Eli Gold could no more pick a favorite call of Alabama football action than a parent could pick a favorite child.
“That’s impossible to answer,” said the man who’s beginning his 30th season as the radio voice of the Crimson Tide.
There was Terrence Cody blocking the field goal against Tennessee to preserve a victory that would lead to a national championship. There was the T.J. Yeldon run in the last seconds to win the game at LSU and Thomas Rayam’s blocked field goal at Penn State.
But do those top Marcell Dareus’ recovery of a Utah shovel pass against Texas in a national championship game? Or Shaun Alexander running wild against LSU in a night game on the Bayou?
“I’ve been blessed in that … I haven’t screwed them up because those calls live on forever,” Gold said at a fundraising golf tournament Friday at Birmingham’s Highland Golf Course. “Thank God the calls have all been pretty decent.”
The veteran voice said his call of the game-ending action this past January likely tops the list.
“Obviously the call of the Tua (Tagovailoa) to DeVonta Smith touchdown to win the national championship was a good call and it’s still fresh on everyone’s mind.”
Gold compares the job of being the voice of Alabama football to holding a rare piece of crystal in your hands. That’s an appropriate metaphor considering the national championship trophies Alabama has earned on his watch. Those trophies were crystal. Now they’re gold.
“You’ve got to cradle it so very carefully, make sure you don’t drop it, make sure you don’t break it,” he said. “I definitely understood the enormity of the program and what I was involved with. I still do to this day.”
Not that the program was at high tide throughout his time in Tuscaloosa. Gold was there during the lean 17 years between Gene Stalling’s national championship and the first under the current man in charge, Nick Saban.
“What’s going on now is spectacular, but all of us who follow sports know that these kinds of spectacular runs are very rare, whether collegiate or professional,” he said.
Gold’s broadcasting career has had some long tours of duty. He was the primary voice of NASCAR for 41 years before he stepped away from the auto racing track.
“I haven’t had much turnover on my resume, thankfully,” he said. “The hockey jobs that I had would have continued on had I wanted to move from Birmingham. The Nashville Predators, I was doing their games and the new ownership said our announcer now needs to live in Nashville.
“I love Nashville, but I wasn’t going to leave Birmingham and they weren’t going to let me continue doing Alabama football.”
Gold worked a decade with Doug Layton as his color analyst and another 12 years with former Tide quarterback Kenny Stabler. Most recently, he worked nearly a decade with color man Phil Savage, who left the broadcast crew to become general manager of Alliance Phoenix in the Alliance of American Football.
Former sideline reporter Chris Stewart assumes new duties this season as host of the daylong game day broadcast. Rashad Johnson takes Stewart’s slot on the sideline for Tide games and former Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson slides in as the new color man.
Gold has six years remaining on his current contract and has no plans on going anywhere else.
“If I am healthy and I can still do the job, I would hope there would be another contract to follow this one,” he said. “If you can do the job and you have your health – those obviously are the wildcards here. You just never know what tomorrow brings. But if I have my health and I can still do the job, I’m hopeful of continuing as long as the university will have me.”
As he looked back three decades, Gold acknowledged that he never actually applied for the job for which he is so well-known. He said his name kept popping up in newspapers among “those under consideration.”
As a month passed, articles talked about “those on the short list.” Again, Gold’s name remained.
“Eventually, it said, ‘Those coming in for an interview are such and such, such and such and Eli Gold,” the broadcaster recalled. “Well, I hadn’t talked to anybody.”
Gold wound up calling the person in charge of the search and said, “You don’t know me, but my name is Eli Gold and I hear I’m on the list.” He became the basketball voice of the Tide.
After legendary broadcaster John Forney completed his 30th season calling the action on the gridiron, “They handed me the keys to the football booth and we’ve been here ever since.”
Turns out, Wimp Sanderson, the basketball coach at the time, had heard Gold and liked his work.
“He was the one keeping my name alive in the conversation,” he said. “I didn’t even learn that until after the fact.”
Gold was the featured guest of the 20th annual golf tournament for the Housing Authority Birmingham District. The George A. Pegues Memorial Family Self-Sufficiency Tourney raised more than $80,000.
This year’s tournament also featured a three-day golf camp for youths. More than 50 middle school and high school students learned about the game and its tradition.
The event did not include an exhibition of Gold’s golfing prowess. He joked that other golfers would have needed helmets to protect them from his errant shots.
“I’m terrible,” he laughed. “I’m probably the only man on the Earth who can make Charles Barkley look like Jack Nicklaus.”
Gold recounted the one good golf shot he has made in his life, playing in a tournament in North Carolina.
“I guess the golf gods were smiling on me,” he said. “I just must have accidentally done everything correctly. That shot was straight and high and must have gone 350 yards.”
There was one problem: Gold was playing a par 3 127-yard hole. The shot flew over the green, left the golf course, sailed over a woman’s house and bounded down Highway 421 toward Winston-Salem.
“It’s probably still rolling,” he joked. “It was a heckuva shot.”