Thank you, Mr. Sabol

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 will be inducted in less than two weeks and I can’t help but think about how some of these men shaped the game.  Many are so famous that everyone knows their name. “Neon” Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon “Send the National Guard” Sharpe, Super Bowl XX MVP Richard Dent – we know the names.  Many of us grew up watching them play.  There are the senior nominees this year, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, who waited many years for the honor.  All are deserving.  Of all the newly minted members, however, I think the most important, and maybe most overlooked, is NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.

Now Mr. Sabol wasn’t one of the NFL’s greatest coaches or players, but he was one of it’s greatest contributors.  For many football fans his film company WAS the league.  Many of us grew up watching his NFL Films tell the story of our game and the men who played.  We were able to experience the league and it’s greatest players in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.  For their part, NFL Films remains humble about their importance in the history of the league.  They see their role as “The Keepers of the Flame” and nothing more.  Well for fans, NFL Films means much more than that.

Through the lens of their camera, NFL Films captured anything and everything that fans love about the game.  They gave us a glimpse into the game and players like never before and educated fans about players from bygone eras.  I was too young to see guys like Jim Brown, Deacon Jones and Bart Starr play.  Through NFL Films though, I have been able to see them in action.  It’s like a portal to another era.