Steve Sabol, the creative force behind the iconic NFL Films productions of decades past, died yesterday at the age of 69. As a result, many are reflecting on his life and work, and rightfully so.
Here’s the thing about Sabol that fascinates me about Sabol: he didn’t have an explicit effect on the way professional football was played on the field, and yet he was still a game-changer. Why? How?
Because with his unique creative voice he changed the way people experience the game.
Sabol romanticized and dramatized and mythologized the game of football. He shot the action close-up and he ran it back in slow motion. He took a high-art approach (cinematography, prose, and an orchestral score) to a man-child’s game of violent triviality.
As I said, he did all this without coaching the players or changing the rules or manipulating the matchups. He wasn’t Vince McMahon puppeteering the WWE. Rather, Sabol changed the game by framing it differently for the fans. He saw something special in the game and translated that vision into art. He taught us to see what he saw, which is the great gift of art and artists.
To get an idea of how radical Sabol’s approach really was, consider the game as it was presented way back in the day:
Potentially entertaining? Sure. But that footage doesn’t actually inspire, does it? In other words, that footage doesn’t capture your attention and your imagination. Now, check out a signature piece of Sabol’s work (via Chuck Klosterman’s piece on Sabol):
Ah, the Raiders. Friends, that’s compelling storytelling. It’s not a generic, sterile highlight reel; it’s art.
As for you, maybe it’s not your job to change the Christian faith — it’s rules, regulations, preferences, and history. Maybe it’s your job to change the way people see it.
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.