On September 18,2012, Steve Sabol, the creative genius behind NFL films, died of inoperable brain cancer. He was diagnosed with it in March of 2011. Reading about this event, as well as Steve’s life, and remembering my youth watching NFL films got me thinking about excellence, legacy and of course, the shortness of life.
I will never forget watching NFL films with my buddies back in my high school days. I played high school football and my two best friends were both sons of high school football coaches (our coaches). Needless to say, I was barraged with stories of football glory and dreams of NFL stardom growing up through high school. NOTE: only one of us played in the NFL…and it wasn’t me. However, we all played in college, although I did not last the full four years…thank goodness I had realized I needed a backup plan—END OF NOTE. Anyway, these films more than anything else about the NFL, made me reach to become a real champion. Initially, I thought about football greatness, but eventually I realized I must strive to be great in whatever I pursue; I should be a champion, a hero, in my own life. NFL films helped me strive to be someone to be looked up to. The films themselves have faded from my memory, but the spark remains.
One particular excerpt from NFL films I remember well (at least the basics). It goes something like this: The screen is black with the following quotation written on it, which remains in view just long enough for you to read it: “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” Then, the screen fades, and a football field appears…the deep-voiced announcer begins, ”In the Midday sun….” and the story of an NFL star, game, or season proceeds. This is epic filmmaking! I looked and looked for that video on the internet, but to no avail. I am sure it is in the NFL films archives. Chances are it had something to with “Mad Dog” Mike Curtis of the Baltimore Colts (1965-75 click for a cool youtube video), but like I said, no luck. Nonetheless, this film and those like it left a lasting impression on me. It made NFL game day feel like a noble and heroic competition day, complete with a game that must be struggled through to obtain victory!
So, Steve Sabol was an innovator of excellence, the guy behind the camera and the production, portraying the NFL as something more than it was (a monopolized league playing sports games with athletes for hire). He inspired me, and I am sure he inspired others. Surely, he put in long hours preparing, editing, and creating. He lived his life dedicated to the production of an excellent product. For this product and for his dedication, I admire him. Indeed, he has left quite a legacy for many to follow. I will pass this legacy on to my children: that “spark” of competition, that dream of excellence or even the “perfect game.” Maybe even the perfect product (like a blog, for instance)!
In time, Steve Sabol’s legacy will fade. Chances are, in 100 years nobody will know his name. All things considered, his life of less than 70 years…not terribly short nor impressively long, will be nothing more than a blip in history. He is slightly famous today, and honored by news stories, but in 200 years, one might not even be able to find him in the historical archives.
Which reminds me of something Stoic that Marcus Aurelius wrote: “Think continually that all kinds of men and of all kinds of pursuits and of all nations are dead, so that thy thoughts come down even to Philistion and Phoebus and Origanion. Now turn thy thoughts to the other kinds of men. To that place then we must remove, where there are so many great orators, and so many noble philosophers, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates; so many heroes of former days, and so many generals after them, and tyrants; besides these, Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes, and other men of acute natural talents, great minds, lovers of labour, versatile, confident, mockers even of the perishable and ephemeral life of man, as Menippus and such as are like him. As to all these consider that they have long been in the dust. What harm then is this to them; and what to those whose names are altogether unknown? One thing here is worth a great deal, to pass thy life in truth and justice, with a benevolent disposition even to liars and unjust men.”
A final thought: Do any of you know who Philistion, Phoebus, Origanion, Heraclitus, Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Menippus were? Heck, what about Marcus Aurelius?