We are interested in everything television does, and in the 13 years that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has been publishing we have devoted no small number of our pages to that medium's concern with sport. We have printed long articles on Announcers Mel Allen, Joe Garagiola, Vin Scully, Bob Prince and Buck Canel, producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, and Roone Arledge, vice-president in charge of sports for the American Broadcasting Company. In 1965 we wrote about Dick Bailey and his Sports Network Incorporated. We have particularly enjoyed telling about TV's controversial personalities—Howard Cosell and the late Clure Mosher, for example; and last spring Dan Jenkins took us along with the CBS crew covering the Masters in Augusta. Now, on page 74 of this issue, we introduce Ed Sabol, the man behind the jazz-beat, slow-motion close-ups and helmet-to-helmet confrontations that NFL Films provide as follow-up fare for millions of football fans every week.
In a sense, this story started in 1965, when Tom Brody went to Colorado Springs to meet a fullback who was getting twice the notoriety of Tucker Frederickson with a fraction of the ability. He was Stephen Douglas (Sudden Death) Sabol, a running, grinning, one-man publicity office who spent his laundry money on newspaper advertisements, colored postcards, brochures, T-shirts, lapel buttons, pencils and press releases—all of which reported his ever-so-slightly-embellished accomplishments on and off the football field. Brody's The Fearless Tot From Possum Trot was the refreshing result, so last spring when Tom suggested that it might not be a bad idea if we took a look at Sudden Death's papa, we said by all means.
Brody has no trouble recalling his first meeting with Sabol. "I was sitting there in his New York office, waiting to see him," says Tom. "It was quiet, and I was leafing through some magazines. Then the door suddenly flew open, he had me by the collar and we were in his car, careening through the city. That's Sabol: alive and running. But when you get to know him better, you discover—beneath all the huff and puff—a warm, sensitive person, too."
Sabol oozes such vitality, Brody says, that one should not be surprised by Sabol's elaborate Villanova, Pa. home—but Tom was. Of course, 12-foot-long bars and Oriental rugs sprawling on teak floors aren't all that rare, but never have you seen a popart collection like Sabol's. The paintings adorn the walls of every room. "They're as way out as Sabol is himself," says Brody, "but it's all in excellent taste." There is a bathtub in the house, but—as you should expect by now—it is no ordinary bathtub. It is more like a miniature swimming pool, and it is so big that an ordinary hot-water heater is not capable of filling it to the top, which is the way Ed Sabol likes it filled. Consequently, a huge, 200-gallon water heater—the kind they use in laundromats—has been installed in the basement. It provides all the hot water Sabol could possibly desire, but the tub takes time to fill and planning is required. So, when the bath-loving Sabol is ready to leave his downtown office for home, he picks up the phone first and calls his wife.
November 20, 1967
"Honey," he says, shrugging into his topcoat, "start the hot water running. Big Ed is on his way."