Like so many of you, I was deeply inspired by Ed Sabol. Before I turn over this theme to our readers to share their memories and respect for this man, I thought I would just kick it off with a thought that has been front and center in my mind since hearing the news about Ed's passing.
In the neighborhood I grew up in down in Southern Maryland, cable television was not really an option for my family until I was about in middle school. There were only three houses in my "development" when we got there, making it wildly unprofitable for cable companies to run their services to us. As a result, for the longest time, we had three network television stations (not including public television) to watch. Thankfully, this did not prevent me from watching the Redskins on Sunday, and between ABC, NBC and CBS, there was solid news coverage of our favorite team year round. Still, outside of the old NFL Today pregame show during the season, I got very little exposure to the rest of the NFL. Think about that for a moment. Whether we want to or not, we know more (or are capable of knowing more) than we need to know about almost every aspect of the NFL. Back then, it was a struggle to understand things that were going on in other NFL cities, because in order to do so, you had to have access to that city's newspapers or local newscasts.
There were more deer in my yard than there were people in my whole neighborhood. The tobacco trucks ran multiple times per day past my house as they shuttled both workers and plants between fields and barns. We played tackle football every single day of the week, but everything we knew about football was limited to the Redskins and Terrapins. That is, until I discovered NFL Films videos at the local public library.
I would watch black and white videos set to that iconic instrumental music over and over again. There was old-timey, grainy footage of guys in leather helmets. I remember blooper reels, episodes devoted to just the kicker, or just to linebackers, or just to certain teams. Just about all of the videos were voiced over by a solemn "Voice of God" that to this day, is the voice I hear in my head when I think about "classic" football videos. When the Redskins hired the relatively unknown Jim Zorn, I may have known more than most people, because of how many times I had watched the NFL Films pieces on Zorn and Steve Largent. They just seemed to always be playing.
As someone who has pursued endeavors peripheral to the NFL and pro sports in general, I salute Ed Sabol, who not only created a business and industry centered around the league, but did it despite not being a player. He was the example I held up as a young writer that helped me focus on the fact that even though I was never going to wear pads and a helmet on the NFL gridiron, I could still someday be "part of it." I am pretty sure we even used old-school NFL Films music in some of our first podcasts here at Hogs Haven...it really gets you in the mood to talk about football.
We will miss you, Ed. Luckily for us, you're never farther away than our computer screens. Rest in peace.