nfl via cbs news
The highly creative leader of NFL Films did as much as any single person to turn pro football into America’s most popular team sport.
His father Ed had founded the film production company, then sold it to the league’s team owners, in the early 1960s. But it was Steve who ran it, almost from the start.
He built a mythology on top of the league’s original hard, working-class image with grainy 16mm photography, Sam Spence’s bold-as-brass music cues, and John Facenda’s booming narration.
He put cameras down below players’ eye level and zoomed them in tight. He miked players, coaches, and refs. He constructed storylines that were often more thrilling than the games his crews documented.
As I wrote in 1997, Sabol turned what was essentially a game of coaching, of the execution and interruption of pre-planned plays, into a morality play, a spectacle of noble action heroes valiantly vanquishing their foes.
Along the way, he turned the lowly highlight reel, that early staple of TV-station filler moments, into a true art form.