Hall of a duet: Voice of the fans & The Ax­e­man

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Bob Grotz Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Mer­rill Reese is the sound the Ea­gles make on ra­dio. From the sig­na­ture calls of “25, 20, 15, 10, touch­down” to “it’s gooooooood!,” he’s as much a part of the or­ga­ni­za­tional brand as “E-A-G-L-E-S, Ea­gles!”

Call­ing him the Voice of the Ea­gles might be an un­der­state­ment.

“He’s the Voice of Philadel­phia,” Ea­gles re­ceiv­ing great Harold Carmichael said. “I don’t think there’s any­body in this city that doesn’t know his voice from Ea­gles games, com­mer­cials and ev­ery­thing. And Mer­rill has al­ways been for the Philadel­phia fan. He’s a voice for the fans.”

Reese, the play-by-play man in his 40th year, and lineback­ing great Jeremiah Trot­ter will be in­ducted into the Ea­gles Hall of Fame Mon­day night at half­time of the game with the Green Bay Pack­ers at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field.

For­give the older gen­er­a­tion if we choke up. Reese in par­tic­u­lar is an in­sti­tu­tion, not some Rocky cre­ation. Can we lose the statue and sub­sti­tute the equally ap­proach­able Reese?

“There are a lot of things that have changed in 40 years,” said Mike Quick, an­other epic Ea­gles wide re­ceiver, who works as an­a­lyst with Reese on the WIP game broad­casts. “But the one thing that has been con­sis­tent here is Mer­rill Reese. Ev­ery year, ev­ery game, he’s con­sis­tent. So I don’t think there’s a true Hall of Fame for the Ea­gles if he’s not a part of it. That’s just the re­al­ity of it.”

Reese and Trot­ter, one of the most fiery and fear­less play­ers to suit up for the Ea­gles, are grate­ful to owner Jeffrey Lurie for mak­ing them part of the distin­guished hall, and to the fans.

“Week in and week out for us, they were cheer­ing us on through the good days and the bad days,” Trot­ter said. “It’s truly a priv­i­lege to be go­ing in. There’s a lot of peo­ple who have come through this or­ga­ni­za­tion and not got­ten into the Ea­gles’ hall. So I mean I’m in some good com­pany. “It’s an honor.” What Reese con­trib­utes to the Ea­gles goes be­yond what you hear over the air­waves. A per­fect ex­am­ple is the voiceovers he does for spe­cial teams.

What Ea­gles play­ers call “Satur­day Night Fight Night” be­gins with Reese usig his fa­mous voice to in­tro­duce spe­cific play­ers by height, weight, col­lege and task at hand, sort of like you’d hear at a pre­fight in­tro­duc­tion.

Then the op­pos­ing play­ers are men­tioned, fol­lowed by some­thing crafty. Let’s say the Ea­gles are play­ing Houston. Af­ter stat­ing the matchup, Reese would fin­ish with, “Houston, you’ve got a prob­lem!”

The play­ers are ready to jump through the screen.

“That’s like one of the best things to look for­ward to dur­ing the week, Mer­rill an­nounc­ing the big matchups,” line­backer Bryan Bra­man said. “It def­i­nitely gets you ready to go. It’s fun and for him to do it, I mean, when you think about the Philadel­phia Ea­gles and the games that you watch on Sun­days it’s hard for you not to know who Mer­rill Reese is.”

Ea­gles line­backer Na­jee Goode called fight night “the game be­fore the game.

“You’ve got the mu­sic in the back­ground, the same mu­sic you’ve got at the kick­offs and it’s just kind of, let each fighter come to the ring and boom!,” Goode said. “It’s great. Liv­ing leg­end. And his voice, he bet­ter have in­sur­ance on that thing.”

Reese is the Vince Scully of pro foot­ball. No one has done NFL play-by­play longer. Brad Sham, in his 38th year do­ing so with the Dal­las Cow­boys, is an in­cred­i­bly close friend of Reese in a pro­fes­sion where it’s tough to get to know who the other guys are, as there are just 20 games in a sea­son.

Hope­fully the fans who boo Sham be­cause of the Cow­boys con­nec­tion dur­ing the video trib­ute Mon­day don’t drown out his straight-from-the-heart mes­sage.

“One of the things I said in there was Mer­rill’s recog­ni­tion in the Ea­gles’ Hall of Fame is so fit­ting be­cause so many of his best traits em­body all the best things about Philadel­phia,” Sham said. “Pas­sion, loy­alty, hard work, you could go on and on. I think he’s a great rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the fran­chise. It’s been one of the top joys of my work­ing life to be­come friends with him.”

That’s what we call stick­ing the land­ing. At the risk of sound­ing mushy, I couldn’t have said that bet­ter. Hav­ing had the op­por­tu­nity to work some of Reese’s shows at WBCB Ra­dio (1490 AM) re­minds me of a ‘gotcha’ moment dur­ing a chat with Quick.

“I work with him ev­ery week do­ing the games,” Quick said. “But I’m also a fan of the guy and his work. And it’s a real honor for me to work with him.” Make that a dou­ble. As for Reese, on the other side of, let’s say 70, here’s hop­ing he gets that Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onship ring he wants ev­ery bit as badly as Lurie.

Head coach Doug Ped­er­son vowed to do his best to make that hap­pen.

“Lis­ten, all of us, we’re not get­ting any younger,” Ped­er­son said. “And for 40 years Mer­rill Reese has de­voted his time and he’s ded­i­cated his life to the Philadel­phia Ea­gles. He’s gone through some good times and he’s gone through some bad times. Hope­fully we’re on the right track, in my opin­ion, and hope­fully we can get there sooner than later. Hope­fully we can get there be­fore I re­tire or he re­tires or what­ever.”

Reese and Trot­ter, the most dom­i­nant Ea­gles mid­dle line­backer since Bill Bergey, weren’t sure what they will say to Ea­gles fans. You can bet Ea­gles fans will get a huge thank you from both.

As for Reese, I made a sug­ges­tion. Af­ter giv­ing thanks, he could shift into his play-by-play bari­tone and say some­thing like, “to all of you out there, what can I say about go­ing into the Ea­gles Hall of Fame other than, it’s goooooooooddd!”

Well, you can rule that out. Guess that’s why he’s the Voice of Philadel­phia, the Voice of the Ea­gles, and the Voice of the Ea­gles Fans.

COUR­TESY OF PHILADEL­PHIA EA­GLES

Ea­gles team owner Jeffrey Lurie is flanked by a pair of beloved in­ductees who will en­ter the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Hall of Fame on Mon­day night: lineback­ing great Jeremiah Trot­ter, left, and Mer­rill Reese, the Birds’ iconic playby-play an­nouncer.

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