Ed Sabol, Founder of NFL Films, Has Died
Ed Sabol, who founded NFL Films, has died at age 98. The company is headquartered in Mount Laurel, N.J.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011, Sabol was the visionary force who revolutionized sports on camera and mythologized football at its highest level of competition.
“Through his determination and innovative spirit, Ed Sabol transformed how America watched football and all sports,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday. “Ed ignited the fire at NFL Films and was the Keeper of the Flame with a remarkable vision and dedication to telling the stories of the people who played, coached and loved the game.
“He earned the ultimate recognition by being selected in 2011 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame where he will forever be remembered alongside the men he so greatly cared about. Ed’s memory will live forever in the hearts and minds of fans around the world whenever they see the work of NFL Films and of the many people he inspired.”
Here’s the film his now-deceased son, Steve, used to introduce him at the Hall of Fame.
The man everyone called “Big Ed” founded NFL Films in 1964, just two years after he bought the rights to the 1962 NFL championship for $5,000.
He headed that company, now headquartered in Mount Laurel, from 1964 to 1995, during which time NFL Films won 52 Emmy Awards.
Mr. Sabol changed the way football was filmed and how it was viewed. In his enormous hands, the previously mundane task of filming sporting events became an art form as he layered on music, dramatic and literate narration, and a romantic point of view.
Working with his son, Steve, Sabol introduced a series of innovations taken for granted today: super slow-motion replays, blooper reels, reverse angle shots. They stuck microphones on coaches and players, set highlights to pop music, and recorded pregame locker room speeches.
And one of their most important decisions was hiring John Facenda to narrate all this. He became known as the “Voice of God,” reading lyrical descriptions in solemn tones.
“We began making the game personal for the fans, like a Hollywood movie,” Sabol told The Associated Press before his Hall of Fame induction. “Violent tackles, the long slow spiral of the ball, following alongside the players as they sidestepped and sprinted down the field. The movie camera was the perfect medium at the time to present the game the way the fans wanted to see it.”