For Criterion Consideration: The Work Of Steve Sabol And NFL Films

While he may be best known as a giant in the world of professional football, no one man (along with his father) has helped blend the world of true film and athletics like the iconic Steve Sabol. However, the world of cinema and athletics has lost this very giant, as Tuesday Sabol passed away at the age of 69.

Sabol was diagnosed with brain cancer in March of last year, and ultimately succumbed to it Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the NFL.

Along with his father, the pair founded NFL Films, and would be the major creative force behind not only its growth but also the growth of the sport itself. With their blend of breathtaking on field footage, rousing score and the ever iconic narration of one John Facenda, many critics have sited this very entity as being the main driving force behind the NFL becoming what would today be considered the most popular single entity in the world of professional American sports.

However, their impact may even be greater on the world of film, hence why in the wake of this tragedy, the equally important arthouse brand that is Criterion should one day give a nod to NFL Films by releasing a collection of their work, particularly this rather thrilling piece from 1966:


Best known for their recaps of each professional football team’s respective seasons, NFL Films produced thousands of hours of highlights over their decades-spanning run. Still pumping out highlight films each year, these are some of the most thrilling and truly entertaining viewing experiences for any professional football fan. However, one thing is always more apparent than their love of the sport, it’s their love of film. With some of the most crisp and exciting cinematography in sports, these tapes are absolutely enthralling and give us an unadulterated look at the world of NFL football.

However, it’s their classic work that could stand a beautifully curated Criterion Blu-ray. They truly changed how we not only viewed sports, but truly consumed them. Giving the viewer on field access like never before, the world of sports and entertainment has never been the same. Now everyone on the field has a microphone and the cameras try to get as close to the action as one could comprehend, all because NFL Films started a movement of bringing the sport to the fans, and bringing the fans into the sport. ┬áChanging the entire way sports were consumed and seen by the public, a great editor could go through their hours and hours of film and pump out a thrilling retrospective about their work. They’ve been behind miniseries like Full Color Football: The History Of The American Football League, a really solid look at the AFL on what was its 50th Anniversary, and would ultimately go on to win 107 Emmys.

Now, yes, this would be a tough set to collect. NFL Films has produced thousands of hours of film, making it quite a cumbersome editing job. However, take a good look at their Super Bowl films and their older work, and you could make for a box set giving the just deserved look into to just how world changing this brand would ultimately become.

That said, no matter what happens going forward for NFL Films, one thing will always be remembered, and that was the impact of one Steve Sabol. Forever changing the world of both sports and film, he is and will always be one of the most influential names in both of those worlds.

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.