Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/18/12

NFL icon Steve Sabol has passed today at the age of 69, after an 18-month battle with brain cancer.

Sabol's father, Ed, founded what eventually became the industry standard NFL Films in 1962.

The fledgling company's first major contract assignment was an in-depth look at the 1962 title game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.

The younger Sabol worked with his father every step of the way in building a brand that paved a glorious and enduring legacy that left imitators and viewers in awe.

The death of such a legendary and monumental figure in the sport reminds us today of all things good about the league and sport with which we've grown up, and love to this day.

With all the swirling conflicts that surround the game at this moment in time, from "bounty-gate" to concussion lawsuits, and of course the replacement official debacle, it is important to remind oneself of the beauty and richness the game of football provides.

And in particular, all that Steve Sabol helped to bring to us.

For 50 years, Sabol and NFL Films have provided a texture and nuance to the NFL that is rivalled by no other. The "Voice of GOD", John Facenda, bellowing his deep baritone over the majestic classical themes of Sam Spence and company.

The form had never been done before, and would never be done again with such dramatic effect. The Sabols used slow motion footage to build a suspense that stands the brutal test of time. 

It can very well be argued that along with the advent of sports television, NFL Films helped cultivate the sport and the league itself into a new stratosphere above all competitors where it remains yet today.

All the while, Sabol served as willing ambassador to the game and league he loved. To many of us, it feels like almost from infancy, growing up in football households, that Sabol has been a part of our lives.

Out in my back yard, it was the Walter Payton head first dive over the goal line, set to the looming overture  that Spence had woven into my brain. I wasn't even a Bears fan, but Payton scored every single time. 

For many others, it is the image of the Jerry Rice slant from Joe Montana, catching and turning and running all in one seamless motion, leaving all defenders in the dust.

And what's more, the black and white archival footage of Jim Brown plowing through a defense, Dick Butkus burying a running back in the backfield, Johnny Unitas launching a rainbow 60 yards down field -- all served to TEACH us about the game's past.

Sabol will definitely be missed, but the legacy he leaves behind, and the way NFL Films has nurtured and nourished its host league, is a much needed respite for those of us who love the purity of the sport.

If you need any reminder, tune in to NFL Network, or ESPN, and drink in a sample of the gift that Sabol so generously offered to all of us.



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