If Craig Carton makes his way back onto the airwaves of WFAN, there will be plenty of awkwardness for listeners to contend with.
There’s no doubt about it — Craig Carton was made for the radio. Even in a time when the influence of sports talk radio is waning — or at the very least changing — Carton was one of the most influential voices in New York sports media. The loudmouth host was a pillar of WFAN‘s programming and he might be back soon.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, Carton was recently released from federal prison in Lewisburg, PA after serving just over a year of a 3.5-year sentence for a ticket-fraud scheme. Marchand is also reporting that there is a chance that Carton finds his way back to his old station.
This would be an awkward reunion for Carton and his co-workers, no doubt, but that makes for great radio fodder. Feuds between Carton and Mike Francesa, who is now semi-retired to a half-hour 6 p.m. time slot, were a regular occurrence before Carton’s fall from grace. The Sports Pope wasn’t kind to Carton on the way out.
Gregg Giannotti, Carton’s replacement on the morning show with Boomer Esiason, represents another awkward encounter waiting to happen. With that said, Giannotti has solid chemistry with Boomer and the pairing has done well in the morning ratings.
Again, those types of awkward encounters can result in good radio and publicity for WFAN. Some controversy could end up being a boon for the station in the long run.
The real awkwardness will come when listeners have to hear Carton talk about the vice — gambling — that ultimately led him to his demise. Sports talk radio and gambling are so intertwined at this point; it’s almost impossible to exist in that space without discussing lines, odds, props, futures, parlays, and everything in between.
Any sports betting talk will be a constant reminder of why we haven’t heard Carton on WFAN since he left the station in 2017. But s ports fans love a good comeback story and Craig Carton believes in redemption.
“I start my sentence Monday, June 17th,” Carton wrote back in June of 2019. “I made mistakes. Mistakes in judgements, decisions and how I was living my life. I was wrong. I have, will and should continue to pay a dear price for those mistakes. I also though, believe in redemption and earning second chances. I am keenly aware that my life doesn’t end when I go to prison, to the contrary it actually begins.”
There’s no denying his talent on the radio, but it’s still unclear how a return would go over with WFAN listeners. At the very least, Carton is going to be an option for the station going forward. He’ll finish out his sentence at home or in a halfway house, opening the door for a possible redemption story.