I felt very saddened when I heard the news that Steve Sabol of NFL Films had died of brain cancer at age 69 on Tuesday. I knew that Sabol was diagnosed with this terrible disease shortly after Super Bowl XLV. Unfortunately, Sabol didn't win this difficult battle, but he and his father Ed have left a lasting impression of superb film work which will forever leave its mark on the NFL.
Sabol and his father have also left an unforgettable legacy of film work regarding the Green Bay Packers. The first work NFL Films ever did was the 1962 NFL Championship Game between the Packers and the New York Giants, when NFL Films was then Blair Motion Pictures.
Ed Sabol had named his film company after his daughter, Blair, but after a couple of years of filming NFL play, the company was purchased by the NFL and renamed NFL Films.
In the 1960s, the NFL was dominated by the Packers, who were coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi.
And it was Lombardi and the Packers that were often the main focus in the early stages of NFL Films. The last film ever done on Lombardi premiered on HBO in December of 2010. If you have never seen the film, I would suggest you do. It's a masterpiece.
It canvasses Lombard's entire life, but a large part of the documentary is about Lombardi's years in Green Bay. The film allows fans to see a postgame party that Lombardi held in the basement of his Green Bay home. Lombardi had given NFL Films permission to film that private affair.
Steve Sabol said the documentary was the last he would ever do about Lombardi.
“I am officially closing the vault on Lombardi,” Sabol said. At a screening attended by Frank Gifford and Jerry Kramer, the poetic offensive lineman for Lombardi’s Packers, he told them, “Frank, Jerry, you will not get any more calls from me on Lombardi.”
NFL Films became the best-of-the-best in sports filming. NFL Films won over 100 Emmys, with Steve Sabol winning 35 of those awards.
After his brain cancer became apparent, Steve Sabol was able to see his father Ed get rewarded for all the work he had done for the NFL in terms of film work, when Ed was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
I'm sure Steve was thrilled to see that happen, as he wheeled his then-94-year-old dad on the stage in Canton to receive his bust and to speak to the fans in attendence.
Speaking of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sabol wrote about Jerry Kramer in the summer of 2010 as he was pinch-hitting for Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column for Sports Illustrated.
Sabol wrote in a column titled, "Best Player Not In the Hall Of Fame: Jerry Kramer."
He was the lead boulder in the avalanche that was the Packer Power Sweep. In the 1962 Championship game in Yankee Stadium, he kicked three field goals through the bitter wind to provide the winning margin over the Giants, 16-7. In the Ice Bowl, he became the most famous right guard in history with his goal-line block on Jethro Pugh; so celebrated that some people think the deodorant was named for him. He endured 23 operations. He was All-Pro five times. And finally, when the NFL celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Hall of Fame selected its All-Time Team and Jerry Kramer was the guard. He was a striver, a man of straight ahead will and determination who epitomized the essence of Vince Lombardi’s Packers.
Truer words have never been spoken; I only hope that Kramer is given the same recognition that Ed Sabol received in 2011 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Steve Sabol should also receive that very same honor.
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