The Struggle Was Epic

Steve Sabol is in my thoughts:


NFL Films president Steve Sabol will undergo radiation and chemotherapy treatment after doctors discovered a tumor on the left side of his brain. NFL Films released a statement Friday about the 68-year-old Sabol, who was hospitalized March 5 in Kansas City, Mo., after suffering a seizure.

Having written some about moving away from football, it's only right that I remember how the game's history drew me in. My sense is that baseball, college basketball and boxing all have more illustrious histories then football. But NFL Films, under the Sabol and his Dad, were able to take that history and turn it into an Olympian narrative. 


In Baltimore, they showed NFL FIlms for an hour before the pre-game show. This was before everyone had cable, and so if you loved football, you generally watched NFL Films. The result was that by the time I was, say, 12 I knew the names and careers of players that I'd never seen--Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, Fred Biletnikoff, Dick "Night Train" Lane, Joe Kapp and Pat Fisher. So when I watched the actual games, I was actually watching the latest chapter in a seemingly ancient saga. 

Like I said, surely other sports had as much--if not more--narrative material. But NFL Films really excelled at leveraging that material. I can't say how much they helped the NFL's rise to dominance. I can only say that Sabol captured me. This goes beyond football. The real message, for me, was that any narrative, rightly infused, can be rendered epic. 

I wish the best for Sabol and his family. He changed my life.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In