I Remember a Genius
by Eddie White
September 19, 2012
For all I know, Steve Sabol—the Face, the Voice, the Soul of NFL Films—never set foot in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But he (and the great history of NFL Films) impacted how Pacers and Fever games are presented—both live and on TV!
Sabol lost his battle with cancer this week just short of his 70th birthday. I first met Steve and his dad back in the early 80s. Notre Dame, where I worked, was producing a film, "Wake Up the Echoes," and used NFL Films to make it happen. I was struck first by Steve's unabashed admiration and respect for his dad, Ed.
Ed Sabol founded NFL Films in Philadelphia. I grew up listening to Ed Sabol and the GREAT VOICE of NFL Films, John Facenda (who did news on TV in the Delaware Valley). Steve always gave his dad (inducted into the Pro football Hall of Fame last year) the credit for starting this monster called NFL Films.
But, in fact it was the brilliance and the genius of Steve that got NFL Films to where it is. Steve was a masterful story teller. When I left Notre Dame and moved to the Dolphins I used to run into Steve frequently. At games. At Super Bowls. And when I visited New Jersey, home of NFL Films, to edit (my personal editor BTW was Andrea Kremer, who would go on to bigger and better things) the Dolphins' highlight film.
But it wasn't until later when I moved to Reebok that I really got to know him. We would hang out at NFL Owners Meeting. Always played golf. He loved golf. He was a hacker like me. But we'd "conquer" the Biltmore in Arizona. Doral in Miami. Palm Springs. Maui. You name it, we lost balls there!
And when I visited Philadelphia, to see the Eagles I would make the short drive over the bridge to Jersey to see NFL Films and Steve.
When NFL Films built their new headquarters I could NOT wait to get there. As impressed as I was with all the NEW studios, sound rooms and libraries I was MOST impressed with something else that was pure Steve Sabol.
Throughout the hallways of NFL Films headquarters there are photos and toys and games and gadgets. All of it brought in by Steve. And every so many months or so he would often go out and rearrange the many items. Move the stuff around the building. He would search rummage sales and garage sales all over the land. He would check eBay daily. If there was a Charley Trippi 1945 football bank, he would get it for the collection.
It has to be one of the greatest collections of old football "stuff". Just great stuff. They should offer tours to the general public to see this stuff.
It was part of that LOVE he had for football… and storytelling.
I said earlier that I don't think Steve ever set foot in our place. But everything we do—game preparations, video boards, web pages, TV broadcasts, etc.—is better because of his genius. Shoot, we are putting in one of the world's largest scoreboards/video screens that will debut Opening Night on Nov. 3. All because Steve Sabol challenged ALL of us to tell stories and tell 'em better. TV coverage. Olympics coverage. Game coverage in arena. All influenced by the genius of Steve Sabol.
Cancer took him too soon. But, what a lasting impression he and his dad have made on the world of sports. The world we love.
Thanks Steve. Somewhere in heaven I'm sure you have already cornered Halas and Lombardi and you are telling a story! And, on Nov. 3 when we have Opening Night and we debut this scoreboard/video board as big as the state of Iowa, I'm gonna think of you pal. Hit 'em straight!