HBO’s upcoming documentary about the fall of former WFAN star Craig Carton may end up serving as the prologue to his resurgence.
The final scene of “Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth,” which was screened by NJ Advance Media on Wednesday, informs the viewer Carton has “negotiated a radio comeback” and “vows to be as outrageous as ever on air.”
The documentary offers no specifics, and the fact it closes on a text screen suggests more information could come by the time the documentary debuts on Oct. 7. But the limited reveal indicates Carton’s return to WFAN, presumably to save its flagging afternoon drive program, could be right around the corner.
Carton, whose career and life fell apart when he was arrested on federal fraud charges precipitated by an out-of-control gambling addiction in Sept. 2017, has also drawn interest from Philadelphia sports talk station 97.5 The Fanatic, according to The New York Post. But it’s hard to imagine WFAN – especially with Carton confidant Chris Oliviero back at the helm – letting him slip away.
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The educated speculation: The ‘FAN would pair Carton with a new co-host – many have speculated a former professional athlete – in afternoon drive after Joe Benigno’s retirement, with Maggie Gray and Evan Roberts on the midday show. Carton is not expected to reunite with former morning show co-host Boomer Esiason, who is still rolling along with new partner Gregg Giannotti while WFAN has fell behind Michael Kay and ESPN Radio New York in drivetime.
Carton, 51, resigned from WFAN shortly after his arrest. He convicted for his role in a Ponzi-like ticket brokering scheme in November 2018 after misappropriating investment funds to pay off gambling debts. Carton was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in federal prison in April 2019 and was released in June 2020 on good behavior.
The 76-minute documentary is extremely raw and powerful, spending its early minutes focusing on Carton’s career and the success of “Boomer and Carton” before his off-air issues tore it all apart.
“He ruined what we all had,” Esiason says in the documentary.
Carton claims he was given $30 million by others to bet on blackjack, his vice of choice, during his spiral. He details how he hid the addiction from Esiason, his wife Kim and many others around him, including former Gov. Chris Christie, who he met during his days at New Jersey 101.5 and developed a close friendship with.
Christie, who is also interviewed in the documentary, said he pressed Carton several times on whether he needed help with his gambling, but Carton denied it each time.
Carton says he considered committing suicide about a month before he was arrested – an account confirmed by his former 101.5 producer, Chabod Williams – and nearly jumped off a ski lift during a vacation in British Columbia. He also discusses being sexually assaulted as a child, and how that trauma has impacted the rest of his life – a revelation he first made prior to his sentencing.
The documentary also discusses the strain on the relationship between Carton and Esiason more than any other media account to date; both men confirm they had a falling-out after Carton’s arrest, but have since rebuilt their relationship and are in “a very good place now.”
There is no mention of Carton nemesis Mike Francesa in the documentary. Rutgers does make a brief appearance, as Carton remarks that Don Imus’ racist comments about the Scarlet Knights’ women’s basketball team in 2007 changed his career by opening the door for him at WFAN.
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James Kratch may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.