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The last time Alabama opened a football season without Eli Gold calling the play-by-play throughout the state and surrounding areas, it was 1987 and the Crimson Tide and Coach Bill Curry beat Southern Mississippi, 38-6.
Five head coaches, seven national championships, 11 Southeastern Conference championships and 34 seasons later, and Eli Gold will not be at the microphone on Sept. 3 when the No. 1 Crimson Tide hosts Utah State at 7:30 p.m. eastern on the SEC Network.
Gold, 68, will miss at least the early part of the season for health reasons following complications from a bout with COVID-19 and two shoulder replacement surgeries over the last two years.
A treasured, iconic voice of the Crimson Tide since 1988 and NASCAR from 1982-2016, Gold is synonymous with the state of Alabama and hopes to be back this season.
“Eli has done a fantastic job being the voice of our iconic brand at the University of Alabama for a long time,” Alabama football coach Nick Saban said when the news was announced early this month. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, and we certainly hope that he has a speedy recovery.”
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Gold has done Saban’s weekly coaches’ show during football season since Saban’s arrival in 2007, after previous season with other coaches.
“He’s a good friend,” Saban said. “And he’s been a great ambassador for the University of Alabama. We appreciate all he’s done more than you know.”
Replacing Gold for the time being, will be someone who grew up listening to him do the sports on Birmingham television in the 1980s – Chris Stewart. He has been the voice of Alabama basketball and baseball for the last two decades along with various roles in football as well.
Stewart will host Saban’s first coaching show of the season on Thursday night on the Alabama Radio Network.
“It’s obviously bitterweet,” Stewart, 52, said last week. “My first concern is for a friend, a guy I have watched and listened to since I was in elementary school. I’ve listened to him most of my life. And I’ve enjoyed being shoulder to shoulder with him the last two seasons on football.”
Stewart has filled in for Gold previously. Gold’s streak of 409 consecutive Alabama football games ended on Dec. 12, 2020, when he missed the Tide’s 52-3 win at Arkansas after testing positive for COVID-19. He bounced back quickly to do the Tide’s victories over Florida in the SEC Championship Game and over Notre Dame and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff for Saban’s sixth national title at Alabama. Then he did all of the 2021 season.
“I’m just sick for him,” Stewart said. “I feel a tremendous responsibility to fill in for him. I hate the circumstances, but it is very special to have the opportunity.”
Stewart himself has had to overcome major health issues to return to the booth for Alabama.
In April of 2018, Stewart suffered a stroke. He soon returned, but missed all of the 2019 football season after undergoing heart bypass surgery. An infection followed that and he was hospitalized for more than 90 days that fall. For three weeks in August and September of 2019, Stewart was in a coma.
“If I had had that a year later during COVID, I may have died,” he said. “Having my three kids and my wife Christy around me saved my life.”
He returned to broadcasting in 2020.
“It’s going to be different without Eli,” Stewart said.
“Praying for healthy days ahead for our teammate and friend Eli,” said Crimson Tide Sports Network broadcaster Roger Hoover.” He’s the heart and soul of our network, and we cannot wait to have him back.”
One CommentLeave a Reply
Get well soon Eli.