This year’s “Hard Knox” series with the Dallas Cowboys will mark one of their teams in a Hall of Fame game for the first time. That’s fitting because the series’ creator was installed in Hall earlier this year.
“Hard Knox”, which debuted 20 years ago, is one of Steve Sabol’s many legacies in NFL Films that continues to this day. Sabol, who was 69 at the time of his death from brain cancer in 2012, is one of three contributors to Hall’s 2020 Centennial Class, which honors 20 former players, coaches and contributors across all ages for the first 100 years of the NFL .
“I guess it’s no coincidence that this is the year ‘Hard Knox’ will be in the Hall of Fame. I think Steve is still watching over us,” said Ken Rodgers of NFL Films, “Hard Knox.” Senior Coordinating Producer said.
Sabol is joined by his father Ed, who were founded in Canton in 2011 as the third father/son duo. They are joined by Tim and Wellington Mara, owner of the New York Giants, and Art and Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sabol was recognized by Hall in April and will be included in the induction festival on August 7-8.
Sabols never played or coached in the National Football League. But you can’t tell the history of the league without the role of NFL Films, making it the juggernaut it is today.
While Ed Sabol persuaded Pete Rozelle in 1964 that the league needed his own film company to promote and document the game, it was Steve Sabol who was the creative force at NFL Films. He made the game and players larger-than-life by using cinematography, slow motion replays, orchestral music, and microphones on players and coaches.
Rodgers stated that when Ed Sabol was inducted, Steve saw that the entire existence of the NFL Films, including his career, was being recognized. But for Rodgers and those who grew up watching NFL films, the inclusion of Steve Sabol makes things perfect.
“It’s a two-headed monster. Anyone who built the company would have just created a company that couldn’t have done anything without Steve’s creative talent next to him,” he said. “If they weren’t together, then The NFL would not have been where it is today.
“The commercial decision to create NFL Films and move the league into the television space largely created sports television. But then the creative genre also invented what sports television creatively is today.”
Sabol went to Colorado College, where he was an all-Rocky Mountain Conference running back, and majored in art history. He began working at NFL Films in 1964 as a cinematographer and became president before his death.
During Sabol’s tenure, NFL Films won over 100 Emmy Awards. It won 35 in writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producing by Sabol, the most by anyone.
Sabol was also recognizable in front of the camera. He hosted a few “NFL Films” weekly series during the season, starting Super Bowl highlight films as well as other company projects, which aired frequently on ESPN before the NFL Network was launched in 2003.
ESPN’s Chris Berman stated that NFL Films programming served as a springboard for the network and eventually aired games beginning in 1987.
“NFL Films definitely enabled us to be the destination for pro football fans in the first 15-20 years,” said Berman. “It worked hand in hand with our development because we had the best in pro football, who was Steve Sabol in the NFL Films, and I will always believe in that.”
If there is one piece that illustrates Sabol’s philosophy towards filmmaking and NFL Films, it’s 1978’s “Super Sunday with NFL Films,” which spans everything from camera placement to narrator John Fessenda to the creation of the Super Bowl 12 highlight film. Shows the whole process of how it was done. Going to script.
Most interestingly, Sabol is discussing how he learned Cubism from Picasso’s paintings and how he approaches cinematography by looking at things from different perspectives.
“Autumn Ritual”, made in 1986, is a film that follows Sabol’s command to “break tradition and maintain tradition” as it shows how it fits in with NFL culture and other art forms. is. This may be the only time Reverend Jerry Falwell and rocker Ronnie James Dio appear in the same film and agree on one thing – their love of football.
“He never stopped loving football,” said Penny Ashman Sabol, Steve Sabol’s widow. “I think apart from his influence on the way we watch football, I think the biggest thing about him is how much people loved him. He inspired so many people to start their careers and start their careers. Helped create that his legacy is everyone who made great movies and television shows.”
“Hard Knox” became one of Sabol’s proudest achievements as it showed how NFL Films adapted over time. Despite the tight deadline it can still tell a compelling story.
Sabol once described “Hard Knox” as “building an airplane in flight”. “We’re flying, we’re not sure where it’s going and we hope we don’t crash. But that’s what makes it exciting.”
The series followed reality show debut in 2001, but was more real-life than “Survivor” as roster spots were at stake.
“You talk about the reality show — hell, it ain’t nobody getting votes from an island. It’s a career at stake in the most competitive sports league in the world,” Sabol told the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009 as the featured team. Said after being selected.
“Hard Knox proved, perhaps more than any other program, in our history, that we are not one type of film production company. We are filmmakers who can adapt to any genre and format. On any network ,” Rodgers said.
It will be an emotional journey as the “Hard Knock” crew films and sees the Sabol statue in the hall, but it will also be a celebration for those who continue to work at NFL Films and were influenced by them.
“Steve making it to the hall is for all of us who have seen and worked on NFL movies,” Rodgers said, “because Steve was the creative genius behind whom we all fell in love.”