RIP Steve Sabol
October 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
To most figure skating lifers, diehard enthusiasts and people who tune in once every four years, the name “Steve Sabol” does not ring a bell. Even if you don’t know him, you may have felt the impact he has had on the National Football League. Do you like watching football right now? Have you been a lifelong fan of the 49ers, since 2011? Do you reminisce over the times the 49ers knocked the Cowboys off their perch on their way to a fistful of Super Bowl rings and titles? You owe some of that to Steve Sabol. How different would the everyday perception of figure skating be if USFSA asked Steve Sabol to film figure skating?
Employing the “Voice of God” before people thought it was cool to use the “Voice of God” to narrate things and using state-of-the-art camera techniques that were innovative and mind-shattering at the time, Steve Sabol is the creative force behind the transformation of American football’s image.
He may not have been the founder and head of NFL films, formerly Blair Motion Pictures. That distinction goes to his father, Ed Sabol. NFL Films however would not have taken off without the younger Sabol’s artistic guidance. Steve was responsible for the innovative techniques commonly employed in the entertainment industry these days: mic-ing up the players, having a godly voice narrate things, employing things we take for granted now like classical music, artful composition, slow-motion, replay and symbolic imagery. Steve Sabol helped turn “Oh my God, this is some violent ****” to “Mother of God, this violent game is amazing!” He was the artistic vision behind making American football the most-watched sports of the four major professional sports in the United States.
How the F*** is This Relevant to Figure Skating?
Axel. Triple axel. Blades of Glory. Men in tights. Salchows. Judges. 6.0. IJS. Songs without lyrics.
Had Steve Sabol taken on capturing figure skating as a side project, I think it would have profound consequences. What would Steve Sabol do?
1) People would know a lot of the moves
I think everyone would have a solid appreciation for what skaters do if they knew what figure skaters were doing.
That’s fine if you teach this guy nothing because you’ll get what you have now: a dude who knows nothing about skating will ask you if you can do triple axels, even though he wouldn’t recognize him if Chaz Michael Michaels did it and slapped him in the face.
What would Steve Sabol do? Steve Sabol would highlight all the big jumps. Even though he probably wouldn’t go into all of the details, he’d at least upgrade America’s stream of consciousness from “Can you do triple axels?” to “Can you do triple salchows, toe loops and loops? At least a single? Are you single?” He’d highlight the spins, from camel to sit, to the Biellmann upright “oh, I just tore my hamstrings watching that” spin. He’d highlight spirals and musical suggestions. That song from Twilight? Debussy came up with it first. Rachmaninoff and Beethoven? Yeah, buddy.
2) Raw elements of figure skating
All the people who don’t skate sees of figure skating is the figure skating performance itself, idolizing Debi Thomas, Michelle Kwan, Jennifer Kirk, Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir for their sparkly attire and artistic routines.
The 2 minutes and 50 second short program. The 4 minute long program. You see the finished product, even if it does have a few wobbles and falls, flat-footed landings and traveling spins. You don’t see much of the before and you only see and hear a sliver of the after. You don’t hear the criticism, constructive or not given by the coach to the skater or the encouragement. You don’t see the financial tightrope that parents walk in order to fund their little princes’ and princesses’ dreams.
What would Steve Sabol do? Steve Sabol would mic up coaches and skaters and possibly judges. The person watching on TV and not freezing at the ice rink will see how crazy the commitment to the preparation of a superstar skater is. The emotional, social and financial sacrifices made to make the figure skating dream, the next Michelle Kwan dream come alive.
Would this glimpse of personal moments scare a lot of people off because it reaffirms that figure skating is a cost-prohibitive sport? Sure. But there’d be respect shown towards the amount of pressure these male and female skaters go through from a young age to the age of champions. I want to feel the nervousness a skater goes through right before they go to be judged on the ice and do what they’ve practice hundreds of times at home. I want to feel the nervous anticipation, the mutterings of “F***, F***, F***, F***, S***” under their breath right before the jump attempt. I want to feel the “I’m going to wish you good luck but I hope you fall” vibe when rivals cross paths on camera.
I want Steve Sabol to play classical music so that over time, the tension and anticipation building up in a scene of a coach encouraging their young skating pupil gets better and better to watch and understand. The glimpse of the personal nature between parents and coaches, coaches and students, and parents and kids would educate the viewers, possibly garnering their respect as well. Maybe it will even convince some into considering taking up figure skate.
Or maybe not. But Steve Sabol had a revolutionary impact on the game of American football and I believe it would have done the same with figure skating. He would have help usher in much needed respect and support for American figure skating and figure skating in general.
But darn it. On the bright side, 2014 is coming up fast. That crest in the cycle of respect for figure skaters is almost here, just being patted down by the TSA at the airport. It will be here soon.
Steve, this is a really convoluted and circuitous post. You are awesome for making football the bee’s knees. Rest in peace. 😥