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Steve Sabol Is The Man

Spent a good 40 minutes on the phone with this dude recently. Few people know the Super Bowl like he does, having worked everyone as a camera man, director or grand poobah of NFL Films. After trading war stories about sick babies, the current level of sports journalism in this country and the cultural monstrosity that the Super Bowl has become, I got down to business.

This man has had behind-the-scenes access to every single one of these bad boys, from the time 40 years ago when any schmoe with sport coat on had a good chance of watching from the sidelines on game day to the present, when the world stops and descends on the host city.

So I asked Senior Sabol for his handful of favorite quirky Super Bowl tales, and the man stepped up big time. Enjoy!

Super Bowl 1, Media Day:

So Sabol and like four other people ride a bus to a motel in Santa Barbara where the Packers are staying. Yeah, that's right, a media contingent of four. Lombardi tells his boys everyone has to be looking presentable and in their rooms for a few hours, and since it was Lombardi, everyone listened.

In walks young Sabol, with his camera, and there's Bart Starr in one room and Herb Adderley in the next. "They're all like little school boys, sitting on the end of their beds waiting for someone to walk in," Sabol said. Just a little quaint gathering of new friends.

The common perception was that Lombardi figured his team would roll the Chiefs in the championship game (only later to be dubbed Super Bowl I), but Sabol says that the Hall of Fame Coach was a nervous wreck much of the week.

"The tension was so great that Lombardi knotted his tie before game and he was so nervous that his Windsor knot was the size of a marble. He was so tight."

After the game Lombardi could not get the knot out, try as he might, so he finally had the equipment guy cut it off. Sure enough, a month later Sabol and the boys arrive in Green Bay to show Lombardi and his family the highlight movie of their victory, and the Coach is in the doghouse.

"His wife, Marie, is there watching the highlights with us and it's a month after the game and she's still (complaining) about the tie," Sabol said. "She said, 'You know that tie was a Christmas present from me, I still can't believe you cut it in half. How could you cut that tie?' She was pretty focused on the tie. It kind of spoiled the whole moment of the highlight film when we all saw it, but I guess that's how it goes."

Yeah, Steve, we've all been there.

You know what, I've got like 3 more of these anecdotes, and I'm going to sprinkle them throughout the week. But I do want to give a major shout out to NFL Films now before I forget.

Even before I fell under Sabol's spell I thought they were at the vanguard of their field and decades ahead of their time. The writing, feel, shooting style and overall presentation of their stuff has always blown my mind. To me, they bring all of the best parts of sports writing to life in a visual forum.

So more Steve, to come.

By Jason La Canfora  |  January 29, 2007; 9:00 AM ET
 
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