As a kid thinking about a career as an adult, I figured I'd either start at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys - this was when Danny White proved inferior when following in Roger Staubach's footsteps - or play shooting guard for the Lakers. If either of those goals failed, I planned on a career at NFL Films. When we first got ESPN, it seemed half of the network's programming consisted of shows courtesy of NFL Films, whether it was Steve Sabol relaxing in a chair and introducing a Super Bowl film about the battle between the Niners and Dolphins, or a Follies program that was complete with the voice of Elmer Fudd (the NFL took itself a lot less seriously back then).
Every so often you saw into the NFL Films building, where row after row of canisters filled the rooms. Imagine watching NFL highlights all day long. That's the existence I dreamed about.
The music of NFL Films was a major reason the shows appealed to me and millions of other football fans. Composer Sam Spence put together many of the famous NFL Films songs and the sounds became synonymous with the images, from the Steel Curtain's dominance to Lombardi's fury. Even today, hearing an old-school NF Films song - you usually only hear them today when they're used ironically in commercials that are selling fashionable pants or comfortable shoes - makes me want to run out on the street with a Nerf football and play two-on-two passing games against friends.
A YouTube poster who probably also grew up dreaming about serving as Steve Sabol's assistant compiled dozens of famous NFL Films song. They're all here. Some classics, starting with "The Classic Battle." I picture the Cowboys digging in at the goal-line in Lambeau, moments before Bart Starr's game-winning sneak.
For lovers of the trombone and video of John Riggins gaining 5 yards a pop behind the Redkins' hogs, here's "Roundup."
"Salute to Courage." Perhaps you think it'd be a song composed for a feature on World War II veterans, or the embassy hostages in Iran. Instead it's something to use while watching shots of Terry Bradshaw throw bombs to Lynn Swann.
"The Final Quest." Break this one out before showing the Super Bowl teams slowly running out for pregame introductions, perhaps the Cowboys before the 1993 Super Bowl or the Giants before their destruction of the Broncos in 1987. If used by NFL Films, it has to be used while showing the winning team. Because music this inspirational is not built for losers. Sorry, Bills.
"West Side Rumble." With a name like that and a song like this, it had to be used during a film about rivals, a game between two teams that hated each other. Maybe during the Steelers-Raiders game that ended with Franco's Immaculate Reception. Or a good Redskins-Cowboys game during the George Allen era in Washington.
The names are as entertaining as the song. Here's "The Pony Soldiers," and it sounds like something that Eastwood would have used in one of his Westerns. I think this would best be used with a Joe Montana film, perhaps during the drive that ended with The Catch. I picture him dissecting a defense as the music begins, before it ends with a flourish and a fist pump.
The Raiders were so tough, and notorious, in the '60s and '70s that NFL Films gave them their own song, "Autumn Wind." Spence wrote the song, while Sabol himself wrote a poem about the franchise. Vikings fans can listen to this while picturing Old Man Willie racing down the sidelines with an interception return in the Super Bowl.
"Up She Rises." Another one where I don't know whether to avenge the sinking of the Maine or sit back and watch Bob Griese lead the Dolphins to an unbeaten season. All of these are famous NFL Films songs, but the part in this one that kicks in at around 40 seconds is among the most well-known sections.
I no longer think I'll grow up to quarterback the Cowboys and I don't think I'll make it as shooting guard for the Lakers. I also don't want to work for NFL Films, as I'm sure the technology would only confuse me, and I'm much more comfortable with words than pictures. Still, I could listen to their songs all day.The only thing missing from these? A little John Facenda: