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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

A sad demise for Craig Carton, a unique and talented radio personality while at WFAN

Craig Carton exits federal court in Manhattan following

Craig Carton exits federal court in Manhattan following a guilty verdict in his securities and wire fraud trial, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. Photo Credit: Louis Lanzano

Craig Carton took a predictable beating on social media Wednesday in the wake of a guilty verdict in his federal trial on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud.

So it goes for a guy whose public persona was bold, brash and bullying, with an oft-stated philosophy that while lying to women and children is acceptable, lying to men is not.

Then he was convicted of plenty of that, in the form of a Ponzi scheme that misled investors in his ticket resale business, with proceeds used to pay gambling debts and pay off earlier investors.

It was the kind of cockamamie plan that would have been fodder for endless mocking on his old WFAN morning show had it happened to someone else in New York sports or media, so having the tables turned on him was fair game.

But the entire, sordid episode is nothing to celebrate or laugh at. It is sad.

The man has four children, and regardless of how much prison time he serves, his finances will be in ruins for years to come.

“I’m going to go home and hug my kids and let my lawyers deal with the rest of it,” he said after the verdict was announced.

When he is free to do so, presumably sometime next decade, might he be employable in sports radio? Perhaps, but who knows where?

WFAN is unlikely ever to touch him again, and ESPN also seems like a non-starter.

The shame of this beyond the personal damage to Carton’s family and financial damage to his victims is that Carton happened to be good at his job.

For 10 years, until he was arrested 14 months ago, he was a big part of New York sports mornings alongside partner Boomer Esiason.

They regularly finished at or near the top of the ratings among men ages 25-54, and while Carton was not to everyone’s taste, he was a talented radio personality.

Then came his arrest two days after Labor Day in 2017, and a week later his resignation. Jerry Recco filled in most of last autumn – and the show finished first again – before Gregg Giannotti was installed as permanent co-host on Jan. 2.

After a sluggish start, the new show is performing capably -- especially if you include digital streaming data -- but it has not yet fully regained the ratings or cachet of the original show.

The Carton episode set off a tumultuous period at the FAN, including the departure and return of Mike Francesa and a two-month leave for Joe Benigno after a sexual harassment suit was filed against the station.

Esiason declined to comment on Carton's conviction Wednesday afternoon, saying he would save his remarks for when he is on the air Thursday morning.

(When Carton resigned, Esaison called him “one of the greatest radio personalities that we’ll have ever seen.”)

Longtime morning show producer Al Dukes also declined to comment.

The station will carry on and Carton, 49, will be left to deal with the fallout from the verdict, and begin to rebuild his life.

Again, it is a personal and professional pity. Carton at various times called me a “clown hack,” a “joke” and a “two-faced liar” on the air, but none of us should take pleasure in any of this.

He came on the New York radio scene in 2007 in the wake of a scandal that drove an iconic radio man, Don Imus, off WFAN, arriving with baggage of his own from his pot-stirring time at a central New Jersey (non-sports) station.

Soon Carton was a part of many of our mornings, and rivaled Francesa as the station’s most electric, web-traffic-generating lightning rod.

All of that seems long ago now.

New York Sports