Life Is Great, Football Is Better

By: Adrian Jarding

Those words in the title were from the newest member in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and former NFL Films President, Steve Sabol. It’s a line which I hadn’t heard until I saw his A Football Life documentary in 2013, but fell in love with and came to believe as he did, hence why it’s on my Twitter bio.

Back in 2008 when I first moved to Mooresville, North Carolina my family got Dish Network and we had NFL Network in the package. I watched a documentary on the channel where Sabol was the host and I became fascinated by his personality. He had a touch which others have to try hard to reach, but he did it with such grace you knew it was real. I never believed I could work in sports as he did.

By 2011 I still had no clue what I wanted to do with my life but something happened which influenced my life two years later, his father Ed Sabol was inducted into Canton. I didn’t know it at the time, but I became obsessed with sports media after watching his induction and his A Football Life documentary later that year.

The Sabol’s had a passion for film and football which make me believe I could someday work for the NFL. As time has gone on I wondered how I could get to the NFL and when Steve would be inducted. My journey is continuing, but his induction gave me another spark to get there.

In 2013 I was settling into Carmel High School in Indiana and I decided to join my high school TV class as a junior. This decision altered my life forever and was influenced by Steve who had passed away in 2012. The class me to Ball State where I graduated with a degree in Digital Sports Production from Sports Link in 2019. To further my studies, I’m currently working on my Master’s in Digital Storytelling in hopes of someday working in the league like Sabol.

To understand Steve, you have to understand his famous quote. He never said anything for the sake of it, he truly believed and lived by it. He had a touch with players and coaches which allowed NFL Films to get footage others could never dream of. Everyone recognized the passion he had for the league and respected what he stood for.

The interview which will probably forever define him was ironically his last. In 2011 he sat down with Tom Brady for The Brady 6 documentary and was able to pull him into an emotional state. It gave us a rare insight to Brady the person and showed how good Sabol was at interviewing (skip to 25:55 in the video below).

The style of NFL Films was defined by Sabol and he established a new era of documentary filmmaking in sports. What he was able to achieve with the revolutionary film They Call it Pro Football in 1967 is nothing short of remarkable and a huge reason football is a hit on TV today. Anytime you see a close-up of Aaron Rodgers or slow-motion shot of the ball spiraling in the air you can thank Sabol for the iconic imagery.

When it comes to the Hall of Fame there are ample reasons why Steve and his father belong in Canton, but former Redskins general manager Bruce Allen put it best.

When Ed was enshrined in 2011 Allen said, “In the final ballot room, the writers are told ‘Can you write the history of the NFL without mentioning blank?’ I know one thing, you can’t see the history of the NFL without Ed Sabol” (A Football Life, 2011). I would add Steve to that statement.

Those two made sports history through their work. Steve won 35 Emmys for writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producing. Beyond the accolades, he touched the lives of those whom he never met like myself. He has been an inspiration to so many as was documented in his A Football Life.IMG_3243.jpeg

In 2015 I got to see Ed’s bust in person at Canton and it was a seminal moment for me. I hope to see Steve’s bust someday and take a moment to reflect on his career and life. Sabol touched my life through his work and inspired me to work in sports. For someone I’ve never met, I feel like I’ve known him my whole life.


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