A Concert of Champions, a Marriage of Football and Music


When the Super Bowl meets the symphony, when Tchaikovsky meets Biletnikoff with a hint of Rice, you have a perfect marriage of football and music between NFL Films and the San Francisco Symphony—Wednesday night at Davies Symphony Hall, the two collaborated as a part of Super Bowl week festivities to present: NFL Films a Concert of Champions.

Former Raiders and Chiefs running back Marcus Allen was on hand to pay homage to Ed Sabol, who founded the company, and his sone Steve, who worked alongside his father, archiving countless hours of regular season games, and every Super Bowl played until his death from brain cancer in 2015. Reflecting on his career, Allen said the Sabol’s gift to the sport will forever be embraced, and will be timeless recognized its unprecedented impact on the NFL; he said going back and watching highlights from his career are even more enjoyable when combined with the magical editing and music of NFL Films.

Wednesday night, the symphony took those films, removed the music, and played it live. It was something to be seen, and heard.

A fair portion of the program was dedicated to the life and work of Steve Sabol, on film, he spoke about the philosophy of the company, and how it changed over the years of development from its humble beginnings in 1962. His father, the company’s founder, Ed Sabol, was a World War II veteran who worked selling topcoats when he returned stateside after his service. In his spare time, he began recording Steve’s high school football games, as a hobby, and soon founded a picture company, Blair Pictures, named after his daughter. In 1962, the elder Sabol won the rights to shoot the NFL championship game for just $5,000. The rest is history.


NFL Film’s are a celebrated brand, and sports cinematography in its purest form—assumingly catering to the hometown crowd, the evening’s largest cheers came from vintage clips of Montana/Rice connections, and splitting images of Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett, and John Madden. Steve Young, Roger Craig and Marcus Allen also had their moments during the montage. The film featured iconic moments in Bay Area football history, including replays of The Catch, Ghost to the Post, Kenny Stabler to Clarence Davis to beat the Fish, John Taylor’s winning grab and Jerry Rice toasting defenders. The historical clips concluded with the familiar view of legendary 49ers head coach Bill Walsh being carried off the field after a Super Bowl victory.

The final selection of the evening, referred to as the Champions Suite, set the table for Sunday’s matchup between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers at Super Bowl 50. The program has a final showing tonight, which begins at 8 p.m.—if you have the time to go, I wouldn’t miss it.


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