Hall of Fame voters may have fierce debate on Ed Sabol


No one disputes that NFL Films has had an enormous impact on the National Football League. But not everyone believes that enormous impact means NFL Films founder Ed Sabol deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sabol is one of the finalists whose name will be debated by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee a week from today, and one voter, Len Pasquarelli of Sports Xchange, thinks there’s going to be a fierce debate on the matter of Sabol’s candidacy.

Pasquarelli writes that Sabol “is receiving strong support from some selectors,” but adds that “the Sabol candidacy could be a much-debated one” because some voters will favor the candidates whose contributions came on the field, not off.

Contributors like Sabol are lumped in with former players on the list of Hall of Fame finalists, and between four and seven of this year’s finalists will be chosen for enshrinement in Canton. According to Chris Harry of FanHouse, the job of presenting Sabol to the rest of the committee will fall on Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune, who for years has pushed for Sabol while facing resistance from his fellow selection committee members.

Most Hall of Fame voters haven’t said publicly whether they plan to vote for Sabol or not, but longtime voter Dave Goldberg says he thinks there’s strong support, and Sabol will get in.

As he should. Although it’s almost impossible to compare Sabol’s contributions to the game with those of fellow finalists like Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk, it’s easy to see that NFL Films has been a major part of making the NFL what it is. It’s time for Sabol to get a bust in Canton.

62 responses to “Hall of Fame voters may have fierce debate on Ed Sabol

  1. With all due respect to Mr Sabol, this would open a big can of worms for the NFL.

    Where would it end?

  2. Its a simple question. How good would Sanders and Faulk have looked without Sabol’s contributions? If you think they would have the same stature as they do without Sabol’s influence you vote against Sabol (and label yourself an idiot). Otherwise he should get in. Sabol’s influence affected the NFL as a whole and the public, should be an easy in.

  3. The Hall of Fame should have separate inductions for people who contributed on and off the field. That way deserving people like Art Modell would finally get into the Hall.

  4. Will that dumb a$$ transformer type robot thing Fox uses on broadcasts be nominated soon? Shouldn’t the hall of fame be for yanno, the players? Have a broadcasting wing or something…

  5. What can of Worms? John Madden made the HOF more for what he did for video games that what he did as a coach. After all it took him years to make it to the HOF after he retired from Football.

    That can is open already.

  6. Ed Sobol’s work changed the way football fans were able to watch the NFL by allowing the average viewer to see and hear the action in a manner previously unseen.

    His work has had a positive effect on how people view the NFL and frankly, I remember his films far longer than anything I’ve ever read or heard from a sports reporter or commentator.

    Ed belongs in Canton.

  7. It is not that I have a problem with him entering. I just have a problem with him entering before deserving players or coaches. Currently, there is a backlog of deserving players who have not gotten in. Shannon Sharpe, for instance, was the standard for his position when he retired and possessed three Super Bowl rings, yet this is his third year of eligibility, having not gotten in the first two times

  8. Without Ed Sabol we would have never seen Vince Lombardi ask, “what the hell is going on out there!”. We would never have heard George Halas say “When they boo you, you know they mean you. Music, that’s what it is to me. One time in Kezar Stadium they gave me a standing boo”. We would have never heard Paul Brown say “What we have currently available is what we have available” (actually that sounds a lot like a current coach I know of in the AFC East). I’ve seen all of these on NFL Films and there would be no record of these legendary coaches if it weren’t for Ed Sabol. At the time, nobody cared. It was all about baseball, which was covered and filmed by everyone. The NFL games weren’t even televised and it would all be folklore if Ed Sabol hadn’t decided to step in and start filming every game he could. Gayle Sayers incredible returns? They wouldn’t exist anywhere but in the minds of an aging fan base. When you think about what Sabol has captured for all time regarding the NFL, how can he not be voted into the Hall of Fame?

  9. Tom Flores (2) Super Bowls, Jim Plunkett (2) Super Bowls, Ken Stabler, Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes all better then most in the HOF and not in and they are putting in non Football type people? The Hall of Fame has become a JOKE to most but those that are in it. It is like Horse of the Year, a bunch of no nothing Media Types full of Bias voting the wrong people in. That WR from Bills should have been in YEARS AGO.

  10. jayaredee says:
    Jan 29, 2011 1:17 PM
    What can of Worms? John Madden made the HOF more for what he did for video games that what he did as a coach. After all it took him years to make it to the HOF after he retired from Football.

    That can is open already.

    John Madden made the Hall of Fame for more for what he did with video games than for what he did as a coach? You must be joking.

    – He had a 103-32 head coaching record!
    – Won Super Bowl XI in 1976
    – Finished first in his conference 7 out of 10 years (and never finished lower than second)
    – The youngest coach ever to reach 100 wins
    – He never had a losing season as a head coach
    – His winning percentage is second all-time at .763

    Just for video games? You are clearly ignorant as to what John Madden was as a NFL head coach.

  11. I am sad that this is a debate.

    NFL Films has been a serious contribution to NFL growth, respectability, and now dominance in the US.
    There is nothing, done by anyone, for any sport that compares to them. Class of One.
    The NFL was not always in this position, I firmly believe that NFL Films has played a significant role in making it happen.

    The films are never preachy, never feel like an advertisement, never pat themselves on the back.
    They routinely bring home the truth that this is not a mere game.

    They are most of all, profound and profoundly serious,
    done with perfectionist passion, and a deep respect for the game. These are the feelings I have watching them, from any era, about any team.
    They never fail to move me in some way, to get to the precisely correct point of each situation.

    There has got to be room in the HoF for a man like Sabol.

    His contribution has lifted everyone in the game, from the owners, network’s income, to our individual love and respect for the game. The classy work has relentlessly raised the status of the NFL and finally, the art of film making.

    Personally, watching these timeless pieces increases my enjoyment and admiration for the men who dedicate and sacrifice so much just to say, “we won”.

    Sabol created a lasting series of Films that have no peer.

    NFL Films is in a class of One,
    Sabol, a class of one, should be in there.

  12. My first question; is John Facenda in the NFL Hall of fame? If he is not, then Sabol doesn’t belong either!

    John Facenda “The Voice” of NFL films is what made Ed Sabol’s NFL Films what it is!

    Since John is gone, the drama and electricity went with it.

  13. Ed Sabol should NOT be lumped in with the players:

    His election into the Hall should be a completely separate entity from the players.

    Sabol belongs in the Hall for his pioneer work on filming that has been a big part of the growth of the NFL. In the days before ESPN became what it did, it was NFL Films that was a big part of how people saw many of the highlights of NFL games, whether it was in programs like “This Week In The NFL” and “The NFL Game of the Week” and the still-running “Inside The NFL.” His son Steve also belongs in the Hall of Fame for his lifetime of work with NFL Films.

  14. I’m waiting for my nomination as a PSL owner, who supports my team through thick and thin. Without many of fans’ contributions, the NFL would not be where it is today. Also, I believe some vendors should be nominated, as well those guys who hold the 10-yard markers, etc.

  15. John Madden was a Great coach, one of the Greatest coaches of all time. When he retired from coaching Why the Long Delay for him being selected into the Hall of Fame? His popularity grew with the video games, then the selection committee took a second look at him.

    All I am saying is that I don’t think he gets elected into the HOF if he retired from coaching and did nothing else.

    I am not ignorant not need for the personal attacks and hiding behind a keyboard.

  16. Maybe the criteria for enshrinement should be who has made the most valuable contributions overall to the league, regardless of what they did. On that basis, there is no argument that Ed Sabol and his body of work at NFL films probably contributed more to the enormous global popularity and wealth of the NFL than any one player, coach or league executive. As far as on-the-field contributions go, from where do you think all those NFL films were shot anyway?

  17. If we could be sure that Ed Sabol would be the only entrant of his kind – I could support it. deepbacksidedig was the one that convinced me…nice presentation. But my fear is that as time progresses, the standard that NFL Films has reached will be lowered and people of “lesser contribution” will be allowed.

    On a side note – it really gauls me to think of that mouthy, egomaniacal, no-tackling @$$hole Freeon getting into the HoF. I lost what miniscule amount respect I had for him when he got all pissy about where he was ranked in the “Top 100”. He was REALLY upset that he wasn’t in the top 10 (or whatever he was sniveling about). I am really hoping he doesn’t get selected just to see him bitch and whine some more.

  18. dan is right. if ed is in, john facenda has to go in.

    he is the most imitated, sincerely or otherwise, voice in the history of the nfl, and that voice made those films what they are.

  19. Not for nothin, but the NFL grew to be the monster that it is due in large part to the PR delivered by Sabol’s NFL Films and the Iconic voice of John Facenda. Give the man his due!

  20. Contributers shouldn’t be put up against players. I’m not even sure it’s fair to lump coaches and owners in with players, and they have more to do with the game than NFL Films. Sabol should be recognized in Canton, but it shouldn’t happen at the expense of a former player.

  21. While the overwhelming majority of inductees in the NFL Hall of Fame should appropriately be made up of players, coaches, team owners, and commissioners, the list of Hall of Fame inductees should not be so exclusive as to preclude the admission of a true visionary. “NFL Films” founder Ed Sabol has made American football a much richer experience for all of us, and he deserves to be inducted.

    Hope fully, the Board of Selectors will continue to expand their horizons by one day selecting Ray Guy, the best “pure punter” in NFL history. That too would be a first.

  22. jayaredee, I see your point but the way you phrased it was preposterous. I think people knew him as a commentator first, coach second and video games third. In response to “hiding behind a keyboard,” my name is in my username. I never attacked you, I just said that it was an ignorant take on Madden is all.

  23. …and next we will have a hall of fame groundskeeper and maybe even a hall of fame parking attendant. Let’s keep it to the people who really deserve it….the players.

  24. Maybe it’s time to reconsider the rule that was established back in the early 1960’s for eligibility into the HOF: “Any qualified person who has been connected with pro football in any capacity”, that’s it. That’s the beginning of the process that writers (media reps) from each NFL city (NY has two voters) plus eleven at large and one rep from the Pro Football Writers. Maybe it’s time to break it into categories and keep the “holiest of holies” for players & coaches. Maybe it’s also time to include others in the voting. What makes the writers the all-knowing judges and jury? There is such a small total number of them, 44, and 80% of their vote is required for approval, who’s to say they don’t harbor discriminations toward certain players for a number of reasons, and I can think of plenty!

  25. footballhistorian says: Jan 29, 2011 2:11 PM

    If we could be sure that Ed Sabol would be the only entrant of his kind – I could support it. deepbacksidedig was the one that convinced me…nice presentation. But my fear is that as time progresses, the standard that NFL Films has reached will be lowered and people of “lesser contribution” will be allowed.
    There are already journalists, owners, GMs, coaches, commissioners, etc. in the Hall. They were enshrined because the belief was that their contributions to the league as a whole were worthy of enshrinement. If Sabol is voted in, it won’t be a new landmark case for the enshrinement of non-players, simply the continuation of Hall policy. Personally, I agree with the policy. They shouldn’t let in a ton of non-players (and they don’t), but failing to recognize the individuals who helped make the league what it is would be wrong too. Without Sabol and NFL Films, there would be no America’s Team. There would be no immaculate reception, no sea of hands, no holy roller, no hail mary, etc. There would simply have been a collection of interesting or lucky plays whose importance were lost to time. When the commissioner sends you a letter thanking you for doing more for the success of the NFL than anyone else (believe it was Rozelle, but may have been Tagliabue), then you know you’ve had a serious impact on the league. As for creating a separate category for non-player contributors to preserve the sanctity of the Hall, I disagree. Personally, I think it would lessen the Hall if you started creating sub-categories and splitting them off. The Hall of Fame is the Hall of Fame. Either you’re worthy of enshrinement or you’re not.

    I would, however, favor a special straight up or down vote for former players and contributors. Maybe do something like this every 20 or 30 years. There’s simply too great of a back log of worthy individuals. You don’t want to flood the Hall with lesser players and cheapen the honor, but artificially limiting it isn’t a great thing either. At the end of the day, I really don’t think the voters would let in people they didn’t feel were truly worthy of the honor simply because the number restrictions were removed for a one time correction year. Even baseball did this a little while back. You can go back to the limit of 5 again the following year. At that point, anyone who played or contributed before that point would be forever ineligible. Then, 20 or 30 years down the line, you have another special session for the people who became eligible after that first special vote but were kept out of the Hall solely due to the numbers restrictions. I like that those restrictions reinforce the idea of how special the Hall is, and thus affects the voting process, but keeping people out forever who are truly worthy of enshrinement is just wrong.

  26. If the proverbial can of worms is open, I nominate Roone Arledge for the HOF. He made MNF what it is today.

    Where do we stop, what about the groundskeepers, who do such a good job getting the fields ready for the games?

  27. HoF is a sham until Ray Guy is in. It’s CRIMINAL that the best player at ANY position is left out.

    More back room politics and GARBAGE tainting what is easily becoming, if not already, one of the more questionable hall of fames. It’s pretty clear he belongs in, this crap only paints a more negative picture of what goes on. It’s a mockery.

  28. if it’s for on field only why isn’t charles haley in!!
    5 rings are you kidding me! the committee is the problem, bunch of douche bags!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Another man responsible for making the NFL what it is today is Art Modell; it’s an absolute travesty he’s not in and probably wont be until after hi death.

  30. What’s the debate? If there weren’t guys like Sabol than there wouldn’t be a Hall of Fame in the first place. He has peaked the interest of many and NFL Films is a huge part of the NFL. If Joe Namath can get for having basically a couple of good years and a guarantee than Ed can get in too. Namath was in more for his celebrity status than his play.

  31. Why not just have a separate Hall wing for non-players. That could include media, owners, GMs, coaches, etc.

  32. Where would it end, @joetoronto? It would end with Pete Rozelle , Jim Finks, Al Davis, and the Rooneys being enshrined.

    Oh, wait. They’re already in.

    There are 18 contributors there already listed at http://bit.ly/cECRSz and I’d rather see Sabol in than the Technical Advisor on Rules and Supervisor of Officials from 1938 – 1952. I’m sure no visit to the HOF is complete unless you’ve seen the bust of Shorty Ray.

  33. This is crazy Sabol is merely a broadcaster…leave the NFL hall of fame to people who have participated on the field and coached not people who have talked about the game…if you are going to go in that direction Howard Cosell should be in waaay before Sabol.

  34. Len Pasquarelli? wtf would he be on anything but a best buffett board anyways? ed sabol deserves it more than deion sanders does! this man changed the way the teams are seen,and he changed the way the players analyze games for study! i’d give him a vote before any of the players up this year including chris carter,deion sanders,and andre reed!mr sabol changed the game while those little punks were still crapping in their pants!

  35. I wouldn”t know as much as I do about football without Sabol.

    I honestly think that without him and NFL films, football wouldn’t be where it is today. Not saying it wouldn’t be as popular, but he gave us an insight to the game and the players that was previously unheard of. We all look at the game differntly because of him.

  36. The list of NFL Hall of Fame inductees should for the most part, include former players, coaches, team owners, and commissioners. But that list should not be so exclusive as to preclude the induction of a true visionary. “NFL Films” founder Ed Sabol has made American football a much richer experience for all of us, and he deserves to be inducted.

    Hopefully, the Board of Selectors will continue to expand their horizons by one day selecting Ray Guy, the best “pure punter” in NFL history. That too would be a first. And it’s long overdue.

  37. It’s hard to measure what Ed’s impact on the popularity of the game actually is. Its likely enormous. We all see our NFL memories through his eyes. Sure you can recall seeing a certain game live or where you were watching a game when a particularly memorable play happened…but a bulk of the memories were produced by NFL Films

    With all it’s success NFL Films is still a family shop putting out high quality work time after time. Put Ed Sabol in the Hall of Fame.

  38. It’s the FOOTBALL HOF which means all of those involved in the growth and history of the sport and the BEST at what they do….players, writers, broadcasters…
    John Clayton is in and Sabol shouldn’t be?? When was the last time Clayton took a shot across the middle??
    Sabol did way more to bring football to the populace with NFL Films than most writers that reside there. The original Follies (1 & 2) should get him in just on the strength of that.

  39. No doubt Ed Sabol should be in the Hall of Fame. “Contributions to the game”? Who can seriously argue that he didn’t do that in a BIG way with the creation and development of NFL Films.

    It’s just a shame that it’s an “either/or”, which I can’t see either or his son Steve agreeing with. That’s not to say he shouldn’t be in the HOF, which he clearly should be. Why can’t there be room for someone like him AND a deserving player? It does say something special about the National Football League that this is a worthy debate and we all know that some outstanding people who have earned this highest status will be denied.

  40. I have been a football fan going on 26 years. Much of what I know of football I owe to “This is the NFL” an NFL Films production. He is one of the greatest reasons for the success of the league. The more people saw it, the more they loved it. The game. The history. He deserves to be in.

  41. The Sabols deserve to be in. Both of them could tackle better than NEON DEION to boot.
    As others have mentioned. many iconic moments would not be part of football lore were it not for Ed risking a great deal to start NFL Films. We wouldn’t have “THEY’RE KILLIN’ ME WHITEY….THEY’RE KILLIN’ ME.” We wouldn’t have the nuttiness of Jerry Glanville on film…nor some of the great quotes of Bum Phillips. We wouldn’t have the video that the NFL on CBS showed last week before the AFCC of the very young Rex Ryan on the sidelines with the 85 Bears. We wouldn’t have Ditka’s rants or a lot of Mora’s. (the elder). In short, if you really love the game…not fantasy football stats or just pretty plays…but the history of the game..the funny…the bizarre…the poignant…the triumphant…the heartbreaking…the sheer drama…there’s no doubt you want the Sabols in the HOF

  42. As said, both Sabols (father and son) should be in the Hall of Fame separately from any players as both are largely responsible for the growth of the NFL as a whole because of all of their work of their company, NFL Films. It should NOT be “either/or,” they deserve to go in on their own merit and in addition to any players elected to the Hall.

  43. No question: Ed (and Steve) Sabol most certainly deserve inclusion into the NFL Hall of Fame.

    Ed should have been enshrined many years ago, and Steve should have at least been inducted by now too.

    The Sabols’ contributions to the game were, are, and will continue to be immeasurably positive to fans, coaches, League ownership, etc. Even the TV networks and advertisers have benefitted from NFL Films’ role in advancing the great game.

    In my view, it would be a slap in the face for the Sabols to be excluded.

  44. As one of the biggest football fans that I know, I owe most of my knowledge before my 1986 baptism into the the sport to Ed Sabol, the creator of NFL Films. It’s because of him that I know about the greatest defense EVER, not the 85 Bears, not the 2000 Ravens, the Fearsome Foursome, the Steel Curtain or any of the Steeler defenses from any era, but The Gritz Blitz Falcons defense of 1977.

    It is because of him that the world knows about matriculating the ball down the field.

    It is because of him we know about getting a seal here, and a seal here and you run the ball up the alley.

    It is because of him that I know about Joe Delaney, the Kansas City Chiefs running back who drowned trying to save some boys from drowing-even though he couldn’t swim himself.

    It is because of him that I know about the greatest quarterback that never was, former Bengals QB Greg Cook. He injured his shoulder in his rookie year and couldn’t get back on the field. That story reminds me of Matthew Stafford.

    It is because of him I know about Slingin’ Sammy Baugh and how he led the league in passing, punting and interceptions-not interceptions thrown, but interceptions CAUGHT as he played both ways. That is one record that will never be touched, ever.

    I know that the 1948 Cleveland Browns were the first team to have all wins and no ties and win the championship, not the ’72 Dolphins. I know about Crazylegs Hirsch and the “point-a-minute” Rams of the 50’s, Conrad Dobler, among other historical events and players related to football because I was born in 1977, long after any of those events happened. I can talk at lengths with people more than twice my own age about players that they watched live with their dads in stadiums built for baseball. I’d bet dimes to doughnuts that any one of these players would GLADLY give up their spot in the Hall of Fame so that 94-year-old Ed Sabol can enjoy his moment while he is alive. I will never forget how Major League Baseball missed it’s chance to induct one of the Negro League legends, and ambassador to the game, Buck O’neil during his 94 years, narrowly missing enshrinement by one single vote.

    The players and the NFL as a whole owe their success to the popularity of the sport that his films enhanced. Without Ed Sabol, there is no NFL as we know it. Without Ed Sabol, the NFL may be at the popularity level of the NHL, or soccer in the US. Ed Sabol without a doubt deserves to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only question should be why did it take so long.

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