As confirmed by the NFL itself, NFL Films founder Ed Sabol has died. He was 98.
Sabol got his start by filming his son’s high school football games for fun, eventually turning that into his own sports-themed production company, Blair Motion Pictures. In 1962, Sabol successfully bid for the rights to film that year’s NFL championship game—an event that would later demand a more exciting name—for $5,000. Pete Rozelle, the NFL Commissioner at the time, was so impressed with Sabol’s work that he was eventually able to convince all of the team owners to buy out Sabol’s company, rechristening it NFL Films.
Through NFL Films, Sabol revolutionized how football—and sports in general—are presented to TV viewers. He introduced slow-motion cameras and extreme close-ups, he put microphones on everybody he could, and he defined highlight reels by pairing his footage with popular music. He turned football from a game about burly guys smashing into each other into an epic battle between legendary figures smashing into each other. As the NFL put it, he “mythologized” the sport, and were it not for his work with NFL Films, it would almost certainly not be anywhere near as popular as it is today.
Sabol was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 2011. His son, Steve Sabol, was the president of NFL Films until his death in 2012.