This is the first Sunday since the 1963 NFL season in which Steve Sabol won't somehow be involved. The longtime President of NFL Films, who lost an 18-month battle with cancer on Tuesday, had done more to forward the game of professional football than just about anyone else in the sport's history. Along the way, Sabol gained the implicit trust of men who would generally rather drop something heavy on their feet than deal with the media in any way.
When Sabol went to New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick before the 2009 season and asked that the notoriously secretive coach be miked for an entire season ... well, let's just say that Sabol had Belichick at "Hello."
NFL Films followed Belichick through every part of the 2009 season -- not just on the sidelines and in the meeting rooms, but at home as well. One can watch the part of Films' excellent two-part "A Football Life" documentary that resulted from that filming where Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are discussing Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed in Belichick's office and wonder -- who else would be able to gain such access?
"Steve [was] special, and it's all about trust," Belichick said in a special video tribute to Sabol put together for Sunday morning viewing on the NFL Network. "How I felt that he would present it. When Steve came to talk to me about it, he started off with some of the great coaches he'd worked with -- Lombardi and Landry.
"He went on and on for about 10 minutes with his sales pitch, which was very good. But the funny part was, I had already said 'Yes' in my mind before he even started with it. I never told him that, and I'm sure that in the end, he felt that he had pitched it to me and won me over. I was sold when he walked into the room."
"Steve always knew how to tell the story behind the story," Brady added.
Bill Parcells, who played football against Sabol in the early 1960s, had a more personal recollection of a day, years ago, when Sabol came to Parcells' New Jersey home. The two men dropped their guards and just talked about the game -- that was something Steve allowed people to do better than anyone.
"That was one of my favorite memories ... of something that we did together," Parcells said. "They say that a friend is someone who knows all about you and likes you anyway, and that's the way it was with Steve."
On this very unusual day, the first in so many years where Steve Sabol won't be watching the games with the rest of us, we send our thoughts and prayers to the Sabol Family, and to Steve's friends and colleagues through the NFL. If one thing's for sure, it's that Steve now has the ultimate overhead view.
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