The autumn wind is pretty darn mean in the 1974 poem, “The Autumn Wind.” It rips the leaves off trees and turns people upside down and generally wreaks havoc.

In short, it’s imbued with the spirit of the the Oakland Raiders. So thought Al Davis, who quickly enshrined the poem as the unofficial anthem of the football team he owned from 1972 until his death in 2011.

Fans on Tuesday took a moment to remember the author of the poem, Steve Sabol.

The National Football League announced that Sabol, the president of NFL Films, died at the age of 69.  He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor last year.

The company that became NFL Films was founded by his father, Ed Sabol.  Steve Sabol began working with his dad in 1964 to improve the production values of football broadcasts.  He won 35 Emmys, including a Lifetime Achievement award with his father in 2003. From the AP obituary:

The Sabols treated sport as film and changed the way Americans watched and perceived games. Their advances included everything from reverse angle replays to setting highlights to pop music.

“Today of course those techniques are so common it’s hard to imagine just how radical they once were,” the younger Sabol told the AP last year. “Believe me, it wasn’t always easy getting people to accept them, but I think it was worth the effort.”

Raiders fans revere Steve Sabol for his authorship of the poem, which he wrote for a retrospective of the 1974 NFL season and paired with music by Sam Spence and narration by the late John Facenda.  From a San Jose Mercury News profile in 2003:

Sabol said he was trying to incorporate the imagery of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the alliteration of Rudyard Kipling and the rhyming of Dr. Seuss. “Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but the result was sort of prehistoric rap,” he said. “I guess it was the first football rap song and Facenda was the first rap master.”

It wasn’t intended to have a life beyond that year’s highlight reel, but “The Autumn Wind” was such a hit with the Raiders faithful that it took on a life of its own.  It’s played at the Coliseum before every game and members of Raider Nation know it by heart. Put on your silver and black and check it out.

The Man Who Wrote ‘The Autumn Wind is a Raider’ Dies 18 September,2012Nina Thorsen


Nina Thorsen

Nina Thorsen is a KQED radio producer and director, and frequently reports on sports, food and culture.  

She co-created and produced KQED’s Pacific Time,  a weekly radio program on Asian and Asian American issues that aired from 2000 to 2007. Before coming to KQED, Thorsen was the deputy foreign editor for Marketplace.  In her home state of Minnesota, she worked for A Prairie Home Companion and for Public Radio International.  

Nina was honored by the Radio-TV News Directors Association of Northern California in 2012 for a series of stories on the Oakland A’s stadium.  She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in speech-communication. 

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