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Football Follies are collections of American football bloopers performed by National Football League players. Produced by NFL Films, these collections also spoof parts of popular culture. Mel Blanc joined in the fun in 1976 with The Son of Football Follies, and returned (in one of his final efforts) in 1989 for The Super Duper Football Follies. In addition, Jonathan Winters was featured in 1987's The NFL TV Follies, intended as a parody of the relationship between football and television.
The First Football Follies
The first film using sports bloopers to satirize PR hype nearly didn't get off the ground. The coaching staff of the Philadelphia Eagles brought the film to the Eagles training camp in 1969, but feared that the Eagle players would be angry when they saw the mistakes made by themselves and other NFL players. Instead, the film was met with roaring laughter, and was an instant hit with the players.
Simon Gribben, was a producer, director, writer and editor at NFL Films from 1967 to '70. The Johnny Carson Show contacted the league owned film company and asked if they could send them some football bloopers for Carson to show once a week. A contract was signed with the 'Tonight Show' and NFL Films management decided that Gribben was the guy for the job. He pulled blooper shots out of each weeks footage edited them together and wrote a clever script which Carson read on the air. The Carson blooper segment was very popular. As a result Ed Sabol, executive producer at NFL Films came up with an idea to do a half hour version of the bloopers as one of the episodes that they were producing for the weekly show,'NFL Action' hosted by Pat Summerall. Sabol assigned the project to Gribben. To accomplish this thousands of feet of archive film would have to be screened. He needed to find the funny shots before he could write. He asked two staffers and a freelancer with film library experience to become members of his production team. Lavon Bebler, Vicki Denenberg and David Ewing. The show had an air date, so they were on deadline. Everyone worked long hours to get the job done. Jack Newman did sound design, Phil Spieler scored it. John Hentz supervised the production. The show aired during the summer of1969. When it came to his credit Gribben was too clever. He did audio credits naming each person who worked on the show. For his credit he used a shot himself standing on the sidelines of a game. He had a beard at the time. When that shot appeared the narrator said "Produced and directed by that fellow with beard." By doing this he relinquished his claim to authorship. He quit NFL Films in 1970. From then on NFL Films did not give Simon Gribben credit for creating the film. It is a mystery. Gribben speculates that maybe they were mad at him for quitting on them. No one knows. Both Ed and Steve Sabol have passed away. Only they could answer the question of why they would not give Gribben credit where credit was due. Sequels were done almost every year from then on. When Steve Sabol had his own syndicated TV show he would occasionally show segments of the Follies Film. On one show he posed the question of who created the original Follies. He stated that it was one of the janitors who came up with the idea. (I am David Ewing. I was one of the assistant editors on the original Follies film. I can testify that Simon wrote every word of the script and worked his butt off editing the film.) The Football Follies went on to be the most successful film NFL Films ever produced. This year, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the first Follies. Simon Gribben has yet to be given the credit he deserves for the wonderfully funny film he created for NFL Films. I am Jay Gerber and had just started working for NFL Films first as a cameraman and then as a production assistant, eventually becoming a VP In Charge of Production. In those early days, one of the projects was to help Simon edit the follies film on the sophisticated flat bed editing machines known as a Steenbeck which was knew to most. I spent many hours in the edit room with Simon and remember well our lunches while working and he would order a bagel with cream cheese and a raw onion....we had a distinctive smell about us as we left the edit room at the end of the day. I do remember the issues with Simon and Ed which revolved around dollars and Simon's departure which is probably why he wasn't given the credit he deserves for the brilliant film he put together. Sadly, so many of the original staff are no longer with us, I agree with David that he and Simon worked on the production and Simon was the total creator of that amazing follies concept.
Best of the Football Follies
In 1985, NFL Films released The Best of the Football Follies, a look back at some of the series' highlights. This special features two new segments: The story of two teams whose history was filled with follies - the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the lovable losers the New Orleans Saints, who had gone 78-203 in their history with only two seasons at .500 (both teams would win Super Bowls in the decades following the special); the special also included outtakes from the NFL's Best Ever Coaches (produced in 1981), focusing on head coaches (notably Dick Vermeil during the 1980 NFC Championship Game and Hank Stram at Super Bowl IV) who were wired for sound.
100 Greatest Follies
In the 1994, as part of NFL Films' celebration of NFL's 75th anniversary, 100 Greatest Follies counted down the 100 greatest bloopers in NFL history, chosen, according to the video's promotion, a "secret ballot" in NFL Films. The 100 follies shown, with the exception of follies 1-10, were not shown in numerical order, but were categorized by how certain follies related by different topics. The list of the categories were as follows:
- "It Made History" - Follies that made an impact on the NFL, whether it was through team strategy, the NFL's rulebook, or the record books.
- "What Were They Thinking?" - Follies caused by the players' own lapse in judgment.
- "With Friends Like These..." - Follies occurring to players that were caused by their own teammates.
- "The More The Merrier" - Follies where multiple players were involved.
- "End Zone Antics" - Follies that happened either in or around the end zone.
- "All's Well That Ends Well" - Follies that ended up turning out positive for the players or teams who perpetrated the folly.
- "They Pay The Freight" - Follies where the fans were involved.
- "The Bermuda Triangle" - Follies that occurred on the sidelines.
- "Strange But True" - Follies so strange that they were considered never able to happen again.
- "Forever Young" - Follies where NFL quarterback Steve Young was involved, with Young himself providing insight into the follies.
- "Dave Krieg Lifetime Achievement Award" - Follies that involved quarterback Dave Krieg, who was well known at the time for committing more fumbles than any other player in league history.
- "Those Zany Saints" - Follies that were committed by the New Orleans Saints during their hapless years.
- "The Top Ten" - The top 10 greatest follies in NFL history.
Several imitators have surfaced in response to the original Football Follies, even in sports other than football. Below is a list of sequels and imitators, listed by year:
- The Football Follies - 1968
- Those Fantastic Football Follies - 1970
- Son of Football Follies - 1976 - featuring voices by Mel Blanc
- A Festival of Funnies - 1980 - includes a short set entirely to music about a boy who manages to score a touchdown on a team of older boys
- The NFL Symfunny - 1980
- NFL Follies Go Hollywood - 1983 - features a rare onscreen appearance by John Facenda
- The Best of the Football Follies - 1985
- The All New NFL Football Follies - 1986
- The NFL TV Follies - 1987 - starring Jonathan Winters
- The Super Duper Football Follies - 1989
- Football Follies on Parade - 1990
- Phenomenal Football Follies - 1990
- Foul-ups, Fumbles & Follies - 1991
- Football Card Follies - 1992 - Includes actual football cards' mistakes and errors.
- 100 Greatest Follies - 1994
- NFL's Newest Follies - 1995 - hosted by Dom Irrera
- Offsides - 1995
- Best of NFL follies - 1996
- Talkin' Follies - 1997
- The Nfl All-Star Follies - 1999
- 21st Century Follies - 2000 - narrated by Sara Moon
- Football Comedy - 2003
- Follies The Next Generation - 2005 - hosted by Nick Bakay
- Legends of the follies - 2007
- 2007 Fall follies - 2007 - Includes spoof of America's Game portraying the 2007 Dolphins
- NFL Top 10 Follies - 2009
- NFL New Year's Mis-tackular - 2009
- NFL Holiday Spectacular - 2011
(Note: Titles in this list are licensed by the NFL.)