Steve Sabol Dead at 69, Legacy as NFL Films Pioneer Lives On

This post, originally published in August of 2011, is dedicated to Steve Sabol, who died yesterday, Tuesday, September 18th, at the age of 69.

Steve Sabol’s influence on the most popular sport in the U.S., and the artform he developed with his father, will never be forgotten.

There’s no doubt Steve has his reservation in the Hall Of Fame, as well.


steve-sabolEd Sabol, the 95 year-old innovator of NFL Films, entered the pantheon of NFL Football on Saturday in Canton, Ohio.  He earned his place in the NFL Hall Of Fame by spiriting a concept from his two favorite hobbies: film making and watching tackle football.

Sabol began NFL Films in 1964 while in his mid-forties after years as a clothing salesman. He got his son, Steve, to work alongside him and saw NFL Films grow annually thereafter.

Ed and Steve were pioneers because of the style of films they produced. They told fantastic stories by using great writing.  Also, they were able to capture the essence of tackle football with dramatic footage from different angles. They were pros covering pros.

Their documentaries covered all aspects of the game, including; techniques, personalities, weather, follies, and the fans.

Two other aspects brought their films to a level of greatness.

One, they had original scores of music made specifically designed to match the sport’s grind, discipline and beauty.  The music sounds perfectly suited for how the game looked and felt.

Then, number two, there was the announcer.

Their choice for announcer sealed the deal. He was John Facenda, a longtime Philadelphia radio and television broadcaster.

Part of the reason that Ed Sabol made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is because of the financial rewards he brought to the NFL. His films provided the NFL with a heritage that will never be forgotten.  He helped build and create a culture for how the NFL became what it is today.

Many people remember the films and place themselves back to those periods of time because the memories are worth cherishing. In many ways, Ed and Steve Sabol are the foundation and roots that have complimented the development of the NFL.  His style of film and his ideas helped popularize the sport.

It’s hard to predict how somebody may create the same magic for MLS, and in what shape or form it might come in. Definitely, there are people working on accomplishing similar feats, but it may be impossible for anyone to have an impact on a sports through film that Ed and Steve Sabol had on the NFL.


Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of

About Howard M Alperin

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