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NFL Films Tribute to Storyteller

Posted Feb 13, 2013

Visionary Steve Sabol remembered among league peers in Philadelphia

On September 18, 2012, the NFL lost a pioneer, the entertainment world lost a visionary and the Chiefs Kingdom lost a friend.

Steve Sabol, the long time president of the iconic production group, NFL Films, lost his battle with brain cancer, leaving behind incredible memories and a career that sparked the imagination of millions, who adored the dedicated work of both the New Jersey native and his father, co-founder of NFL Films, Ed Sabol.

On Tuesday, a tribute was held in memory of Sabol in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The program, which included a full performance from the 90-piece Philadelphia Orchestra, was accompanied by marquis moments and productions that Steve and the Films production group crafted while serving as the leader of the Mt. Laurel, New Jersey-based Films from 1962-2012.

From the very first note, the energy and spirit at the Kimmel Center was not only uplifting but inspiringly nostalgic. The orchestra delivered chills to the audience, including NFL coaches and executives, celebrities from all walks of the sporting world and also those closest to Sabol and his family.

The imagery on the huge screen at the Kimmel Center reflected the passion and love that Steve had for his filmmaking. The impeccable timing of the orchestra was spot on, as the synergy between the live performance and the Films production kept the crowd engaged and truly brought Steve's spirit to the stage.

Among the special guests to speak about the American filmmaker was NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.

"When he talked about football, he lit up like a light," Goodell said. "And that's what is remarkable about Steve, he had that passion for football and he wanted to share it with others."

Goodell then continued with a Steve Sabol quote, "Tell me a fact and I will learn; tell me a truth and I will believe... but tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever."

"And that's what he did," said Goodell. "He was one of the greatest storytellers of all time."

The night concluded with a standing ovation for the life of Steve Sabol and the moving and eloquent performance from the Philadelphia Orchestra.

As I was leaving, I was reminded of when the Chiefs production arm, 65 Toss Power Trap Productions had the honor of interviewing Steve, nearly 18 months ago. During that interview, his passion for the sport and film was as evident as it ever had been. The tally light for the camera was lit for only seconds, before Sabol took command of the questions and his love for the game and, not surprisingly, the Kansas City Chiefs franchise and its epicenter, Arrowhead Stadium.

"If I had to pick one stadium that I wanted to send NFL Films (to shoot at) - it would be Arrowhead Stadium," Sabol noted.

"First of all, the color. I mean, you have a Sea of Red as the background and also the fans are fairly close to the field. So, our cameramen shoot from their knees - so you're always looking up into that great Sea of Red. Arrowhead Stadium has a vibrancy to it, a color, a college atmosphere, the crowd is great. It's the best stadium for NFL Films to shoot at."

NFL Films celebrates its 61st year in 2013 as the Hollywood of Sports. Thanks to the vision and style of Steve Sabol, his legacy will live on for decades to come.

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