NEW YORK — Ed Sabol, the NFL Films founder who revolutionized sports broadcasting and transformed pro football from an up-and-coming league to must-watch theater, has died. He was 98.
Sabol died Monday at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, the NFL said.
Sabol was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. During his tenure at NFL Films from 1964-1995, the organization won 52 Emmy Awards.
Working with his son, Steve, Sabol introduced a series of innovations taken for granted today: super slow-motion replays, blooper reels, reverse angle shots. They stuck microphones on coaches and players, set highlights to pop music and recorded pregame locker room speeches.
And one of their most important decisions was hiring John Facenda to narrate all this. He became known as the "Voice of God," reading lyrical descriptions in solemn tones.
"We began making the game personal for the fans, like a Hollywood movie," Sabol told The Associated Press before his Hall of Fame induction. "Violent tackles, the long slow spiral of the ball, following alongside the players as they sidestepped and sprinted down the field. The movie camera was the perfect medium at the time to present the game the way the fans wanted to see it."
A star swimmer at Ohio State who had a brief stage career, Sabol was in the overcoat business with his father-in-law in Philadelphia before he formed Blair Productions, a film company named after his daughter. He described himself as a longtime "amateur moviemaker," whose only experience producing sports was recording the action at Steve's high school football games.
Then he won the rights to chronicle the 1962 NFL championship, changing the course of his film career and — very possibly — the league's fortunes.
When Ed Sabol founded NFL Films, his son was there working beside him as a cinematographer right from the start. The two were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2003.
Steve Sabol, who succeeded his father as NFL Films' president, died in 2012 at age 69 of brain cancer.