Steve Sabol, who revolutionized the way sports are covered in America as the president of NFL Films, died on Tuesday from brain cancer, according to NFL.com. He was 69.
In the early ’60s, Sabol joined his father Ed Sabol in creating a new style of looking at the sport of football — it was intimate, passionate, and brought fans used to watching from the stands, or their living-room La-Z-Boys, closer to the field than they had ever been. It was one thing to watch a game on TV on Sunday, it was quite another to relive it the following week thanks to the Sabols, who brought an almost-mythic level of drama to the gladiatorial combat on the gridiron. Sabol worked as a cameraman, editor, writer, director, and producer for NFL Films, sharing a passion for the game that developed while playing football at Colorado College.
Over the next decade, the Sabols’ NFL Films segments became an institution. They were instantly recognizable to fans, not only for their on-the-field view of the plays and the players (who they often put tiny microphones on), but also for the stentorian narration of John Facenda — a man whose voice seemed to rumble down from the fog-shrouded peak of Mt. Olympus.
The Sabols were ahead of their time as broadcasters, and there’s no arguing how much they contributed to football’s eclipse of baseball as America’s pastime in recent decades. Over the course of his career, Sabol earned more than 40 Emmys, including a Lifetime Achievement honor from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2003.
Sabol is survived by his wife, Penny, his son Casey, his parents Audrey and Ed, and his sister Blair.