By GEORGE WILLIS
I can remember listening to the radio while driving my daughter to middle school and cringing at the prospect of what Craig Carton might say that a pre-teenager shouldn’t hear. It was one of those situations where you had to listen but were terrified at any sexual insinuation he might make.
That was much of the attraction to the “Boomer and Carton” show back in the day, never knowing what Carton, the often-irreverent sports radio personality was going to say each morning on WFAN, 660 AM in New York. That all came to sudden halt on Sept. 6, 2017, when FBI agents arrested Carton in his new apartment in Tribeca and charged him with conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud. He was subsequently convicted on Nov. 7, 2018, of using hedge fund money from a ticket-fraud Ponzi scheme to settle gambling debts and other personal expenses. He was sentenced the following April to 42 months in federal prison.
Now comes Carton 2.0 with a chance to have more of an impact than the wise-cracking jock we previously thought we knew. Released in June after serving only one year of his sentence, Carton’s return to credibility begins on Oct. 7 when HBO premieres the documentary, “Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth.” The film presented by HBO Sports and StreetSmartVideo will feature a series of first-person accounts of Carton’s compulsive gambling addiction which led to his demise.
“Craig Carton’s radio persona gained him a public following, while his private struggles lost him everything one casino run at a time,” said Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports. “Many knew Carton, but never knew his secrets, as we learn from Carton himself in this documentary about success, self-destruction, lies and blackjack.”
Directed and produced by Martin Dunn and Marie McGovern, the film uses Carton’s own words to chronicle his journey from living in a multi-million dollar mansion to a top bunk in a crowded prison barracks. Carton has always been an engaging personality and his candor discussing difficult subjects should be captivating. There figures to be expressions of regret. But is this just the first step in a Carton makeover or the beginning of trying to use his adversity to help others headed for similar trouble?
Let’s hope it’s the latter. It seems inevitable Carton, 51, will be back on the airways soon. He is a proven talent with the right connections. Everyone deserves a second chance though not everyone gets them.
Carton will have a platform to speak earnestly about the perils of gambling and gambling addiction in an era where gambling is becoming more accessible and acceptable. Something once done in the dark is now part of everyday conversation. Placing a bet takes just a few clicks on a cell phone.
Sure Carton could go about his life and not speak about the events that landed him in prison. He has served his time and that is his right. But this HBO documentary is an indication he wants to share his message of self-destruction with the world. This shouldn’t end with just one film.