Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cinema verite. With bruises.

You can cue the soundtrack now, because Ed Sabol is gone at the stout age of 98. And it's a tribute to the man's life and influence that everyone older than, say, 2 or 3 knows exactly which soundtrack.

It played in your head in the backyard as you feinted and swerved and stiff-armed imaginary tacklers, the football tucked under your arm like a loaf of bread. Brass blared and strings soared as you threw wobbly passes to yourself, after which you spiked the ball triumphantly between one spreading oak and the next.

Doo-doo DOO-doo doo-DOO-doo doo-DOO doo ...

It was the musical score to your childhood autumns, and Ed Sabol, the founder of NFL Films, put it there. Because of Ed Sabol, you sometimes danced between the oaks in slow motion. Because of Ed, you knew who John Facenda was -- the sonorous voice of God who narrated the NFL Films highlight packages, and whose solemn delivery made you feel that sitting down to watch the Bears on Sunday afternoons was as reverent an experience as standing in the middle of the Sistine Chapel and looking up.

And that was when Jack Concannon was the Bears' quarterback.

(Facenda, by the way, was always credited with inventing the term "the frozen tundra." In truth, he never uttered those words. Although it sounded like something he'd say).

Sabol didn't invent the NFL, but what he did invent was a certain look and feel that became the signature image of pro football to generations of fans. All those tight, slow-motion shots. The soaring music. Facenda. The exaggerated gravity that turned what was essentially a child's game into a  weighty American ritual, infused with meaning and portent.

Even if it was just Concannon throwing another spiral into Lake Michigan.

NFL Films made even that look like it was an act beyond the grasp of mortals, and so today, in Ed Sabol's honor, the music of your life should be Doo-doo DOO-doo doo-DOO-doo doo-DOO doo. 
And John Facenda should be narrating it.

These are men ... great men ... men who can battle the elements and emerge triumphant. Men who can face the frozen waffle with courage and will, and force it to emerge warm and fluffy and delicious. Especially with syrup.

Well. We'll work on it.



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