The legendary voice of John Facenda….who narrated so many of the great NFL Films productions….to which ImaSportsphile has more than its ample share of classic NFL Films videos in our football section…..featuring Facenda providing verbal poetry with visual mastery….which makes these videos such “nuggets of gold” in our library treasure chest of video memories….as Facenda provides a wonderful expression of the lighter side of the NFL as he narrates this delightful piece as NFL Follies Goes Hollywood.
One night in 1965….John Facenda went to a local tavern, the RDA Club, which happened to be showing footage produced by NFL Films….as he enjoyed the slow-motion game sequences that were already an NFL Films trademark and would later recall….“I started to rhapsodize about how beautiful it was when Ed Sabol, the man who founded NFL Films happened to be in the bar, and he came up to me and asked if I give you a script, could you repeat what you just said”….and Facenda said he would try. Thus began Facenda’s association with NFL Films, one that would continue until his death…..as Facenda narrated many highlight films during his career with the company….for his dulcet baritone was the perfect match for the highly dramatic nature of the footage he narrated….which earned him the nickname “The Voice of God.” Probably one of the best-remembered and most frequently-quoted examples of Facenda’s NFL Films narration is something he never actually said….as “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field” was a quote sportscaster Chris Berman made up while mimicking Facenda’s voice when he said it. Steve Sabol, son of Ed, claimed that “John may have made a game seem more important than it was because he read lines with a dramatic directness. He could read a laundry list and make it sound like The Constitution of the United States of America”….as Bob Costas called Facenda’s voice “one of the most remarkable instruments in the history of broadcasting.”
Facenda was at the pinnacle of his style in his narration of NFL Films 1974 production of “The Championship Chase” with his recitation of “The Autumn Wind” a football poem written by Steve Sabol, personifying fall weather:
The Autumn wind is a pirate Blustering in from sea With a rollicking song he sweeps along Swaggering boisterously.
His face is weather beaten He wears a hooded sash With a silver hat about his head And a bristling black mustache
He growls as he storms the country A villain big and bold And the trees all shake and quiver and quake As he robs them of their gold.
The Autumn wind is a Raider Pillaging just for fun He’ll knock you ’round and upside down And laugh when he’s conquered and won.
The poem and its accompanying theme music have become an anthem of the Oakland Raiders….and It is also known as the “Battle Hymn of the Raider Nation. To this day, Facenda’s speaking style remains the sound most closely linked with NFL Films….and in some ways, football narration itself. The style is frequently emulated….often in a parodic manner….in contemporary sports news, advertising, and even other sports-themed entertainment…for example….Green Day’s music video for the 1999 song “Nice Guys Finish Last”. Similarly, Facenda’s voice is so closely associated with the NFL that in July 2006…John Facenda’s son filed a lawsuit against the NFL….while claiming that Facenda’s voice was used without permission in an NFL Network program promoting the video game Madden 2006.
My favorite John Facenda descriptive quote about an NFL game is “It starts with a whistle and ends with a gun”. A room in the internet virtual Professional Football History Museum is called “The Facenda Audio-Visual Room” in Facenda’s honor….and that alone makes this video well worth watching…..plus, it is pure entertainment and joy….as NFL Follies Goes To Hollywood.