The college football season has yet to begin but already Eli Gold is a big winner. The longtime radio voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide will be returning to the booth after missing all of last year with stage 3 esophageal cancer.
Gold will make his regular-season debut on Sept. 2 when Alabama hosts Middle Tennessee. It has been a long road to recovery for the 69-year-old who has been broadcasting Crimson Tide football since 1989. Recently, Awful Announcing spoke with Gold to discuss his comeback.
Awful Announcing: How eager are you to call the season opener?
Eli Gold: “I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m going to be a bag of nerves, I’m sure. But I’ll get over it very quickly. I’m ready. It’s just been a while since I’ve done a game. These two scrimmages are going to be vitally important to me as far as getting my timing down and getting back into the overall swing of things.”
How hard was it sitting out last year?
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years in a row, and then all of a sudden you’re not doing the games. It was very difficult. And I was very, very sick. My family didn’t let me know how sick I was. There were times when the doctors told them that I might not make it through the night. And as it turned out, I did make it through the night. I didn’t like listening to the games because I should have been there. I didn’t like watching the games because I should have been there. It was totally new. “
Praise the Lord and Roll Tide! My friend and co-worker Eli Gold just rang the bell completing his cancer treatment! pic.twitter.com/JhTdc5VHJ7— Tom Stipe (@TomStipe_RTR) April 21, 2023
When did you first notice something was wrong?
“It was March 2022. I went to bed one night and I was fine, woke up the next morning and my legs didn’t work. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get out of bed. I walked into the bedroom the night before. I had no idea what was going on. I thought it was some kind of an orthopedic issue. I was taking medicines and steroids but (the doctors) couldn’t tell me what was wrong for seven months because all the steroids were really masking what was wrong with me.
“Finally, in December, I got a horrible, debilitating case of the hiccups. I would hiccup so fast, so hard, with no break, I couldn’t even catch my breath. It was absolutely terrible. They did tests to find out where these hiccups were coming from. And those tests found a growth in my esophagus which was cancerous. That was Dec. 23. So, two days before Christmas, they told me I had cancer.”
When you hear the word cancer what goes through your mind?
“I was relieved because I knew what we were treating at that point. And then we can go about doing it. It was a hell of a mess, man. I don’t mind telling you. I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been healthy all my life.”
When did you find out you were cancer-free?
“It was April of this year. I had finished a regimen of 18 weeks worth of chemotherapy, and I went and had a PET scan. I saw the doctor. She came in there. I sat with my wife and our daughter. (The doctor) said, ‘I’m sure you’re waiting to know how everything is.’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ And she goes, ‘There’s not a trace of cancer left in your system. Everything is wonderful.'”
What was your immediate reaction?
“We all exhaled and thanked God out loud, literally. We pumped our hands in the air. That was the relief. I don’t get many headaches. But I got a headache later that afternoon because of the pressure that I had in me that kind of came out. We called a few people, family, and friends, and then we came home. I think we celebrated with a Chinese dinner.”
Did you have to do physical rehab, and how’s your ability to walk now?
“Yes. I go to physical therapy three days a week still. That’s something I’ve worked on from the get-go. I started in that wheelchair, then a walker, and then a rollator. Then I graduated to a cane. Right now, I don’t use anything when I’m here in the house. Yesterday, I took my cane to practice but I don’t think I used it much. I drag it along just because if I need it, it’s there. I’ve made great progress.”
While you were going through treatment did you hear from Nick Saban?
“Oh, sure. I heard from the coach. I heard from his wife. I heard from our athletic director. I got hundreds, if not thousands, of cards and letters from Bama fans and listeners. I heard from so many of my cohorts around the country who just texted me to wish me the best.”
Is there anyone you were surprised to hear from?
“Well, a lot of people. Charles Barkley reached out to me through the university’s sports information office. Obviously, he went to Auburn and I work for Alabama. But that doesn’t matter. I heard from a lot of different guys like Kevin Harlan and Sean McDonough. The list goes on and on.”
Let’s break some news. Who’s going to be the starting quarterback?
“If I knew something, I’ll tell you. I think the coach is still looking for that guy to step up and take control. I’m sure (Saban) has ideas, but he has not confided in me.”
What are realistic expectations for Alabama this year?
“I don’t see why they can’t win every time they go out there. They’ve got a lot of very talented young men. The running back room is strong. Today (at practice), the tight ends played well. The defense is good. I don’t see why they won’t be able to excel as they have in years past.”