Merrill Reese on Merrill Reese’s greatest calls
So there's a proverbial query that goes something like this:
If you were standing alone in the forest and suddenly heard two people call out to you - your mother and Merrill Reese - whose voice would you respond to first?
Reese. You'd respond to Merrill Reese first.
Reese's rich, instantly recognizable baritone has been a big part of the city's soundtrack for the last 33 years. When you think of the Eagles, you can't help but think of the team's radio play-by-play man; can't help but think of the way his voice jumps an octave as a big play unfolds, his excitement becoming yours:
"45, 40 . . . 35, 30 . . . Westbrook at the 25, 20 . . . 15, 10, FIVE . . . WESTBROOK . . . TOUCHDOWN! Brian Westbrook broke it, he broke it, 71 yards!"
SportsWeek recently caught up with Reese, who singled out some of his favorite - and not-so favorite - calls of his 30-plus-year career.
He also explained what goes through his mind when he and color commentator Mike Quick are in the booth. "When you're doing a radio call, you're painting a picture," Reese said. "You don't have to go 100 miles an hour. You can slow a play down. If it sounds like I'm completely hysterical and I've blown a fuse, I really haven't. I'm reacting, but I'm not screaming to the point where I'm hoarse. You still have to follow every step of the play for the person who's in their car or who doesn't have a TV. You're their eyes."
Here are some of the calls Reese has made over the years that stick in his mind:
Most favorite: Dec. 19, 2010 - "The Miracle at the New Meadowlands." Reese was ecstatic calling DeSean Jackson's game-winning punt return against the Giants, bellowing: "He's going to go! DeSean Jackson . . . And there's no time left! And the Eagles win!"
Reese said he couldn't believe the Giants had punted to Jackson with the game tied, 31-31. "When the ball came to him, it was like seeing [the play] in slow motion. It was beyond belief."
Least favorite: Oct. 9, the Birds' 31-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills, which will forever be known for Reese yelling, "Eagles jump! They jump!" when defensive end Juqua Parker was called for an offside penalty on fourth-and-inches late in the fourth quarter, allowing the Bills to run out the clock. "That call was played all over the world," Reese said, ruefully. "There was so much involved on that play. Mike and I both talked about the fact that [Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick] would try to draw them offsides. I made it clear that he kept calling, but hadn't taken the snap. And then, [Parker] jumps."
Most overrated: Jan. 11, 2004 - Fourth-and-26. Reese said Freddie Mitchell's eye-popping fourth-quarter catch of a Donovan McNabb pass in a playoff win against the Green Bay Packers surprisingly isn't a favorite. "It was a great moment," Reese said, "but as it happened, I wasn't sure that he made the first down. I'm still not sure that he just didn't get a great spot from the referee."
Best of the rest
Jan. 11, 1981. Wilbert Montgomery's 42-yard touchdown run against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, which the Eagles won, 20-7. "That used to be my favorite," Reese said. "As I saw his number disappear into the end zone, I absolutely knew the Eagles were going to the Super Bowl."
Dec. 10, 1995. The Eagles' 20-17 victory over the Cowboys at a bitterly cold Veterans Stadium can be summed up by three words: fourth-and-1. Reese shrieked, "It's Groundhog Day! It's Groundhog Day!" after the Birds' defense twice stopped Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith on - yep - fourth-and-1. Reese said he saw the Bill Murray film "Groundhog Day" with his kids the day before the game.
Dec. 13, 1992. The Birds' 20-17 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks marked the first time Reese ever hollered, "It's gooooood!" when kicker Roger Ruzek nailed a game-winning 44-yard field goal. "It was an unspectacular game that just droned on and on," Reese said. "The kick came in the last seconds of overtime. First time I ever did an elongated, 'goooood.' "