This year “Hard hits” series with the Dallas Cowboys will mark the first time one of his teams has participated in the Hall of Fame game. This is fitting because the series creator was enshrined in the room earlier this year.
“Hard knocks,” which began 20 years ago, is one of the many legacies of Steve Sabol at NFL Films that continues to live on. Sabol, who was 69 when he died of brain cancer in 2012, is one of three contributors to the Hall’s 2020 Centennial Class, which honors 20 former players, coaches and contributors from all eras. of the first 100 years of the NFL.
“I’d like to think it’s no coincidence that this is the year ‘Hard Knocks’ will be in the Hall of Fame. I think Steve is always watching over us ”, said Ken Rodgers of NFL Films, the senior coordinating producer of “Hard knocks.”
Sabol joins his father Ed, consecrated in 2011, as the third father / son duo in Canton. They join Tim and Wellington Mara, owners of the New York Giants, and Art and Dan Rooney, owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sabol was recognized in April by the hall and will be included in the induction festivities on August 7 and 8.
The Sabols have never played or led a down in the National Football League. But you can’t tell the story of the league without the role of NFL Films to make it the juggernaut it is today.
While it was Ed Sabol who persuaded Pete Rozelle in 1964 that the league needed its own film company to promote and document the game, it was Steve Sabol who was the creative force behind NFL Films. He made the game and players look larger than life with cinematography, slow motion, orchestral music, and the installation of microphones on players and coaches.
Rodgers said that when Ed Sabol was inducted, Steve saw the whole existence of NFL Films, including his career, recognized. But for Rodgers and those who have grown up watching NFL Films over the years, Steve Sabol’s induction makes it all right.
“He’s a two-headed monster. Someone starting a business would have just created a business that wouldn’t have done anything without Steve’s creative genius alongside it ”, he said. “If they weren’t performing together, the NFL wouldn’t be where it is today.
“The business decision to create NFL Films and lead the league in the television space largely created sports television. But the creative style also invented what sports television is today. “
Sabol went to Colorado College, where he was an All-Rocky Mountain Conference backer, and majored in art history. He started working at NFL Films in 1964 as a director of photography and became president before passing away.
During Sabol’s tenure, NFL Films won over 100 Emmy Awards. This included 35 earned by Sabol in writing, cinematography, editing, directing, and production, most by anyone.
Sabol was also recognizable on camera. It hosted some of the “NFL Movies” A weekly series during the season, featured Super Bowl flagship films as well as other corporate projects that aired frequently on ESPN before the NFL Network debuted in 2003.
ESPN’s Chris Berman said that NFL Films’ programming served as a springboard for the network to eventually broadcast games from 1987.
“NFL Films has made us the destination for professional football fans certainly the first 15-20 years,” said Berman. “It worked hand in hand with our growth because we had the best in professional football, which was Steve Sabol at NFL Films, and I will always believe it.”
If there is one creation that shows Sabol’s philosophy towards cinema and NFL Films, it is the years 1978. “Super Sunday with NFL Films”, which shows the entire production process of the flagship Super Bowl 12 film, from camera placement to narrator John Facenda to script.
The most interesting part is that Sabol explains how he learned Cubism from Picasso’s paintings and that he approaches cinematography by looking at things from different points of view.
“Autumn Ritual”, which was made in 1986, is a film that follows Sabol’s tenure which “Maintain tradition by breaking tradition” because it shows how the NFL fits into culture and other art forms. This may be the only time Reverend Jerry Falwell and rocker Ronnie James Dio appear in the same movie and agree on something – their love of football.
“He never stopped loving football” said Penny Ashman Sabol, widow of Steve Sabol. “I think outside of the influence he had on the way we watch football, I think the biggest thing about him is how much people loved him. He helped so many. people to start and build their careers that its legacy is that of all those who make great movies and television shows. “
“Hard hits” ended up being one of Sabol’s proudest accomplishments, as it showed how NFL Films has adapted with the times. He could still tell a compelling story despite tight deadlines.
Sabol once described “Hard hits” as “Build an airplane in flight. “We take off, we don’t know where it’s going to go and we hope not to crash. But that’s what makes it so exciting.
The series appeared on the cusp of reality shows in 2001, but was more real than “Survivor” because places on the list were up for grabs.
“You talk about reality shows – damn it, that’s not somebody getting voted off an island. These are careers at stake in the most competitive sports league in the world ”, Sabol said in 2009 after the Cincinnati Bengals were selected as the star team.
“What Hard Knocks has proven more than any other program, perhaps in our history, is that we are not some type of film company. We are filmmakers able to adapt to all styles and formats. On any network “, Rodgers said.
It will be an emotional journey when the “Hard hits” the crew films in the lobby and sees Sabol’s bust, but it will also be a celebration for those who continue to work at NFL Films and have been touched by him.
“Steve coming into the room is for all of us who have watched and worked on NFL movies,” Rodgers said, “Because Steve was the creative genius behind what we all fell in love with.”
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