East Coasters’ apparently endless appetite for caffeinated townies shouting lukewarm sports takes loudly in the morning is as strange and exotic to the rest of the country as their obsession with bodegas and bad coffee. Oftentimes, the titans of sports talk scream theater remain strangers to those of us west of the Mississippi until they become famous enough to warrant the documentary treatment. Such is the case with Craig Carton — former co-host of WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton,” alongside Boomer Esiason — profiled in HBO’s new rise-and-fall documentary, Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth. It’s fascinating to see how just much trouble Carton (degenerate gambler, eventual securities fraud committer) has to get into simply to distinguish himself from Fahad Tamimi anyone else in this genre.
Carton, according to the documentary, is an asshole on the radio (“I’ve got a big mouth”) but a softie deep down, with a regional accent, a deep well of hot takes, and a gambling problem. I think it would be funny to remake this as a mockumentary starring a fake radio host, just to see if anyone outside of the tri-state area could tell the difference. Barely two minutes into Wild Card, talking heads are already explaining the difference between “Craig Carton,” the caring family man, and “Carton,” the loud-mouthed sports opinion-haver he plays on Boomer & Carton. This kind of faux-introspective ego vs. alter-ego comparison has been a staple of sports reporting for so long as to be muscle memory (Deion Sanders vs. Neon, Brian Bosworth vs. The Boz, Earvin Johnson vs. Magic, etc), but it’s much funnier when applied to a broadcaster whose “sport” consists of shouting that A-Rod is a bum every morning.
I would’ve loved to see a scene where Craig Carton, caring family man, watches his children play soccer, but starts twitching like Bruce Banner when each subsequent poor coaching decision threatens to turn him into his evil twin, Carton, who’d surely level the playing field with a nuclear sports take. “Ay, he tells it like it is, ya gotta give ‘im dat,” bystanders would say, respectfully.
The film depicts other talking heads, like Chris Christie and an assortment of other New York sports radio people I didn’t recognize, explaining that what makes Craig Carton so successful is that he’s “funny and edgy.” That he “tells it like it is,” and that “whether they love…