities and we are all the better for them. thank you mr. sabol.

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