The music is familiar and now iconic: a dramatic orchestral romp, serving as the background to amazing images of professional football.
As the tympani bangs out the driving beat, slow-motion pictures fill the screen. A dramatic voice spins a compelling tale while snowflakes dance through the sky over a frozen tundra. Breath escapes from the grimacing faces of rugged, and yet elegant athletes. Confetti showers Super Bowl champions, while coaches are captured in candid moments of wit and wisdom; the most colorful characters of America's favorite sport are immortalized on film NFL Film.
This is just part of the legacy of Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, and son of the founder of one of the most groundbreaking electronic media in sports.
This past weekend's NFL games featured tributes to the Sabols' work, while announcers pointed to the inspiration the films provided to aspiring broadcasters over many decades.
Television is a fairly young art form, which is constantly evolving. NFL Films took the game of football from scores and highlights to another level of emotion and art. Through masterfully-woven stories, told with inspired writing, exceptional pictures and sounds, captured through unprecedented access, NFL Films displayed the power and the humanity of the sport, and the men who play it, helping to propel football to a national obsession.
NFL Films is an example of some of the best in broadcast sports storytelling. It's so easy to get drawn in to the tales, which could make a regular-season game feel epic, and the Super Bowl feel like the end of the world. They could also capture the lighter side of the game and make you laugh out loud.
Considering the magnitude of today's entertainment industry, we owe NFL Films and creative geniuses like those who created it a debt of thanks. With hundreds of cable sports channels, and thousands of broadcast hours a week dedicated to sports, the impact of these pioneers is felt constantly, and has made sports coverage far more than scores and highlights, delving into the people behind the plays.
Shows like the old "ABC's Wide World of Sports" elicited similar emotion, from the "thrill of victory to the agony of defeat." While broadcasters like Howard Cosell, Jim McKay and Vin Scully brought larger-than-life athletes, accomplishments, controversy and drama into our living rooms every weekend.
It's the stories behind the highlights that put the competition into context and make us want to cheer. It's why the Olympics are filled with feature stories and background pieces - to make the events mean something to us. It's why we buy the newspaper the day after watching the game on television to read about the stories behind the scores.
Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.