NFL icon passes away at age 69


NFL icon passes away at age 69

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- With the eye of an art history major, Steve Sabol filmed the NFL as a ballet and blockbuster movie all in one.Half of the father-son team that revolutionized sports broadcasting, the NFL Films president died Tuesday of brain cancer at age 69 in Moorestown, N.J. He leaves behind a league bigger than ever, its fans enthralled by the plot twists and characters he so deftly chronicled."Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work of NFL Films," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement from the league confirming Sabol's death. "Steve's passion for football was matched by his incredible talent and energy. Steve's legacy will be part of the NFL forever. He was a major contributor to the success of the NFL, a man who changed the way we look at football and sports, and a great friend."Sabol was diagnosed with a tumor on the left side of his brain after being hospitalized for a seizure in March 2011.When Ed Sabol founded NFL Films, his son was there working beside him as a cinematographer right from the start in 1964. They introduced a series of innovations taken for granted today, from super slow-motion replays to blooper reels to sticking microphones on coaches and players. And they hired the "Voice of God," John Facenda, to read lyrical descriptions in solemn tones.Until he landed the rights to chronicle the 1962 NFL championship game, Ed Sabol's only experience filming sports was recording the action at Steve's high school football games in Philadelphia."We see the game as art as much as sport," Steve Sabol told The Associated Press before his father was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year. "That helped us nurture not only the game's traditions but to develop its mythology: America's Team, The Catch, The Frozen Tundra."The two were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2003. In his career, Steve Sabol won 35 Emmys for writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producing -- no one else had ever earned that many in as many different categories."Steve Sabol leaves a lasting impact on the National Football League that will be felt for a long time to come," NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said. "His vision and innovation helped make him a pioneer the likes of which the NFL has never seen before and won't see again."He was the perfect fit for the job: an all-Rocky Mountain Conference running back at Colorado College majoring in art history. It was Sabol who later wrote of the Raiders, "The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea," words immortalized by Facenda.The Sabols' advances included everything from reverse angle replays to filming pregame locker room speeches to setting highlights to pop music."Today of course those techniques are so common it's hard to imagine just how radical they once were," Steve told the AP last year. "Believe me, it wasn't always easy getting people to accept them, but I think it was worth the effort."His efforts extended beyond his work as a producer, including appearances on screen and in public to promote NFL Films' mission.An accomplished collage artist, Sabol exhibited at the ArtExpo in New York, the Avant Gallery in Miami, the Govinda Gallery in Washington, the Milan Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Garth Davidson Gallery in Moorestown, N.J."Steve was a legend in this business -- a dynamic, innovative leader who made NFL Films the creative force it is today," ESPN President John Skipper said. "The work he and his dedicated and talented team create every day is one of the many reasons why so many more fans love the game of football today."Sabol is survived by his wife, Penny; his son, Casey; his parents, Audrey and Ed; and his sister, Blair. The NFL said there would be a private funeral.

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Trotz sees value for the Caps in their early season road trip

Trotz sees value for the Caps in their early season road trip

After enjoying three of their first five games at home to start the season, the Capitals now must pack their bags for a long road trip that will take them through western Canada.

The upcoming four-game road trip, the team’s second longest of the season, will take the Caps to Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. They will not host another game at Verizon Center until Nov. 3.

Despite facing a long trip away from home and the Caps’ faithful, Barry Trotz is excited by the prospect of the early trip.

“I think it'll be good for us,” he said. “I think last year we got our game going when we went out to Canada last year. Doesn't mean we're going to get it going this year at all, but it started on the road trip.”

RELATED: Trotz: Caps need more 'net presence'

Last season, the Caps hit the road in October for a three-game swing against Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton. The Caps won all three of those games by a combined score of 16-8 to improve their record to 6-1-0. That trip was the first true glimpse of the Presidents’ Trophy winning team the Caps would become.

While everyone enjoys playing in front of their fans and sleeping in their own bed, long road trips can be beneficial when it comes early in the season as teams build chemistry among the players.

“I think what it does is, it's just hockey,” Trotz said. “It's guys playing hockey.”

All the distractions of home are gone when players hit the road. Rather than just practicing together, the players end up spending all their time together bonding. The only worry is hockey.

But the benefits of a road trip are limited if the team can’t find success.

“If we come back with a winning record, I'll say it's great and if we don't, I don't think it's very good,” Brooks Orpik said. “I think everybody says that ahead of the trip and then it might change your mind afterwards. Sometimes your record or your success has a lot of impact on what people really think about those trips.”

Unlike last season, this trip will not feature weak Canadian squads.

Edmonton and Vancouver are two of the hottest teams to start the season. Winnipeg, meanwhile, boasts talented rookie Patrick Laine.

If the Caps hope to use this season’s road trip as a springboard to the top of the standings as they did last year, they are going to have to earn it.

But for Trotz, he sees benefits to this trip beyond just the standings.

“On the road, I think it never hurts,” Trotz said. “It never hurts for your group.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz tweaks Caps' top lines in attempt to spark offense

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Morning tip: Wizards will welcome straight-shooting style from coaches

Morning tip: Wizards will welcome straight-shooting style from coaches

A few seasons ago, Trevor Ariza challenged John Wall about his role with the Wizards and what the point guard envisioned about everyone else's. Then it was Marcin Gortat questioning his role with the coaching staff. Last year, Jared Dudley encountered that, too. 

They weren't the only ones to express that under Randy Wittman, who kept his cards close to the vest with his players -- possibly contributing to players-only meetings called by Ariza and Dudley -- but new coach Scott Brooks is the exact opposite. It's among the many differences in the culture and how things are being handled as the Wizards put a 41-41 season behind them.

Wittman was a former player, as is Brooks. But Brooks is more new school than old school and this is yet another reason why his arrival is so welcomed. It's partly why he's called a "player's coach." 

"All of the guys know their role. I made that perfectly clear in our opening night meeting before our first training camp practice," said Brooks, who won't commit to his starting five publicly -- likely John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Gortat --  but maintains his players have known for quite some time. "It's that their role is to play as hard as they possibly can and play for their teammates whether if it's one minute or 48 minutes. You just got to do that and then we can live with the results. That kind of cleans everything up because I've been a player and I've been around players and when things don't go well they always fall back on, 'I don't know my role.' So all the players will know their role."

That means before training camp opened Sept. 27 in Richmond, Va., any doubts that anyone may have had before the first dribble were put to bed. 

[RELATED: Inevitable rise of Bradley Beal?]