Alabama People: Eli Gold
Eli Gold’s voice is one of the most recognizable on radio. He’s best known to Alabamians as the voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he has called both football and basketball games since 1988. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he knew he wanted to be a sports broadcaster at an early age, and got a job selling peanuts at Madison Square Garden so he could be around the great sportscasters of the day. He’s announced NASCAR races and games for the Arena Football League, the NFL and the UAB Blazers. He is the author of several books, including From Peanuts to the Pressbox. He and his wife Claudette live in Birmingham, and their daughter, Elise, is a UA graduate. We caught up with Eli at the beginning of the 2018 football season. – Lenore Vickrey
In 2009, you said that the Alabama broadcasting job is the best in the business. After 30 years, do you still feel that way?
Oh, gosh, yes. It’s a spectacular position. This is a job that brings with it a lot of responsibility and scrutiny. I cradle this job in my hands like a rare piece of crystal. I don’t want to drop it, I don’t want to mess with it or cause it any harm or disrepair. You want to work for a program where people care, and that’s certainly true of Alabama where the fans are as passionate as you’ll find anywhere.
Do you have the same spotter who helps you?
Yes, Butch Owens has been with me for 30-some-odd years. We use a system of hand signals. Brian Roberts also does that on some occasions, and we have Jimmy Bank, who worked in Major League Baseball for 30 years. This year we have an all-new crew with former quarterback John Parker Wilson as our color man, and sideline reporter Rashad Johnson, who played for Alabama and in the NFL. Chris Stewart, who had been our sideline reporter, has been promoted to host of the show in the broadcast booth.
What’s a typical game day like for you?
It’s the same format for away games and home games. The variable is the time of the game. If it’s an early game at 11, we get to the stadium by 7 and are on the air at 8. If it’s a night game at 8, we’re on the air at 5. We get to the stadium no later than 3 or 3:30. We’ll sleep in as a crew, have lunch somewhere, get a decent meal, because that has to last us until 2 the next morning! Then we all get our routines going. After about 40 minutes on the air, I go downstairs and Coach Saban and I tape our pregame show about two hours before kickoff. That’s his deal. All the other coaches did it on Friday, but Coach Saban says this is the most important interview of the week because it’s the one that immediately precedes the game. He wants to give listeners the latest information. In Tuscaloosa, we do this in his private dressing area. On the road, I always search for a (quiet) area to do the show, not within earshot of the players.
What’s Coach Saban like to work with?
He’s all about preparing for the football game. He never stops. With other coaches, you could sit down and shoot the breeze with them for 30 or 40 minutes. He’s none of that. Now that said, if I need to talk to him I have full access. He’s a wonderful guy, he and Miss Terry. There are things he does, things for others, that he doesn’t want people to know. He doesn’t like to talk about it because that’s not why he does it.
Do you know (Auburn announcer) Rod Bramlett?
Yes, Rod and I are good friends, we talk a good bit. When he got the job, I was the first guy to call and congratulate him. His color man, Stan White, is my insurance man. Jim Fyffe (former AU announcer) and I were dear friends. We’d ride to the games together from Montgomery.
You’ve recounted your top 5 favorite calls for al.com. Your top call was the final play of the Georgia game for the national championship. That was fun to watch.
I had to eliminate some to get it down to five. I’ve heard from so many fans who agree wholeheartedly. Now will something like that happen this year? Who expected the end of the game against Georgia would be like that? That was remarkable.
You have part interest in Nino’s Restaurant in Pelham. What’s the best thing on the menu?
I personally love our seafood dishes, the Salmon Milano, the Seafood Primavera. Our pizza is to die for. Our calzones are wonderful. I like to go by and grab a chair and sit down with customers. I don’t get to go there as often this time of year because of football.