Monday, September 24, 2012

Not-So-Instant Replay

Steve Sabol is gone. If you read that name and said, "Who?" you haven't been watching professional football closely for the past fifty years. Steve was the son of NFL Films guru Ed Sabol, and even though his dad got into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it was Steve that gave the induction speech, and it was Steve that made those slow motion pictures of grown men running into each other so very pervasive.
My own experience with the Sabol family was not always so easy. When I was nine years old, at the YMCA Camp of the Rockies with my Indian Guide tribe, we were offered an evening of football entertainment in the main hall. Presented by NFL Films. As it turned out, the sixteen millimeter projector set up at the back of the room was showing "Football Follies." Again, if you're unfamiliar with the genre, these are collections of foul-ups and mistakes made by ordinarily graceful athletes caught at their worst. The rules of slapstick humor have not been lost on me, but at that time in my life, I wasn't able to accept the sight of my nascent heroes looking like fools. On top of that, there was the oh-so-familiar vocal stylings of Mel Blanc layered over the mayhem.
I ran from the darkened auditorium in tears. My father, who had no way of knowing how his overly-sensitive son would react to this supposed treat, followed me outside where we sat and he listened as I tried to explain my confusion and sadness. Eventually, he helped me understand that this was comedy, and maybe it wasn't funny to me. That happens sometimes. I didn't get the joke.
Since then, I have learned to appreciate all that NFL Films has done to bring the once lowly spectacle of professional football to the forefront of American culture. I was happily relieved when our local cable company added the NFL Network to our lineup. Watching a game in slow motion takes longer, but it's endlessly entertaining. Just don't ask me to watch Football Follies. 
Aloha, Steve - in super-slo-mo.

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