bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Steve Sabol of NFL Films dies of cancer

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No sport translates to television quite like football does. I enjoy watching them all, but there is just something about football that lends itself perfectly to an afternoon on the couch in front of a giant screen. With so many sports, I would actually rather be there in person. Sitting at a baseball game is fantastic, for example. Football, particularly the professional variety, is a lot of fun to watch in person, but you actually lose a lot by not watching on T.V. Much of the experience that we have watching the NFL broadcasts can be traced back to the Sabol family and NFL Films. Steve Sabol, the real genius behind all of that, died on Tuesday of brain cancer at the age of 69.

It is easy to take for granted the amazing work of this man, as the styles he pioneered are now used so commonly across the world of sports. The super-slow-motion shots, the camera angles, the voiceover style, and the on-field microphones are all things that you never saw before NFL Films did them. Ed Sabol started the company in the early Sixties, with his son Steve serving as a cameraman. Ed is a legend in his own right, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year, but it was Steve whose creativity took NFL Films to the heights it has achieved. He won 35 Emmy awards himself, receiving them in five different categories (writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producing), and he also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. Although his voice was not as recognizable as the iconic announcers he hired to narrate his company’s films (John Facenda and Harry Kalas, among others), he was recognizable from his appearances on ESPN and as well as on a variety of his company’s output.

This may sound funny, but my strongest memory of NFL Films comes from when I was a kid and would occasionally stay home sick. Flipping through the channels on my 13-inch black-and-white television, I would come across a show about the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears, or best yet, the Philadelphia Eagles. If I was really lucky, I might run into a stretch of all of them, back-to-back. Nothing could make the day fly by like those specials. John Facenda’s voice was miraculous as he painted a picture of the “frozen tundra of Lambeau Field” or the winds whipping off of Lake Michigan into Soldier Field. You could feel the incredible hits and shake from the tension of each nerve-wracking moment of a two-minute drill. All of this was the work of Steve Sabol. He was taken from us too young, but his legacy will live on as long as sports are being televised.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Champion snowboarder Shaun White was arrested this week and charged with public intoxication and vandalism after he pulled a fire alarm at a Nashville hotel at 2:00 in the morning.

3) Early Monday evening, Michael Turner helped the Atlanta Falcons win a game against the Denver Broncos. Later that night, he was arrested and charged with DUI while driving almost 100 miles per hour in suburban Atlanta.

4) Yunel Escobar, a shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays, was suspended by Major League Baseball this week after he wore eye-black stickers with a gay slur written on them in Spanish. In his apology, Escobar trotted out the “I have gay friends” tripe that I enjoy so much.

5) Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who is on his way to another sub-par season, decided it was a good time to toss the blame onto his offensive line this week during an interview after practice on Thursday. Way to be a team guy, Chris.

6) Melky Cabrera, the San Francisco Giants outfielder who was suspended earlier this season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, announced this week that he was disqualifying himself from the race for the National League batting title. He was fairly likely to win it, as his stats before the suspension were sufficient to win him the award if nothing very unusual happened in the last couple weeks of the season. That said, I am not sure why this was even necessary, and I sure am not going to give him any credit for his actions. As his batting average was clearly influenced by the same cheating that got him suspended, I would think that it would be a pretty obvious move to remove the possibility of him winning anything at all this year. His attempt to start repairing his image by this action is quite transparent and naive.

7) New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott got into a confrontation with a reporter in the team’s locker room after practice on Friday. The player, who has refused to talk to media this season, was displeased by the reporter taking his picture and threatened him with physical violence. Classy.

8) Corrie Sanders, a former heavyweight champion, was shot and killed during a robbery in South Africa. Sanders, who was 46, won a belt in 2003 by defeating Wladimir Klitschko in a major upset.

Good sports:

1) Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke set a division 1 record with 730 yards passing in his team’s win over New Hampshire on Saturday. He threw 79 passes, completing 55, five of which went for touchdowns.

2) Bryce Harper, the phenom who is playing outfield for the Washington Nationals, may be an obnoxious, contentious kid, but he sure has skills. Check out this throw with which he nailed a runner at the plate on Friday night.

3) Richy Klepal, an offensive lineman from Tampa who was committed to play college ball at Florida State, suffered the fifth concussion of his high school career recently, and has had to give up the game. To its credit, the staff at Florida State plans to honor his scholarship, which is admirable.

4) Golfer Brandt Snedeker had quite a profitable weekend. He collected over $11 million after winning the Fed Ex Cup by taking the Tour Championship in Atlanta. His career earnings before this were $15 million.

5) Nate Washington, a wide receiver for the Tennessee Titans, made one of the best catches I have ever seen on Sunday. Take a look.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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One Response to “Bad sports, good sports: Steve Sabol of NFL Films dies of cancer”

  1. Alan, THANKS for leading-off this week’s column with your kind words about Sabol and his work. You’re right about it being easy to take his work for granted in this media-rich, technology-rich world in which we live … but 40 years ago, when I was hooked on NFL Films? … WOW … you really, REALLY can NOT overstate the importance of the Sabols and their contribution to sports media.

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