When thinking about what made NFL Films so successful, the first thing that comes to mind is the unmistakable voice of John Facenda and the way the man nicknamed the “Voice of God” could make classic footage that much more unforgettable.
With the passing of Steve Sabol on Tuesday at the age of 69 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer, eyes and ears have turned back to the films that earned Sabol 35 Emmy awards in his lifetime. With Facenda reading dramatic, lyrical lines over the trademark slow-motion footage, even the most insignificant of games could be portrayed as something much, much larger.
“We had some bad teams when I was here,” former Philadelphia Eagles general manager Jim Murray told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But NFL Films could take two of our highlights, get John Facenda to announce them, and make us look like Super Bowl contenders.
A former television anchor from Philadelphia, the story goes that Sabol’s father — Ed Sabol, founder of NFL Films — discovered Facenda in 1965 at a bar when he overheard the “Voice” describing NFL Films footage playing on the TV. Sabol approached Facenda with an offer and so began a partnership that lasted until Facenda’s death in 1984.
The younger Sabol was the master craftsman of Facenda’s words but just as in football, it is the execution of those words that resonates with fans.
Check out this clip of Sabol discussing Facenda from NFL Films’ Lost Treasures series.
Screen Grab via YouTube/rbvo