Gone With the Autumn Wind: Remembering Steve SabolSeptember 19th, 2012 at 9:01 pm by Tom Schaad under News, Personalities, Sports, Uncategorized
Tight monochromatic spirals looming larger with every revolution until it nearly smashes through the screen of our old RCA accompanied by an orchestral buffet of deliciously classical sounds is the first scene that came to mind upon hearing the passing of Steve Sabol. Sabol was President of NFL Films, which produced beautifully paced stories of gridiron mythology, the images of which were burned the into my impressionable brain at a young age. We watched stirring cinematography which recorded, as Sabol put it, “the raw intensity of the NFL–the bloody hands, the eyes bulging, the snot spraying and the sweat flying.”
But these weren’t just old highlights. NFL Films artfully produced dramas which showed struggle, triumph, and often times, defeat; accompanied by music which made you think you were watching a biblical epic unfold in helmets and pads. But what most influenced this reporter was what was reverently known as “The Voice of God.” John Fascenda’s bass pipes and diliberate narration put you in the line of battle. Every syllable would take you to a different world, feeding a sports fantasy that would push a little boy from the living room, through the kitchen door, and to the neighborhood where 50,000 fans screamed through his mind, with Facenda dramatically describing a Franco Harris-like rumble through two suburban blocks.
Steve Sabol worked with his surviving father Ed filming nearly every NFL game for 50 years. Watch any of these pieces, including his signature poem, “The Autumn Wind” and you’ll get the essence of what I always loved about Sabol’s vision of football story-telling as an art form. Two years ago, I made a similar attempt, writing a verse for my appearance on WAVY’s Friday Night Flights. But it’s safe to say, nobody could spin gridiron heroics like Steve Sabol, and chances are, nobody will.