Keepers of the Flame
NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Over the years I have had the pleasure and good fortune to be in the company of mentors, colleagues, sources, friends, and family who provided the stimulation, inspiration, and support necessary to complete this modest work and the sundry tasks that accompanied its development. First of all, I had the unique privilege of getting to know Steve Sabol while...
Introduction. NFL Films and Pro Football
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While baseball is traditionally recognized as America’s favorite pastime, the National Football League (NFL) has stood as the United States’ most popular and lucrative sports organization since the late 1960s.3 NFL football’s immense cultural and economic power is not simply a product of the games it provides for millions of live and mediated spectators, but also its cultural...
Chapter 1. Creating and Sustaining America's Game
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Although it is now hard to believe, the National Football League was not always the corporate sport behemoth that ESPN The Magazine’s Peter Keating describes as a “society unto itself” and that Christian Century resignedly deemed “America’s newest indigenous religion.”3 Autumn Sundays were not always...
Chapter 2. More Movies than News
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Sportscaster Bob Costas once wryly commented that NFL Films productions had become more entertaining than the National Football League’s actual games.3 When asked about Costas’s statement Steve Sabol blithely replied, “They should be. . . . When you look at what we were doing—and we still...
Chapter 3. The NFL's Smithsonian
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At any given time—day or night, during the season or not—one would be hard pressed to scan through the television channels for long without encountering at least one representation of the National Football League—from the uplifting player profiles featured on network pregame packages to commercials that use...
Chapter 4. The Shakespeares of Sports Films
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Pete Rozelle’s major point of praise after viewing They Call It Pro Football— Steve Sabol’s self-described Citizen Kane of football films—was that the production was more sophisticated than run-of-the-mill sports telecasts. The commissioner deemed it a “real movie” comparable in drama, quality, and...
Chapter 5. Keeping the Flame in the Broadcast Era
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The week after They Call It Pro Football’s premiere, Pete Rozelle summoned Ed and Steve Sabol to his Manhattan office. The commissioner handed them the most recent Nielsen ratings, which listed pro football in third place among television sports, still trailing professional baseball and college football—though...
Chapter 6. Cable, NFL, Media, and NFL Films' Dinosaur Television
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In 1987, NFL Films produced NFL TV Follies, a bloopers film that stars comedian Jonathan Winters. Winters plays J. J. Faircatch, a hapless cable television executive who is desperately attempting to improve the fortunes of his struggling “24 Hour Channel.” The production begins with the channel playing a...
Conclusion. The Persistence and Obsolescence of NFL Films
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Despite their increased scarcity on venues like ESPN and NFL Network, NFL Films’ traditional aesthetic practices and the values they convey circulate independently of the company’s depictions of pro football. Throughout NFL Films’ history a diverse range of clients has licensed its content and contracted...
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Index, About the Author, Back Cover
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2014