MRN Announcer Spotlight: Eli Gold

Eli Gold

Eli Gold can be heard on NASCAR and TUDOR United SportsCar broadcasts on MRN.

Get to know Eli Gold - Booth Annoucer/"NASCAR LIVE" Host - in this week's edition of MRN Announcer Spotlight. Gold, who has done sports play-by-play on TV for CBS, NBC, ESPN and TNN, is also the voice of University of Alabama Crimson Tide football. He resides in Birmingham, Ala.

Q: When did you first become interested in broadcasting?

Eli GoldGold: To say that I knew for a fact, I don't really remember. It was just something I always wanted to do. I loved sports. I did catch that broadcasting bug somehow. I also realized that I would never be an athlete of any repute so the next best thing was to broadcast the events and travel the world on somebody else's dime and get paid for it. In all seriousness when I graduated from elementary school we put out a little yearbook and it said future occupation and I wrote down sports broadcaster. As far back as I can remember broadcasting live events is what I wanted to do. I never wanted to be in the studio, an anchor man on TV or anything like that, I wanted to go to the events and be there where it was happening.

Q: What was your first paid job in broadcasting?

Gold: The very first thing I did was minor league hockey out on Long Island. This is a paid assignment in the old Eastern Hockey League. That is the league about which the movie "Slapshot" was made. It was the ultimate bottom rung on the hockey ladder for a player. If you got cut from the EHL there was nowhere to go. It was a bus league and I was deservingly on that lowest rung of broadcasting, I was terrible. I got paid virtually nothing. They paid my expenses and at the end of the year they gave me a $50 gift certificate to Sears. But my real pay was being on the air for 72 games, with pre-and-post season, and learning the craft I had chosen for myself.

Eli GoldQ: What was your first big opportunity in broadcasting?

Gold: My first big opportunity was getting hired by MRN. I was hired in 1975 and I did not start working until May of 1976 for the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was basically an on the air audition. I never had done a race in my life. Jack Arute was running the network then and he said if you do well we'll keep you and if you stink you go home. I guess I fooled them enough to still be here 39 years later. After that I got in two years later I was in the National Hockey League doing the St. Louis Blues so I had worked my way up the hockey ladder. By then I had already done my first Daytona 500 so I was able to affirm in my own mind that I was qualified to be here. Other jobs came in went over the years leading to my football gig with Alabama.

Q: What do you remember about your first broadcast with MRN?

Gold: A couple of things...I do remember the big promotion in May of '76 was whoever led the first lap of the World 600 was to receive the unheard sum of $1,000. That was the thing, 'Who is going to get the $1,000 to lead the first lap?' Also, shortly prior to airtime I was working Turns 1 and 2, Barney (Hall) was in 3 and 4. I don’t remember exactly what happened but I remember the power went out. In those days we weren’t wireless, we were working on hard lines plugged into the wall. Everything went dead and I thought my box had gone out. I told my wife you have to go down to the booth and find out what’s going on and she looked at me like I was nuts. We had never been to a race track. But thankfully the power came back on. I also remember after the race the traffic was rather thick so we all went back to the parking lot and all of use leaning on Barney's car, he had some kind of land yacht in those days, and I asked him, “Do you think they are going to bring me back?” He said, "I think so you did OK and I'm sure you'll be back again." Those are the three elements that I really remember from that first day.

Q: “NASCAR Live” is now in its 31st year. What interview or show stands out to you the most through the years?

Gold: That's a great question. The biggest shows that I remember regretfully were built upon tragedy. The show we did after Davey Allison passed away and the show we did on the Tuesday after Bill (France) Jr. passed away that previous week of the Dover race. We got so many different people on the show from so many different walks of life. One was Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports, talking about negotiating that first TV contract with Bill Jr. and of course talking about Davey and all those memories. I remember those two shows as being the most impactful. They certainly weren’t the most fun. As far as hard news, contributions of our callers and the many, many guests, which was a departure from our format, those two shows stand out in my mind. But there have been many great shows that we did with Dale Earnhardt, Cale (Yarborough) and Bill Elliott...there is just so many of them over the years.

Eli GoldQ: May 17, 2014 was a special day for you when you were inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. What was that day like?

Gold: It was remarkable. It was a spectacular evening. The fact that I was selected...I never look at what I do as being Hall of Fame worthy. The athletes are the Hall of Fame worthy guys. I'm just the conduit between them and the fans. I get to go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and sit at start/finish, or Daytona, or go to the greatest ball games and sit at the 50 yard line seats and do what I love to do and that's describing live sporting events. I don’t consider that Hall of Fame worthy, but all of that said and done, it was a spectacular honor. As I said in my induction speech, I talked about to all the people who hired me over the years when I was far from the favorite for a job. A lot of people took a chance on me and it allowed me to do what I have done in some people’s eyes to be Hall of Fame worthy.

Q: Your restaurant Nino’s is in its sixth year now. How did you get involved in the restaurant business?

Eli GoldGold: There were two things. 1. I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would say to myself, “You know if I woke up and lost my voice or eye sight I would have no income." And I was looking after my family and I said, 'What can I do that will, hopefully, way down the road give me an income stream?' 2. I had always loved going to Mike Ditka's restaurant and all these places that have been operated by athletes or people in the public eye. I said that would be a lot of fun. I found very qualified food service and restaurant people who knew what they were doing. All I knew from a restaurant was how to order off the menu. It's been fun. We put out a great meal. We have done well enough that we are looking for a second location in the Birmingham (Ala.) area. I have a great partner Walter Caron - he's the restaurant guy. He has the knowhow and he runs it.

Be sure to check back every Wednesday for the latest MRN Announcer Spotlight.

Previous MRN Spotlights

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, Eli Gold

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