Among this year's nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame are Ed and Steve Sabol, two men who never played a game in the NFL but have played an important role in both the history and popularity of the sport. Ed, who founded NFL Films, and his son, Steve, who has served as its president, should be heading to Canton for what they have done to enhance the league.
The father and son team founded the company in 1962 -- the same year the NFL signed its first national TV contract with CBS. NFL Films has done more to document the history of the NFL -- and at the same time entertain its fans -- than any network that serves as a partner to the league. As a matter of fact, CBS, NBC, ESPN/ABC and Fox all have used NFL Films footage and programming to enhance their networks' coverage of football.
The Sabols have been documentarians, filmmakers and, best of all, brilliant storytellers as they continue to follow the sport better than anyone. Their New Jersey office, located just a short drive from Philadelphia, houses miles of film dating back to the 1930s. Their collection on every team in the league is extensive, and their dedication to detail and to the history of the game is unparalleled.
I can still hear the classical music and the voice of the late John Facenda -- which became a league signature during the 1960s and '70s. NFL Films used to package highlights that TV stations could buy before every game was broadcast. It also produced the highlights that were voiced over by Howard Cosell on "Monday Night Football."
It continues to innovate with its recent "Best of All Time" series. NFL Films also is a key part of the NFL Network, and it provides hours of content for fans to enjoy. It captures the true essence of football better than any production company ever has, and it has set a standard that few can match.
The Sabols have produced more NFL-related programming over the years than any network, producing Emmy award-winning films with the quality of feature films. The NFL has become a billion-dollar industry with TV ratings that continue to climb to record levels, and it owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Sabol family for their major role in the growth of the league.
That debt could be paid with a much deserved Hall of Fame induction.
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this!