On Saturday, in Canton, Ohio, the Pro Football Hall of Fame got its newest Jewish member as Ed Sabol,
84 94, the founder of NFL Films, was inducted, giving a brief, lively speech from a wheelchair pushed by his son, Steve, who is also an integral part of the sport’s prime cinematic production company and who is himself battling brain cancer. (Player inductees Saturday included Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, and Chris Hanburger.) Sabol was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
Sabol was an amateur football fan and filmmaker—his day job was selling coats—when he bid for the rights to the 1962 NFL Championship Game. (He has also been a talented swimmer, who was selected to compete in the 1936 Olympics but refused out of protest of the Games’ host, Nazi Germany.) The NFL bought out his nascent company a few years later, and over the next several decades, its distinctive style—dramatic music, slow-motion visuals, famed booming “Voice of God” narration—proved crucial to elevating professional football into national pastime and specifically to the game’s successful marketing as a masculine battle featuring warriors of physical prowess and sheer willpower expertly guided by brilliant generals, i.e., head coaches (most of all Lombardi—a certain magic still lingers in the very name).
It is hard to think of just one NFL Films clip to offer on this fine August Monday. Let’s go with this ode to the Raiders: penned by Steve Sabol; read by the late, great John Facenda; and pure, brilliant NFL Films—and NFL—propaganda. If it doesn’t get you psyched for another season, I feel sorry for you.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.