Generational Talent
As the voice of the Philadelphia Eagles for nearly 50 years, legendary play-by-play broadcaster Merrill Reese has “no intention of stopping.”
by Matt Cosentino

For millions of football fans in the Delaware Valley, there has only ever been one “voice of the Philadelphia Eagles”: Merrill Reese. Kids still imitate his calls as they practice in the backyard and imagine scoring the game-winning touchdown for the Birds. Adults rely on his passionate recounting of the action whenever they’re stuck in the car on a Sunday afternoon, or might even turn down the television volume and listen to the WIP broadcast while they’re enjoying the game in their living room.

Reese once dreamed of playing for the team he idolized before realizing he was destined for the broadcast booth. Now in his 47th season as the team’s play-by-play man, he has the longest current tenure with one team in the entire National Football League. He spoke with us about his legendary career, nerves, and how he prepares for gamedays.
You’re the longest-tenured play-by-play man in the NFL. Is that a source of pride for you?

I honestly don’t think about it, believe it or not. It’s not something that ever enters my mind. Each season is exciting, and I have no intention of stopping. I’ll do this as long as I possibly can. The 47 doesn’t mean a big deal to me, only in the fact that my memory bank is filled with more and more information and memories and great moments. But in terms of being the longest-tenured announcer in the NFL, it’s talked about a lot by other people, but it doesn’t mean anything to me.
I understand that radio was an important part of your childhood. Did you know as a kid that this is what you wanted to do?
Well, broadcasting—radio and television both. I did as a little boy listen to the radio a lot. I could sit there and listen to a Phillies doubleheader when I was still in my single digits. I always loved sports: I loved playing sports, I loved going to games. As a little boy, I also did some television commercials, because my mother, who was a kindergarten teacher, had a little bit of a show business flair, and she got my sister and I involved very early. A lot of television commercials were live in those days, so I would get called in to do a commercial.

That kind of gave me the background, but in those days my dream wasn’t to be up in the booth; my dream was to be the Eagles quarterback or to hit the home run that decided the World Series or to make the foul shot that won an NCAA title. I grew up as a kid who loved sports more than anything else. But when you realize that at 5'8" and 140 pounds, you’re not going to be quarterbacking the Eagles; you better find something else. I also remember as a kid going to Eagles games at Franklin Field and looking up to the broadcast booth and seeing Bill Campbell up there between plays. I would often take my binoculars and look at Bill Campbell and say, “That’s where I want to be some day.” So that was a dream from an early-enough age, and in fact, in my high school yearbook it says: “Wants to be a play-by-play sportscaster.”
Do you still get nervous today before games?
Absolutely, every gameday. I’ve studied and prepared all week, and it’s like going into a final exam in college, when your grade depends on it. Except, instead of a professor reading your blue book, it’s millions of people listening to you and you want to be at your best. You’ve memorized numbers and you’ve prepared notes, and you’re really consumed with everything about that game. So I wake up very nervous on the day of a game, and I can feel the tension build as the morning goes on.
I’ve heard you talk about your wife, Cindy, many times, who has been your support system for so long.
Nobody could have a more loving and supportive wife, and she’s accomplished in her own right with a doctorate in education. She walks around with flash cards to help me prepare for games. If we’re playing the Giants, she’ll yell out, “26,” and I’ll say, “Saquon Barkley.” We do that all the time.
Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life, October 2023.