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November 09, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI

What: "Merrill Reese: 'It's Gooooood!' "

Author: Merrill Reese with Mark Eckel

Price: $22.95, Sports Publishing Inc.

Maybe the best, most honest thing about the Philadelphia Eagles these days is the rumbling radio voice of play-by-play man Merrill Reese, who can make bad football sound wonderfully engaging.

And more often than not, over the past two decades of Rich Kotite and Mike Mamula and Marion Campbell, Reese has sparkled while the Eagles have been baaaaaaaad!

But what has always made Reese more important than your usual home-radio shill is the good-natured character and the clarity of his calls--he does not just describe the game, he lives it, bad or good, and every sway and topple blasts through the radio speaker.

This book has the same sound, and friendly, optimistic tone, as his broadcasts.

A disclosure: Both Reese and Mark Eckel, his co-writer, are friends of mine from my days as an Eagle writer. But that should also be a recommendation--Reese is my friend because he is what he sounds like: loyal, honest and smart. (His one anecdote about me is slightly less than gushing. I said he was smart.)

The book traces his youth as an Eagle and Big Five college basketball and football fan, to his rise through local radio to finally getting his "dream job" in 1977 as the Eagle play-by-play man in a sad way--the end-of-season suicide of the previous play-by-play man.

From there, we get poignant looks at the big and little Eagle figures of the times: a portrait of the arrogant Ricky Watters that is devastating simply because Reese does it in such a nice way; a hilarious look at the spacey "Starship 12," Reese's take on Randall Cunningham; a warm glance at the edgy Dick Vermeil; and interesting looks at Buddy Ryan, Ron Jaworski and Jerome Brown.

Read this book the way I did. It's a long, colorful broadcast, beamed to you straight from Reese's heart, and better than the football being played at Veterans Stadium pretty much any time this decade.

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