Thursday, May 24, 2012

NFL Films

I could sit for hours listening to the voice of NFL Films, John Facenda, describe the seemingly banal sweep to the sideline of a running back being pursued by an angry linebacker intent on knocking his block off. No joke, I actually HAVE sat hours upon hours rewinding and rewatching old clips from '60s and '70s NFL Films. Those decades for me were the halcyon days of pro football coverage, an era when commentary, music, poetry and narrative all came together to create a classical period. Many Americans' nostalgia and love for football, consciously or not, is not just for the game itself. Rather it is provided through the dramatic action depicted by NFL Films which sometime in the early '60s helped elevate the professional football drama, a collision of reality and fiction, into a truly unique American art form.

In that classical period, NFL Films relied on Library music labels like DeWolfe and KPM for the soundtracks that accompanied the signature slow-motion shots of man-on-man battles in the trenches, bleeding foreheads, dejected players with chinstraps dangling; closeups of hands, teeth and of tight spirals that seemed to hang in the air forever. A pirouette in the open field by Paul Warfield, the menacing eyes of Dick Butkus, a galloping Gayle Sayers, a man who ran which such beauty and form as to bring a tear to the eye. Those players were all before my time, but they were so much a part of my childhood because, thankfully, those timeless episodes have been aired and re-aired for the last 50 years. Not only will they be re-aired forever, they are already part of an American classical canon that should be allotted their rightful place in serious film or art history study.

In the last year I've been frantically compiling Library music along with any video footage I can get my digital fingers on. Much of the music has a familiar feel precisely because I no doubt heard it as a backdrop to one of those Facenda narrated programs at some point in my life. Names like Alan Hawkshaw, Keith Mansfield, Alan Moorhouse and Sam Spence would be unfamiliar to just about anyone not into the cult of Library music. But anyone who grew up in the last 50 years and a fan of pro football has undoubtedly heard a few of their tracks.

As an adult, my dedication to any particular team or player has waned considerably. I no longer live or die by the wins and losses of my favorite team. However, I appreciate the greatest, most dramatic sport on earth much more. The history, the poetry, the drama of the game often make me very emotional, perhaps similar to the way one might get when reading Shakespeare or listening to Mozart. The NFL, thanks in great part to the work of NFL Films and the Sabol family, is a combination of many is America's great operatic form.

Dig in to this sample of Facenda describing a Walter Payton run. Facenda refers to Payton as "the leading runner in the history if the NFC", so it must be circa 1982-'84.

The following collection of music (no narration) is primarily from the '70s. Can't remember where I got this excellent album from, so apologies for lack of attribution. Enjoy...

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