Like most sports fans in this country, football is my absolute favorite. I enjoy and watch basketball, boxing, and baseball, but football is the only appointment viewing sport for me each week. I believed like many others during the lockout that the NFL was so popular that there was almost nothing they could do to destroy it's popularity. The credit for the leagues success and popularity belongs to a lot of people, but I think the role played by Steve Sabol and his father Ed is sometimes underrated.
When the Sabol's started NFL Films (then as Blair Motion Pictures), the NFL wasn't America's favorite sport, it was still baseball and it wasn't even close. In particular what you hear from people who watched sports back then, was that the NFL just didn't translate well to television and fans had a hard time connecting to teams and players. Most sport fans who did like football were much more loyal to their college team than the local NFL team. The Sabol's breathed drama and interest into the most mundane game and put it on a level that everyone could understand. Part of what made them great was their ability to tell a story and make a 30 minute video about a 2-14 team riveting and leave you believing by the end of the video that the 2-14 team was on the verge of turning things around. In terms of a TV product, the NFL is king today and the Sabol's have their fingerprints all over that success. The NFL would still be successful, but I'm convinced that it wouldn't be nearly as popular today had it not been for NFL Films.
I loved watching old NFL Films episodes on ESPN Classic as a kid and still watch episodes today on NFL Network and on the several DVD's I own. All I've wanted to do my entire life is work in sports, to share the passion I have and the enjoyment I get from watching games. Seeing that passion visualized on my TV screen as a kid helped fuel that fire and still does to this day. Steve Sabol had an enormous impact on the sport and on my life; he will be missed.