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Jerry Jones, Sterling Sharpe, Bob Costas, Michael Lombardi, Carl Peterson and Steve Mariucci all join Rich to reflect on the life of Steve Sabol, one of the NFL’s and televisions most influential and incredible men. This special edition of The Rich Eisen Podcast remembering the life and contributions of Steve Sabol also includes Steve’s last appearance on the podcast just prior to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, where Steve’s father Ed Sabol was nominated for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2011.
NFL Films is more than a production company, it’s an institution. The life’s work of Steve Sabol, a football player turned artist who transformed American television for half a century.
In 1962, Ed Sabol won the rights to film the league’s championship game and NFL Films was born. In a sense, so was Steve, who was there that freezing day at Yankee Stadium working as a cameraman. For the next 50 years, he never stopped working for the NFL.
Few men in the League have ever had a longer run. None has ever had a better one. He was the game’s first quintuple threat. An Emmy-winning auteur who won statuettes for cinematography, editing, writing, directing and producing. The only man ever to be so honored.
But it wasn’t hardware that Steve loved, it was the game. And he saw it as no one ever had. Through the eyes of an artist. With an unerring eye for detail, and a pitch perfect ear, Steve quickly transformed NFL Films from simple chroniclers of the game, to epic myth makers. And he did it, as all great artists do, by taking chances.
Super slow motion, wireless mics on players, reverse angle replays, follies films, and custom composed musical scores. All that’s standard stuff today, but before NFL Films it was unheard of. But then, Steve never thought like a sports filmmaker, he thought like a Hollywood storyteller. Big, bold, honest, and, funny. Those were the hallmarks of Steve’s work. And Steve himself.
Across fifty years, and tens of thousands of programs, there was one constant at NFL Films: Steve Sabol. He was one of that now rare breed of executive who not only had done every job in the company at one time or another, but could still do any of them better than most. More than the company’s head, he was its heartbeat.
Last summer, Steve presented his father for induction into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame. Big Ed, reminded the crowd that his motto was: “Tell me a story and it’ll live forever.” Like any good son, Steve always listened to his father. Then worked until he became the greatest storyteller the NFL has ever known. But he also listened to his heart. And by turning to the game he loved, he also embraced a piece of wisdom he learned while studying art at Colorado college. Art is love’s accomplice, take love away and there is no art. Steve Sabol knew that better than anyone.