Tomorrow’s Pro Football Hall Of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, OHwill include the much deserved enshrinement of NFL Films founder Ed Sabol. For those of us who are of the pre-Sunday Ticket / “SportsCenter” era, Sabol and son Steve’s works helped created a mystique for professional football long before the sport became a national
sickness obsession dwarfing that of superior games baseball and basketball. Such mystique couldn’t have been created, insists The Canton Reporter’s Josh Weir, without the massive contributions of composer Sam Spence and narrator John Facenda, of whom the elder Sabol notes, “he could make a laundry list sound like the Constitution of the United States.”
Facenda, who passed away in 1984, narrated for 17 years, using his rumbling baritone to turn NFL Films scripts into spoken poetry.
Spence, now 84, provided a soundtrack that ranged from upbeat jazzy pieces to menacing, drum-laced scores that evoked feelings of impending combat. The music lives on today.
“I’m really proud of that,” Spence said from Munich, Germany. “I get so many letters that say, ‘Look, I never liked football, but I like your music and now I’m a staunch NFL football fan.’ ”
Facenda was a successful Philadelphia anchorman with a voice straight from the Old Testament. Known as “The Voice of God,” he could help turn a highlight film into a religious experience.
“There’s an old saying — ‘the eyes are the windows of the soul,’ ” Steve Sabol, NFL Films president, said in an email. “In John Facenda’s case, that saying could be modified to, ‘The voice is the passageway to the heart.’”
Steve Sabol would guide Spence toward what he wanted. “We discussed it in detail,” Spence said. “He’d say, ‘Look, we’re shooting a film in Lambeau Field, up where the snow is deep and there is tough weather. Picture something like Napoleon marching into Russia and the cold of winter, and put it into football terms.’ I did, and he loved it.”