The one thing about having heros in this business is that when they’re gone it causes one to take an account of what makes you a fan of the NFL in the first place. With the passing of NFL Films Co-Creator, Steve Sabol on Tuesday, I realized I’ve been around this game a very long time.
I’ve been a fan of the NFL my whole life. As a young boy growing up in the suburbs of Johnson County, I was blessed to be sandwiched between neighbors, Hank Stram and Bobby Bell.
And as my brain of mush began to formulate, it did so under their watchful eye. Because it was through those relationships that I blossomed into a Chiefs fan.
But they weren’t alone in that process. There was another pair responsible for my passion for the NFL. it was at the rip ole age of eight years old when I first saw what Ed Sabol, Steve’s father, captured on film with my beloved Hank Stram on the sidelines of Super Bowl IV.
That moment in time in the early 70‘s was for me - what the Star Wars movie was to science fiction geeks in the 80’s. In fact, that short NFL film was truly the birth of my aspiration to someday make movies of my very own. Something I don’t share with a great many people.
When I watched that film for the very first time it brought such a deep chill inside my bones that I was hooked for life as a Chiefs fan. That’s when I truly fell in love with the sport of kings. And on Tuesday with the news of the passing of Steve Sabol, I simply shut down my computer, closed my eyes and I could hear the voice of my old mentor in my mind.
Then the thunderous orchestrations that gave NFL Films its soul and finally the narrative genius of John Facenda. Who to this day, I affectionately consider without a shadow of doubt, the voice of God.
In my reflections on Tuesday of Sabol’s passing, it brought me back to a time in my life when just being a fan was all that mattered. And I remembered the countless games I listened to on television as a child with the late Curt Gowdy, who I consider the greatest NFL broadcaster of all time.
It made me realize how blessed as a young boy I was that I was as close to these legends growing up as some of you are today with your own family. Our house had a parade of Chiefs players in it and my parents were close to many of the gridiron greats that played at the old Municipal Stadium.
To me, it was normal and I thought every kid had the honor of looking up at these giants in every living room in the city. And for me being able to see the gentle side of these men and they way they loved their teammates and loved their families, was a sight to witness.
When they came over to our house or we went inside their homes, I never wanted an autograph nor ever cared which Chiefs players I was around. All I needed was a football in my hand, a jersey on my back and the anticipation of the Sunday clash of the titans building throughout the week during football season.
Today the game is so much different. The NFL has become a business. But whenever I want to escape that reality, we can thank Steve Sabol for carrying on the work of his father. He created a plethora of historical documents that allow us, especially those that yearn for simpler times in this crazy game we love, a chance to remember what made us fans in the first place.
For me, the debt I owe Steve Sabol, will be one in which I can never repay. He did more to shape my passion for the NFL than anyone else. He defined my soul as a football fan.
So today, as a Chiefs fan, don’t worry about the fact this team sits 0-2. Instead, think about why you care so much in the first place. And why you sacrifice your hard earned money to attend games, buy merchandise and budget your time each day to bleed Chiefs red 365 days a year.
And as a tribute to Steve Sabol, I urge you to go back to that singular moment in your life when you knew that you were going to love this Chiefs team through better or worse. Through wins and losses. Through ups and downs.
Let that very moment define the fan you are today.
So in parting, as my favorite entertainer, Bob Hope, used to say. “Thanks for the memories.”
R.I.P. Steve Sabol.
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