The folks from MVP Books, a Minnesota-based publisher that is producing a series of NFL team history books, were kind enough to send us a copy of one of their new products, entitled Philadelphia Eagles: The Complete Illustrated History. Written by our man Les Bowen from the Daily News, the title also works as a succinct description -- no need to explain what you should expect to find between the covers.
But the question is whether or not it's worth the money for the diehards who were likely raised on anecdotes about the club's glory days, not to mention have lived through quite a bit of what we now call "history" ourselves. You may even already own a similar product, so what could possibly be so different inside this one? After 192 pages, the answer is you might be surprised.
The very first thing that caught my eye about this book was how vibrant everything was. The glossy paper makes color photos seemingly leap right off the pages, while the old black-and-whites are as vivid as you will ever see. I was really impressed by the quality of many of the pictures that were used from the 30's and 40's.
It's not just photos though. The pages are littered with depictions of memorabilia, including vintage gameday programs going all the way back to the team's first days, trading cards, pennants, patches, pins, ticket stubs, and even comics depicting larger than life stars like Steve Van Buren. The "illustrated" portion of this product alone makes this unique to other printed histories of the Birds.
Of course, it's the story of the franchise as told by Les Bowen. If you're a truly devoted fan, you're no doubt at least familiar with the team's rich tradition.
Bowen delivers a faithful retelling, walking the reader through each decade's important games and milestones, the characters who shaped the team and their backgrounds, and the experiences that defined the respective time periods. He often expertly draws on old quotes from players, coaches, and reporters to give definition to his accounts of the events.
And needless to say, there's a hint of that Bowen snark in there as well.
Every several pages, the main story breaks off, replaced by inserts that delve deeper into the lives and roles of Philadelphia's most important footballers. From Bert Bell to Ricky Watters, and Chuck Bednarik to Jim Johnson, the focus briefly shifts to individuals who were either great or otherwise interesting to the story for one reason or another.
Overall, it creates a nice package that, to my knowledge, has not been replicated. The History of the Eagles DVD is fantastic, when you have time to sit down and kill a couple hours. Ray Didinger's Eagles Encyclopedia is overflowing with information and is a fine keepsake too, but it's not exactly a chronological tale, and simply doesn't match the illustrated aspect of this.
It's always easier to write a glowing review when you get something for free, but I can honestly say Eagles fans can be proud to display this on their coffee table or in their memorabilia room. It's the type of item you don't even have to be a football fan to appreciate just how colorful the pages are, and how fascinating the sport's history can be.
If you collect these sorts of things, Philadelphia Eagles: The Complete Illustrated History comes with a high recommendation. Or if you happen to see this sitting out at a buddy's house, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes flipping through. It's a worthwhile and enjoyable experience.