Eli Gold and Stan White: The Eli and Stan Show
January 4, 2012By John Battle of Sports and Family Magazine
The Eli and Stan Show
Eli Gold and Stan White
By: John Battle and John Yancey
Excitement ran through the kid as he rehearsed from memory every hockey player, their mannerisms and style of play, how they would hold a puck just long enough, then pass to their teammate to systematically move it down the ice towards the goal only to be swept away by an opponent in one movement that seemed to defy gravity.
I’ve got to be quicker with the comments, the kid thought to himself. I get too wrapped up in thefluidity of the game and tonight I would have missed some calls.
As the bus rumbled past snowy banks that seemed to glow from the effects of a full moon, the kid, seated in the back, was alone. He preferred it that way; alone with his thoughts, alone with his ambitions, alone with his self-reliance. His only companion being his imagination and his self-critique of his own broadcasting performances for the Eastern Hockey League, the minor of the minors in hockey. He recalled the telephone conversation he had had with his mother just a few hours before.
“Hi, honey. What are your plans tonight?” she asked the kid. He shifted his weight from one side to the other inside the payphone in attempt to ward off the bitter cold air.
“I’m watching the Rangers and Montreal tonight,” he said.
“Well, how are things in the Garden (Madison Square Garden)?” she asked as she took off her high heels and unbuttoned her coat. She had grabbed some mail from the office with a note inscribed: To the Senior Vice-President of Human Resources; Chase Manhattan Bank.
Great, homework. Not exactly what she wanted to do this particularly bitter cold night.
“Honey, the Gardens?” she asked again.
“No mom, I’m actually in Montreal,” the voice on the other end said. “I grabbed a bus from New York and the game is about to start. I’ll see you in the morning. Bye, love you.”
The sound of the receiver hanging up clicked in her ear. She went to the fridge to find something to warm up and began to open the mail.
The bus arrived in plenty of time for the kid to make it to school by 7AM. Then at 10:01AM the kid packed up his books and headed to WNEW radio station. He bounded up the stairs, saying hello to everyone he passed as he picked up the broom to sweep the floors before getting to some real work. A man dressed in a business suit, complete with vest and suspenders, his vest was unbuttoned that revealed a tie that was too short and too loud in color for the kids taste, caught his attention.
“Hey kid, come here,” the man said as he waived him into an office surrounded by glass and wreaked of cigar smoke, but the kid didn’t mind; the office was a literal museum of sports artifacts.
“I’ve got something for you.” He reached inside the desk drawer and pulled out an envelope.
“Here, this is for your good work. Heard your broadcast the other night, you’re getting better. This is a little something in pay.”
The kid opened the envelope and pulled out a $50.00 gift certificate to Sears’s department store.
The man in the loud tie and opened vest said, “I told you I would take care of you.”
He then scrubbed his chin with his right hand and said, “Listen, I’ve got to put your name on it kid. Will you write it in on the blank space?”
The kid eyed him suspiciously and thought, After all this time you still don’t know my name.
Reaching for a pen on the desk, the kid took the certificate and wrote – Eli Gold.
The halftime speech from Coach Finely could have gone badly. The Berry Buccaneers were being beaten. Soundly beaten by Mt. Brook and their quarterback, Richard Shea, one of their many arch rivals in the Birmingham area, as Berry’s offense was going nowhere fast. They had been in this position before and the half time speech was remembered well into the second half of wind sprints the next practice that caused nausea. But the lesson always took.
Instead, a very calm head football coach looked at his sophomore backup quarterback and said as though he was ordering his next breakfast, “It’s your team.”
The 160 lbs. sophomore simply replied, “Okay.”
Committing together not to give up, the Buccaneers fought their way to within a touchdown win in the fourth quarter. With time running out, the sophomore quarterback ran the option and dove into the end zone as the final seconds ticked off – a game Eli Gold would have loved to broadcast.
Berry had found their quarterback.
His name – Stan White.
Stan White and Eli Gold are not synonymous. They are to sports what a conductor is to an orchestra – creating harmony out of chaos. They explain, comment, explain some more, congratulate, and scorn the game of sports. They make it not only make sense, but electrifying through the airwaves.
Eli Gold particularly for the University of Alabama.
Stan White particularly for the Auburn Tigers.
And you can listen to their new Sports Radio Talk Show every weekday morning on 97.3. The show is called The Zone, or, incredulously imaginative, The Eli and Stan Show.
Sports and Family caught up with this unlikely pair of broadcasting partners at a recent banquet where they were the keynote speakers, and they graciously shared themselves with John Yancey.
Stan White grew up in Bessemer, Al. His family moved to Hoover in 1985 “Strictly for Bob Finley because my parents wanted me to be tutored by Bob Finley - not just the Coach, but the man himself,” Stan relates.
“As you get older, and you think back to people you meet in your lives you say to yourself, 'I hope a little of that guy rubs off on me', because you want to effect people the way he did. He was one of those people who taught me about integrity, character, caring about other people, and being the best person, the best citizen, and husband and father, you could. Being a football player was secondary. That's what I learned from him,” Stan explains.
Eli Gold was born and reared in New York City, and called it home until he was twenty three years old.
“My dad died when I was very young,” Eli explains. “My mom was Senior Vice-President for Chase Manhattan bank in Human Resources. My dad was business manager of a Community Center in Brooklyn that had both a Synagogue and a gymnasium. Regretfully, I didn't know him that well. We had some great times, unfortunately, not enough of them.
“My mom, now passed away six years, was a hard worker, who had to provide for the family. But she let me go and do my thing.
He would call her, you know, before cell phones, and she would say, “Eli, where are you?”
Eli would say, “I'm watching the Rangers and Montreal tonight.”
She would say, “How are things at the Garden?”
“No, actually I am in Montreal,” he would reply.
Eli would get on the Port Authority terminal and ride a bus to Montreal, buy a ticket on the street, and watch the game. Once over, he would ride it back all night to New York, just because he wanted to be there and watch the broadcasters.
“I cared about the game, but in the periphery,” he says. “Growing up in New York was wonderful because you had two hundred radio stations. And in those days, if you wanted to work, but not necessarily get paid, there were all sorts of jobs for you. And I worked at WOR, one of the greatest radio stations in America, and WNEW, who had great broadcasters, and I learned the business. I swept the floor, I cut the wire copy off the machine, I did all the grunt work, but I hung around and met people and networked.”
Someone would say to young Eli, “Don't you have to be in school now?”
Young Eli would reply, “My school is this afternoon.”
“Well, didn't you go to school today?” they would inquire.
“Yes,” Eli would reply, “I went to school this morning.
That school was working for one of the radio stations.
Eli explains that living in New York is altogether different. “My high school, the building, was built to accommodate three thousand people. We had nine thousand two hundred kids in that school. There was three thousand in what would have been my graduating class, had I graduated. As a result, to qualify for state grant money, a student had to be in school for three hours and forty minutes. At three hours and forty one minutes, we would leave.
“When I went, my classes were from 7A.M. Until 10:41 then I would go to work. Other kids would work during the day then go to school from 3 P.M. To 6:41 P.M. It got to the point that there were so many kids nobody took attendance, nobody cared, and I realized I could work all day and the heck with school. It's a great city. I went to all the Broadway shows and all the sporting events I could and the ones I couldn't afford, I sold peanuts for Harry M. Stephens Co. And I would be selling peanuts while starring at the press box. I didn't pay attention to the ball game or the hockey game,” he says.
Commenting on his mom, Eli says, “My mom gave me the leeway to chase my dreams.” That dream went far back to when Eli was in the eighth grade.
Upon graduation, the students were required to write down their 'Future Occupation' for the year book - he wrote - Sports Broadcaster.
Stan Graduated from Auburn with a Radio, Television and Film degree, but it didn't apply to him professionally until after he was through playing in New York with the Giants and was called upon by the head of the Auburn Network to do the color for the pay-for-view game for Auburn.
“It was out of the blue,” he relates.
His reply was, “Sure, I'll do that.”
Though he didn’t know anything about broadcasting, Stan White did know football.
“I must say that my first few broadcasts, even my first year or two, I was really bad,” he admits. “But I knew football and the late Jim Fife. I was able to learn a lot from him as we worked together. As with anything, you get better as time goes by. Eli will probably tell you he is a lot better now than he was his first year.”
“I don't know how I didn't get fired that first year. Listening or watching some of those first tapes are painful,” Eli confesses.
Stan pipes in, “And thirteen years later, still doing it. It is a privilege and an honor to do it for the Alma mater I played for.”
Eli quips, “I guess, obstentially, I could have been fired [his first year in broadcasting] because I was terrible. But what I did is [this]; I dedicated my life to getting these jobs. I quit school; I didn't graduate from high school. I went back eventually and got my high school diploma, but I never went to college because I found out very quickly, in talking to people, that there is not a text book in the world that can teach you how to call a ball game. You have to get out there and do it. My dad had passed away, my mom was working, and I took the opportunity to literally walk right past my school building in New York City, to get on the subway to ride to upteen numbers of jobs I had as a kid to learn the business of broadcasting.
“I didn't do it for the money, though we could have certainly used the money, but I wanted to learn the business. You put up with the ungodly conditions, and put up with all the garbage that they heap upon the kid that is working for free. But I didn't care; I wanted to learn the business. And when I got my first break to do broadcasting of minor league hockey, in the absolute lowest league in hockey, I mean when you got cut from the Eastern Hockey League, you went home. There was nothing else. And I worked, they covered my expenses, and the guy told me he would take care of me at the end of the year.
"At the end of the year, he gave me a $50.00 gift certificate to Sears. But I didn't care – my pay was being on the air for eighty hockey games and getting better, hopefully, as I went. So, there were times when you had to dig down deep and say, 'I don't care if I am riding a bus for fourteen hours to traveling from the Carolinas to the middle of New York, I didn't care if I stayed in a flea bag hotel, this was the first step towards doing what I wanted to do. You have to have the tenacity, the stick-to-it-ifness, and if you are not strong enough, then you won't make it. A buddy of mine, Stan well knows, is one of the best umpires in major league baseball. He worked the minor leagues and roomed with three other guys in flea bag motels, driving from city to city, and working for $186.00 bucks a week. Once you know what you want to do, you have to work hard to get it. There were times I wasn't good, I didn't know what I was doing, but you learn, and hopefully you get better, and I am very lucky to be where I am today.”
Stan picked up the conversation; “I played four years in the NFL, just long enough to get a pension – I was not going to be a Troy Aikman. I wasn't going to be Joe Montana or Dan Merino, either. I knew that [football] was not a lifelong career. I did it, saved as much money as I could, but it lead to other things as both Eli and I own other businesses outside of broadcasting, and it has helped me to be a better business owner. Getting into the radio business, [something] I never imagined thirteen years ago, but it is something I really, really enjoy. I work at it every day. If you are not working at it, you are not respecting the job.”
“I guess I love sports,” Eli says. “I love to travel, [especially] with my family when we used to go places. Even the mundane stuff like checking into a hotel, 'Hey, that's pretty cool'. It's a good way to see sporting events, travel the world on somebody else's ticket, and when you are done, the guy hands you a check. I guess those are the basics that turned me on originally, but I just love sports. I love the excitement of being at a live event. I couldn't tell you in detail what I did when I was six years old, but I can tell you the details about walking into Yankee Stadium the very first time that I was six years old. That stuff just turns me on.”
In self-description, Stan says after mulling it over and almost fumbling at the goal line, that “We're [referring to his on-air partner, Eli] really pretty simple people. You can have a lot of titles - a business owner, an ex-quarterback, radio talk show co-host, whatever title you have - the most I am most fond of and the most important is Daddy. I am Daddy to two little boys, and every day that I go home that is the most important title.”
Eli explains his philosophy of success as “...you had better think outside the box to the degree that you give yourself the best odds possible to succeed. And if that means doing the grunt work, or riding a bus, or working for free, because you don't want to be the guy at fifty or sixty or seventy, who are kicking themselves, saying, 'I wish I had tried that, I think I could have done it'. You make it work, and you give yourself the best odds to succeed any way you can.”
The conversation turned to balancing work and family.
“I don't balance it,” Eli quickly responds. “Over the years, family has regretfully taken a back seat, in some regards. My wife, Claudette, loves sports; she has been with me for many years to every single NASCAR race. She has gone to every Bama game, barring one or two occasions when our daughter had an issue she had to take care of. She has gone to many hockey games with me to Nashville and other road trips. You have to have at least an understanding spouse, if not necessarily a cooperative one. I am lucky that I have got a lady who is both. You get paid for, what a friend of mine calls 'The hassle factor'. There are nights when you are sitting in some god forsaken hotel room in Portland, Oregon, missing your daughters dance recital, and you feel about [he puts two fingers close together] that big. But this is the life that I have chosen. It is the life my wife married into, as I was already traveling some two hundred days a year when Claudette and I got married, thirty four years ago.
“So, she knew what she was getting into. There are a lot of things you have to deal with. Such as there are things my daughter can't do because she is Eli Gold's daughter. And she says, 'Dad, that's not fair'. And I tell her you are exactly right, ‘It's not fair, but unfortunately, it is the way it is.”
Continuing, he adds, “But we [Stan and himself] are not millionaires, well, maybe Stan is, but we don't want for anything per se, though I have missed eighteen Thanksgivings in a row doing ballgames. I have a Christmas [day] NFL game this year. Would I like to be home on Christmas day? Yes, but you adjust. I don't say no to assignments, so it is not an easy balance, but the family understands and off I go.”
As to what sports has taught them in life, Stan says, “Adversity, endurance more than anything. If you are around sports long enough, you are going to lose. The best players, whether they [are] hockey, football, baseball [players], whatever, you are going to lose. It's how you handle that adversity. How you pick yourself back up, is what sports has taught me. No one is going to feel sorry for you. I was on some pretty average teams in college, and I was on a great team. When on that below average team, I [being the quarterback at Auburn] was the scape goat. But that next year when we went undefeated, I was the hero.”
Continuing, Stan says, “As I listened to Eli talking, and I use a lot of acronyms, maybe because I'm too dumb to think of anything else, but one thing I see in the nineteen to twenty year-old and younger, and the acronym I like to use is EARN it.
It means E = Educate yourself to whatever you are doing, whatever career you are in, because if you don't learn you won't go far. A = Attitude; the attitude you have when you go to work and putting it all on the line. R = Respect; respect the title, respect the job you are doing. N= Do It NOW; don't put it off. The kids [today] seem to have an elitist attitude where they can take whether than earn what they have. I try to emphasize to EARN it; don't like it if it is given to you. Earning something is more satisfying.”
Eli chimes in, “I came down here [to the South] with in mind that I was no going to be the ugly New Yorker who knew everything. I realized very quickly that when push came to shove, to whatever the issue might have been, I was on somebody else's turf, and I was not gonna say, 'Look, this is how we did it in New York, and this is how it has to be done.'’ If somebody has to give, I always gave. I always backed off.”
Then a month or two later, Eli began to make suggestions as to what worked in New York at other positions. He was very passive in his dealings with people, but he loved it in Birmingham in the late 1970's.
“There was no rush traffic, there was rush minutes,” he explains. “We had no traffic. In New York, I didn't have a car – I didn't even have a driver’s license until I was twenty-four. People here [in Birmingham] would nod at you and say 'Good morning'. The only time people in New York nod at you was to let you know that a mugger was closing in on you from the rear. I had just enough of that. Down here there were trees, open spaces, and an easy pace.”
Summing up his life, he says, “Eli Gold is a nice guy who loves life and has been blessed to do what he has always wanted to do; a guy with a big mouth who has been able to chase a dream and realize that dream.”
Eli concludes by saying his favorite sport might be hockey; “It is how I got my start,” he says. “I was a season ticket holder; I still love the National Hockey League and I have the Center Ice Package on TV. That doesn't mean I don't love the Alabama games, I do. There is a difference there. I am emotionally tied to the Alabama Crimson Tide. I don't particular care who wins a race, or an NFL game, or a hockey match, and for me I love to sit down and watch a hockey game, but...it's an impossible question to answer without ticking somebody off, but I wouldn't trade anything for hockey.”
As to his most memorable broadcast, Eli says that, “From a strict game standpoint [it] was the Alabama National Championship wins in '92 and again in 2009. There were so few of us in America who work for Division I football teams, and fewer still who work for a team good enough to get to a national title, and fewer still who are broadcasting for the winning team, and I have done that twice. There is probably nothing that will usurp those top two positions. However, for me personally, sports results notwithstanding, doing my first game ever in Madison Square Garden, a building in which I sold peanuts as a kid. For me, it is still the Mecca of sports arenas in this world. And doing a broadcast from the press-box that as a kid I used to stare at praying to the Good Lord that one day I could get into that press-box.
“And as a NASCAR fan, doing my first Daytona 500 back in 1977 legitimized the fact that I was there. It's one thing to be hired and doing some of the smaller races, [but] doing my first Daytona 500 was like a driver qualifying for his first Daytona 500 or Indy 500. So those two events as special moments stand out way above the others. But the two Bama National Title games are at the top of the list."
After forty five minutes and “nearly talked out” (their words believe it or not) the final topic of conversation concerned their new radio show.
Eli responds first.
“As the name denotes, it is a talk show. But it's a talk show with a responsible bent to it. It's not a talk show where nuts call in yelling and screaming at each other. It's a talk show that accepts phone calls, but doesn't live and die by them. It's a talk show where serious sports talk is what goes on, regardless of the sport, from NASCAR to NFL, to the NBA to hockey, to whatever. While anyone is welcomed to participate, we talk serious, hard sports. We will analyze that game, and talk about players and what their strengths and weaknesses are. We can talk about the NFL because Stan has been there. We can talk about the college game because Stan's been there and I follow it. We can talk about hockey, because I have been there. We can talk about NASCAR because I have been there. We bring a lot to the table, but it is serious sports, yet fun. We are a different style; it is a national sounding sport show that happens to originate in the forty first market in America.”
“You stole [the line] from me,” Stan says to Eli. “When we sat down around the table and said what do we want, how are we going to be different, while at the same time be a nationally sounding sports talk show that happens to originate in the heart of South Eastern Conference football territory. And we both looked at each other and said, yes, that is how we can be different.”
Eli breaks in. “I have been around football, both at the collegiate and professional level and when the quarterback audibles, I may know something of what he is saying, and can discuss that, but Stan knows why he saying what he is. We bring that mix to the table.”
“This guy [Eli Gold],” Stan says, “has got a Rolodex that' as good as anybody I've ever seen. We have had some fantastic guests. I deal with more ball players, ex-players, but when we have a guy [Eli Gold] who can make a phone call and in ten seconds get a Verne Lundquist on, or a Jerry Lane, who is the umpire behind the plate for the seventh game of the World Series, he has got a pretty good connection. [And] we have interviewed Sugar Ray Leonard.”
Joe Morgan may have given them their biggest compliment when after an interview with Stan and Eli, he said, “You know guys, this didn't seem like an interview, it seemed like a conversation.”
As an addendum, Eli says, “We do not allow cursing and screaming by callers, nor by us. We laid down that as a ground rule – if you don't like it, there is a place you can go to get that. We will not accept it.”
The station is 97.3 and the show is called “The Zone”.
Or, simply, The Eli and Stan Show.
Photography courtesy of Eli Gold and Stan White
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