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An Unfiltered Conversation with Craig Carton

Brandon Contes

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Every morning for ten years, Craig Carton lived his dream by entertaining New York on the number one sports radio station in the country.

But on September 6th, 2017, Carton’s WFAN dream turned to a nightmare when the popular radio host was arrested on charges of wire and securities fraud amid accusations of running a multi-million dollar Ponzi-like scheme. No listener could have anticipated the prior day being the last time Carton would tell New Yorkers to “stay classy.”

One week later, when Carton resigned from WFAN due to legal uncertainty, it was hard to envision a scenario where he’d return to the airwaves anytime soon. For the next two months Carton remained silent but then started to make his comeback by launching a weekly podcast in November. Suppressing all of his energy and desire to create a radio show for eleven weeks was like trying to recork a bottle of champagne. Even with his legal situation far from being resolved, Carton wanted to stay relevant with the public.

Now, back on the air daily, Carton’s new show on the FNTSY Sports Network still features his free-flowing, high-energy personality. Listening and talking to Craig, he recognizes the severity of his situation, but also appears improbably comfortable with the looming trial, refusing to let it get in the way of the day at hand.

Joined by Michelle Serpico and Corey Parson, Carton and Friends, broadcasts live on the FNTSY Sports Network weekdays from 9a-1p ET from Studio 34, located inside Rock & Reilly’s on West 35th Street.

BC: We’ll start with Carton and Friends, what do you think of your first month back hosting a daily show?

CC: I like the fact that I’m doing a show again on a regular basis because I missed doing it for sure. I miss the immediate connection with the hometown audience, the local listener, so that’s been a period of adjustment to where I know we have a lot of people listening, but it’s not the same relationship as far as them being able to interact with me in the same manner. So I miss that for sure, but I do love the fact that I get to come in everyday and do what I do, because for a long time I wasn’t able to.

BC: Did you know Corey and Michelle prior to this?

CC: No, I had actually never met them.

BC: How did you get paired up with them?

CC: When they first sought to bring me in, one of my deals with the company was that I have to pick who was in the room with me and I didn’t want to be alone. Too much of me or too much of anyone isn’t a good thing.

I casually met everyone and watched some of the shows they had here and thought it would be great to have Michelle on the show because she isn’t a sports person. I didn’t want to have a woman in that role who felt the need to prove how much sports she knew, I wanted someone that doesn’t care about sports the way we do, because I felt it would be easier to play off of that.

And I loved Corey’s New York sensibility, plus he looks and sounds different than I do. While I wasn’t going to find a Boomer, I needed someone who would be different than me and I thought that dynamic would be pretty good.

BC: Assembling a successful three-person show isn’t exactly easy. You have a big personality, and you’ll take the show in a lot of unplanned directions, not to mention the audience is of course going to tune in to hear you specifically, yet you’re still trying to introduce additional voices to make the show more interesting and entertaining. How do you develop that on-air chemistry with two other hosts? Is there a conscious effort to tone it down and involve them or do you approach it with the mindset that the audience is tuning in for you and it’s up to them to catch up?

CC: I think it’s more that than anything else, which sounds really selfish and egotistical, but I’m the show. What they bring to the table and do very well, considering we’ve never met or worked together, is they know when to pick their spots.

It can be tough for them to find their own voice because I’m nonstop, but for me, I need to give them that opportunity to chime in, so I’ve created a segment for Michelle where she can lead a story or topic and then it will come back to me to respond to it. I wanted her to be able to introduce those topics. Corey is on the other side of the room where he has his own section and he comes to the table with his perspective, but the show is only going to get better with time. I think today it would be the best show on radio anyway and it will get even better.

BC: How about the difference of doing a local show vs. a national show. You’re now developing topics that aren’t necessarily focused on New York sports.

CC: I still do the same show I did with Boomer at FAN. Obviously I have two different people sitting with me, one’s far better looking for sure and that’s Corey, Michelle is a… ::Laughs:: I’m teasing

Look, I still do the same show. When I open, I’m talking New York, I’m talking Yankees, Mets, whatever it is and I will never stop doing that. Once I get through that, I’m more aware of national stories that I otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of from a talk concept. I want to be sure that if there’s a major or interesting national story that I might not have gotten to on the FAN, I always get to it now. So the mentality of doing the show hasn’t changed, I’m just adding more to it than I otherwise would have.

BC: Did you know what the FNTSY Sports Network was a year ago?

CC: Yes, they came to me for the last five years wanting to work with me from a fantasy and gaming standpoint and I’ve known the owner, Lou, for a longtime, but because I was on the FAN the timing was never right. Then all of a sudden I was affordable ::Laughs::

BC: When you were on WFAN, you didn’t talk much about fantasy sports and you still don’t even though you’re on a channel named the FNTSY Sports Network. Do you think the platform fits what you do?

CC: You’re right, I don’t talk about it and I won’t. There’s been an explosion of fantasy sports interest for sure, but the great thing that Lou, the owner of Sports Grid, saw was you need to entertain people. Some people may have heard of the network because of fantasy, but I’ve brought a lot more attention to the network for sure.

At the end of the day as long as I’m entertaining people, those fantasy listeners will stay and listen because I’m entertaining them and the hope for the network is that all of the new people I bring in will stay for everything else so they can monetize the services and expertise they offer. The Sports Grid concept is to get out of the niche of just fantasy and I clearly do that for them.

BC: Let’s spend a minute on terrestrial radio vs. your current platform…many people listen to a host like Mike Francesa because 660 or 101.9 is on the dial and part of their daily routine. When it comes to regular radio there aren’t many options. If someone is looking for a podcast, or to stream something via an app, they have an endless amount of choices. How do you convince listeners to come to you and tune in consistently?

CC: From a podcast standpoint, people come to you because they want you specifically. Then you hope people will also accidentally find you. The people that want you will listen to you longer than the average radio show because they sought you out, whether that’s me or anybody else.

Listen, I desperately miss being on terrestrial radio. I’m happy to say we’ve been approached by a syndication company so the Tuesday after Memorial Day we’ll be on across the country on terrestrial radio, but obviously I miss being on the FAN for sure. The difference is, like you said, the FAN has a built in audience. There are people that wake up with the station on and they don’t turn it off. It doesn’t matter what’s on, they listen to the FAN, just like people will listen to Z100, HOT 97 or something else. There are people that will never turn the dial. My job is to get people to find FNTSY Sports Network and stay there and so far so good with that.

BC: You mentioned adding a syndication deal for the show. Will part of that include your program airing in New York?

CC: We were approached by a New York radio station and I said no to the deal because I didn’t like it. Out of the gate we won’t be, but there is a lot of interest in me being back on a radio station in New York.

BC: Will the show time change?

CC: It might change, that’s possible, but it would only be an hour difference here or there. We’ll have an announcement within a week or so.

BC: You started a podcast in November when you began to get back behind the microphone. Was the goal at that point to just to have your voice heard or own your own platform or use it as a stepping stone to join a ready-made brand?

CC: I didn’t do anything for two months and I was driving myself crazy. I did the podcast, not knowing who would listen or how many people would download it. It was more medicine for my brain. It gave me the ability to express opinions on some topics. Remember, when you’re doing a podcast you’re doing it alone in a room, there’s no audience while you’re talking. The audience comes after you’ve recorded it. So that was new to me. I had never done that before.

It’s interesting being alone with your thoughts and saying those thoughts out loud. Most people, if you’re alone in your apartment talking to yourself, you’re not saying those words out loud. I was now saying words out loud, recording them and hoping that people would want to hear them so it was very weird. I was blessed that it became very popular pretty quickly, but it was never what I wanted to be doing. I also thought, there are tons of people talking about sports, so I started doing other things.

For me, the goal was to be very calculated about how I came back. So I do a podcast and I get through that. The podcast leads to the deal with Twitch.TV so then I’m doing a video show. Do that well and make sure it goes OK, and that leads to this opportunity with FNTSY Sports Network. It’s been step by step to what I hope is an ultimate return back to what I was doing eight months ago.

BC: With the podcast, did you write things down or rehearse them?

CC: Never, can’t do it.

BC: The reason I ask is it sounded very different from the radio show. Part of it is because, as you said, you’re just sitting there talking to yourself, but it came across as if it was something you were reading. You didn’t sound like yourself the first time I listened to it, and I thought maybe you were being held back by legal restraints and someone was telling you everything needed to planned out or approved.

CC: Sure, no, that wasn’t the case. I didn’t love the podcast. People seemed to like it if you base it on downloads.

Listen, ten years on one radio station is a lot of time, so do I have a core audience that loves me and wants to hear what I have to say? Yes. Thankfully they showed up in droves for that podcast, but I would definitely prefer not to do a podcast. ::Laughs::

BC: So for the two months that you weren’t doing anything, I’m sure it had to drive you crazy listening and reading all of the feedback about your legal situation. There had to be a part of you which wanted to preach your innocence, but beyond that, for someone who is creative and been successful and has done a high profile show every day for the past decade in the #1 media market, all of a sudden it’s gone, and you’re being suppressed and not able to entertain the way you were used to. How frustrating was that for you?

CC: It was extraordinarily difficult to not have that creative outlet. I was a pain in everyone’s ass in my inner-circle, my family. I became really good at wood-working. I can build stuff really well now. I’d be happy to show you some stuff. ::Laughs::

I thought for a minute I was going to be like Harrison Ford and become a word class wood shop guy.

BC: That’s true? You actually took up woodworking?

CC: I’ve contemplated building and selling custom wood stuff.

I was going stir-crazy. Yea I wanted to shout out my innocence and I have a lot that I want to show the world. It was extraordinarily frustrating not to be able to do that. Not having that daily outlet was much tougher than I thought it would be and I missed it dearly.

BC: Recently you had a caller bring up Mike Francesa and it transitioned into you talking about your arrest. I would think that whether you’re innocent, or however confident you are that you’re innocent, it’s almost irrelevant because of what you have looming over you. The fact that you’re able to do a daily show, veer off and talk about the arrest, then get right back into the mode of being an entertainer is impressive to say the least and something that I don’t know if a lot of people can do.

CC: You have to compartmentalize a lot mentally. I have to make sure that I don’t go halfcocked and say things that I shouldn’t be talking about, but I’m never going to shy away from the truth. I’m never going to shy away from exalting my innocence. I can’t get into the details of it of course, but I’m never going to stop preaching that and yea, it’s hard, there’s a very fine line of what can you say, what can’t you say and beyond that, what should you say and what shouldn’t you say.

I have a very serious legal matter that’s still there and although I’m doing my brand of radio…which is irreverent, entertaining and in your face…I have not shied away from talking about these silly New York radio wars and all of that stuff. But I’m also very cognizant of the fact that on October 29th I’m going to be wearing a jacket and tie sitting in a court room where 12 men and women are going to hear facts about my life and have to make a determination on what I did and what I didn’t do and that’s very daunting. I’m uber aware of it of course, and I take it very seriously. It’s extraordinary frustrating that for a guy that makes his living communicating and telling it like it is, I’m not able to do that right now.

BC: Do you think you’re different on-air today than you were a year ago?

CC: Not different, but I think I’m better. I think doing this show is making me better.

BC: I don’t think you sound different, which I think is surprising. The show is obviously different, but your approach hasn’t changed much.

CC: I think the show on FAN is more different than the show I do today. I think if you heard both shows today and didn’t know what was going on, you would point to my show as the show you’ve heard for the last ten years as opposed to the show on the FAN today.

BC: Have you listened to Boomer and Gio?

CC: Sure…yea…

I mean I’m typically taking my kids to school all day everyday ::Laughs::
(referring to Francesa saying he never listened to Boomer and Carton)

I listen, of course, how could I not listen to it. Yes, I listen.

BC: Do you like it?

CC: No! No…

Giannotti was put in a great position for the opportunity and I called him before he started to wish him well. I have no axe to grind with Gregg. He was offered a job, Imus was fired and I was offered a job. It’s a great opportunity and he has the chance now to make the most of it and be the morning guy at the FAN if they’re successful, for a longtime. I don’t root against him, but I think our show was obviously much better.

It’s a very weird, awkward situation for me to listen to it, but I think that show has become two guys talking about sports and that’s not the show I did. That doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, it’s just not the show I did and it’s not the show I would do. If they’re successful then they don’t have anything to worry about and if they’re not successful then I think like any other person in radio…they have something to worry about…not just with me, but with anybody. They have Yankee and Met baseball, the NFL Draft, Odell…they should be number one.

BC: One of the biggest differences of that show is also the biggest similarity…and that’s Boomer. Once you left he took on a stronger leadership role. He went through a few months working with different hosts where he began to focus more on sports and dominate the conversation, quarterbacking a program in a way that he didn’t have to while you were there. Now that he has Gio, he hasn’t yet reverted back to the co-host that he was while it was Boomer and Carton. Have you noticed that?

CC: I think that’s carried over for sure and that’s the awkward part of starting a new show and new relationships. Boomer had to take over a lot of the type A hosting duties of a show, the mechanics of a show. While Gregg can do that very well, he’s a professional at it, that dynamic of the show is still very different and everyone will compare that to what we did and while it’s not a fair comparison, it’s a real comparison. That doesn’t mean they’re doing a bad show, they’re not, the show is good, it’s fine, it will be okay.

I always viewed what Boomer and I did as something special in radio and I take great pride in that. I know this will be viewed as me being cocky and I don’t mean it to be, but if you look at the great morning shows historically, I think you can go Imus, Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, and us…as far as dominant morning radio shows. We were not at the level Howard Stern was at and I’m not making that comparison, but we were a dominant morning show and there was something very special about our relationship and how the audience would react and connect with us and you can’t replicate that. Every station is searching for that. Z100 has it with Elvis Duran, he’s probably the biggest morning show guy in NY now and I thought we were it for a decade, but there is no longer a dominant morning show in New York City. We were the last one and god-willing, I will be the next one.

BC: You were getting back into radio and looking for a platform at the same time FAN was looking to replace you, did you ever just talk to them about returning?

CC: I was not actively looking for a job. I never went to FAN and said hey you know my case, I’m available the next year or two or whatever, I wasn’t actively looking. I was content doing what I was doing, staying somewhat relevant by doing something and keeping my name out there. My fear, the insecurity of what I do for a living is that if I disappear for eight months, or until my trial was over and my case was figured out, that people would forget about me. That’s the insecurity of what we do. It was important for me to do something, just so every now and then, whether it’s saying something on Twitter or doing a show, people would remember oh right…there’s Craig.

BC: Are you confident that this relationship with FNTSY Sports Network can last awhile or is this a temporary stop until you get back to a major terrestrial station?

CC: Listen, I want to be back on a major station, but if that’s through the FNTSY Sports Network, I’m cool with it. I’m very loyal and they were very good to me when a lot of people approached me about doing different things, but they put a piece of paper in front of me with a signature on it so I’m loyal to that.

Other people would approach me with deals that didn’t always follow through. FNTSY actually signed the paper. If we can grow this and get it on terrestrial radio in New York City, that’s great…and if we can’t…we can’t, but the future will determine that. The results of my case will determine that, and I’m very comfortable with the fact that when I’m exonerated I will have opportunities and Sports Grid and FNTSY Sports Network will be the first company that has a shot at that opportunity.

BC: How much do you miss the competitive nature of being on terrestrial radio? Not only the radio wars in terms of the fun you had with Francesa’s show, but also competing with Hot 97? If you were on the air in New York right now you’d also be going up against Sid Rosenberg who took over mornings on WABC with Bernard McGuirk.

CC: Well it wouldn’t be a competition…but I loved it.

One of the things that moved me in radio was I wanted to be the most listened to show at the FAN and the most listened to show in the marketplace. Those are two very different things that we were able to achieve. Not competing, battling and getting involved in that back and forth, which I always thought was fun, yea I miss the hell out of that. That’s why I’ve kind of invoked myself into it a little with Mike and Chris and CMB at the FAN and with that troll…Rosenberg with Don and…what’s his name over there? Michael Kay.

To me, radio is much like being an athlete. The magnifying glass is on you, and everyone has ears and it’s either good or it’s not good and of the ones that are good, which is the best one? I think Michael Kay has not done what he should do when he had the opportunity and when I resigned at FAN, there was a huge opening for a lot of people to come take it and nobody took it.

BC: One of the biggest things I expected to be different with your radio show is, regardless of how confident you are that you’re innocent, the public perception from a large percentage of your listeners is that you have a gambling problem. I would have thought you would make gambling a lesser part of your show than you did in the past, but you went the other way and actually make it a focal point. Do you think you need to work to build your credibility or do you view it as, people are interested in it, so we’re talking about it?

CC: People have an interest in it. Sports wagering is about to be legalized by the United States Supreme Court, (it since has been legalized) being that my listeners are going to be doing it, if I shied away from it as a topic I wouldn’t be keeping it real with the audience or a representative voice of how they live their lives.

I’m obviously very sensitive and aware of what people say about me and the accusations that have been made against me. All I can say is…one of the toughest things is when people make accusations about you that aren’t based on anything factual, it’s very hurtful and not being able to respond to those accusations is even worse.

I will do that in the court of law on October 29th and I look forward to that. I wish the case was tomorrow. I would love to have my legitimate tangible story out there for everybody to see and the way I always viewed it is, when I’m able to tell the whole story and you and the public can see everything, make your determination on who I am then.

There’s a great quote that I put on my Twitter account… “Accusations fit on a bumper sticker; the truth takes longer” and I live by that now. I’m accused of stuff every day of the week, on Twitter, on social media I’m called every name in the book. People make assumptions as to what they think I did and what I’m accused of doing, but no one has heard the entire story. You can accuse all you want, attack me all you want from a social media standpoint, but let’s wait until the whole story comes out and when it does comes out…if you, meaning the people that want to attack me, feel like you have the grounds to keep doing so, then go ahead. My feeling is that once my story is told, everyone will feel very different about me.

 BC: Have you thought about leaving Twitter altogether?

CC: Yea, and for months I didn’t look at it at all. You can drive yourself crazy looking at it. Every so often there are people that I feel cross the line. I can take a joke, but some people cross the line and I have actually found them and called their places of employment. I’ve called their families and everyone of them backed down as soon as I did it because they can’t handle what I deal with on a daily basis.

BC: I’ve seen you respond to some of them, or retweet with a comment and they come right back with ‘I was just kidding Craigy, I’m a big fan and I’m rooting for you,’ but they clearly never expected you to actually respond.

CC: Right, they’ll say I’m a big fan and hoping for the best. I hate Twitter, I hate social media, I hate every aspect of it because it’s like guys with beer muscles. Everyone knows where I live now, everyone knows where I work, if you hate me that much, why are you following me? If I say good morning, there are five guys telling me to go F myself, they wait for me to say something. That mentality, I never understood it. if I hate you I’m not following you because I don’t care what you have to say.

It will be nice to prove all those people wrong.

BC: With your current situation, are you ever concerned about saying something that could get you into more trouble, or hurt your legal situation?

CC: Listen, I don’t talk about my case, other than the overview of I proclaim my innocence and always will. No one is ever going to trick me into talking about it, so I’m not worried about making the mistake of talking about it. I will not get into the specifics of my case, everything else…I don’t see why I wouldn’t talk about anything else.

BC: What about outside your case, with the current climate, radio hosts are often apologizing, you don’t have much of a filter and you might not be trying to offend someone, but it can still happen. Do you try to be conscious about that?

CC: There are people that are sensitive about everything. During the course of my career I have said things I wished I could take back and I had apologized for, but that was prior to joining the FAN. I’d like to consider myself a mature broadcaster and not once during my FAN career do I think I had to apologize to a group of people. Actually, I think chiropractors once. I think I had a thing with chiropractors where I agreed I wouldn’t call them quacks anymore.

But I’m not worried about it because I don’t do it, that doesn’t mean you won’t be offended by an opinion, but I don’t think I ever cross the line of offending a group of people. I don’t think anyone could accuse me of that today or in the last ten years.

BC: Who is your target audience on FNTSY?

CC: We go after young men. At WFAN it was men 25-54, but even with that, talk radio appeals to an older part of that demo for sure. Doing what I’ve done with Twitch and FNTSY Sports Network has arbitrarily made me younger. I mean I play Fortnite…we’re about to do a marathon where I play Fortnite live on-air until I win…that could take a long time…so doing the Twitch.tv deal and the FNTSY deal has knocked a few years off me. I’m more relatable to an 18 year old than I was a year ago.

BC: Is that something you wanted to do? Does relating to a younger audience fit your personality?

CC: Yea, I’m a kid at the end of the day. As a parent, I always thought the day my kids can beat me at video games will be the day I officially cross whatever that line of getting old is, and they beat me at everything now so I need to practice as much Fortnite as possible. I can still get them in Madden, but they kill me in these new games.

BC: What were your thoughts on Mike Francesa returning to WFAN?

CC: It’s a smart move for the radio station. CMB wasn’t working. I have no idea the financial part of it, I would imagine he will bill more. I got the sense that the station, although they did fine in the ratings, there was no buzz about WFAN anymore. I think Mike and I kind of brought that factor of what’s going to happen today? So it reenergized the listening audience. I’m sure it pissed everybody off inside the building from an on-air perspective, but listen…we’re in show business right? If he’s not getting it done he’ll get replaced. If the midday guys aren’t getting it done, they’ll get replaced. If I wasn’t getting it done I would have been replaced, so I think he’s probably good for the station overall. If Mike Francesa decided he wanted to do sports talk in New York, the only place that should ever be done at is WFAN.

BC: Were you surprised how quickly he came back?

CC: No

BC: Were you surprised he actually retired, especially after you left?

CC: As the story goes he asked for a lot of money. When you do talk radio for a living, there are not a lot of other things you want to do, or that you’re good at, but if you’re good at talk radio it’s special. I’m not surprised he missed it. I’m not surprised he wanted to comment on the stories of the day, and I’m not surprised he wanted to come back. I’m also not surprised at the lack of interest in hiring him at the financial level he wanted. Mike made a lot of money. I made a lot of money talking on the radio and if I could get back there, of course…why wouldn’t I want to go back? So I get the mentality of wanting to return.

(WFAN listeners know Carton and Francesa did not have the warmest relationship and choosing to view Francesa’s return from a business standpoint might seem surprising. Recently on “Carton and Friends,” Craig stated he appreciated Francesa choosing not to talk about his arrest when he easily could have piled on. Carton even told the audience he left Francesa a hand written note thanking him for not giving an opinion about his arrest.)

BC: Have you listened to Carlin, Maggie and Bart?

CC: I listened to a little bit of it yea. I made the comment when I started my show, that my goal was to prove that a woman, a white guy and a black guy could do an entertaining show ::Laughs:: and I think we’ve already proved that.

It’s a hard mix of people they put in there. You have everyone wanting to be the sports authority, and there isn’t a lot of room for all three voices. I think the biggest mistake they made were the amount of guests they brought on. If you have three people in the room talking sports, you don’t need a Daily News writer. I thought it didn’t allow them to develop and grow, which they have a chance to do now. I would say no guests, you three do a show and figure out your roles and the only way to truly do that is on the radio and maybe they’ll find it. Everyone that’s pissed that they got demoted…they have two hours of prime New York radio real estate, figure it out.

BC: It’s still early, but it sounded at times like they were concerned about giving everyone equal time, whereas with your show everyone recognized you were going to dominate the conversation…and the same thing would happen during an interview, they would take turns asking questions which made it difficult to develop a good back and forth.

CC: Yea it wasn’t natural. It wasn’t like the way you and I would talk at a bar and by the way it’s okay to interrupt one another, just don’t step on each other all the time. It was always you have to get your question in, then I have to get my question in, but with Boomer…if I was in the zone or Boomer was, the other guy would shut up during an interview. I might go five minutes straight if it’s good. That show had a lot of pressure on them, and I don’t know how much of a chance it had to make it.

The other thing I can’t stand are these shows that yell at you all day. I don’t get that part of it, stop yelling at me…I get yelled at at home, I don’t want to be yelled at. That seems to be a popular model today, two people yelling at each other about sports. Maybe that works on TV for a half hour, but I don’t think the radio audience wants to tune into you and me yelling at each other.

BC: Do you still keep in touch with anyone from the Boomer and Carton Show?

CC: I talk to all the guys that I was on the show with. We don’t talk every day, but we stay in touch. Boomer and I played golf together a couple weeks ago. I went to the Mikey Strong charity event which was important to me and I wanted to be at, it was about Mikey and the Reeve Foundation and nobody else, but the fact that it was important to me and they recognized that and extended the invitation to me…it meant the world to me.

So for the people that don’t think I get along with everybody…I do. I get along with the company. I get along with the show. I get along with the radio station and I think they would all say the same thing.

BC: That begs the question, do you see yourself going back to WFAN?

CC: Yea, I dream about it all the time. I don’t know when it will happen, or if…that’s out of my control, but yea, I dream about it every day of the week. I love what I’m doing now. I enjoy working for this company, but I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about it every day, because I do. And now that Mike came back who knows?  ::Laughs::

Maybe Mike actually, in a very strange way, paved the way for my return one day in the future, who knows…

BC: It is interesting that since you left, FAN has hired five hosts; Gio, Carlin, Maggie, Bart and now Mike, but you weren’t one of those hires and more surprisingly Sid wasn’t one of those hires.

CC: Yea, well I think Sid is doing just fine over at WABC. There is nothing expected of him there…the station has no ratings, you just do a show and go home I guess, but we’ll see, should be interesting.

BC: Before I let you go, I’m not doing my job if I don’t ask you this…what are you benching these days?

CC: Thank you! I’m up to 280! Does it look like it? ::Laughs::

BC: It’s hard to tell with that jacket

CC: I hide it well, all good. ::Laughs::

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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I Raise My Microphone to You, Vin Scully

Thank you for your graciousness and for the gift you bestowed upon all of us. I wish you a peaceful rest.

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Vin Scully

“It’s time for Dodger baseball! Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be.” That’s how the legendary Vin Scully would greet countless thousands of Dodgers’ fans every time they’d watch or listen to a game. His gift was making every single listener/viewer feel like he was your buddy, the guy sitting next to you at the game or a bar or wherever. Vin made everyone feel special because that’s who he was. 

Now, unfortunately it’s time to talk about the passing of an absolute legend. Scully died earlier this week at the age of 94. Scouring Twitter and reading reactions to his death, there’s one theme I noticed. Most everyone that watched him or listened to him, Dodgers fan or not, say it feels like they’re losing a friend. Not that Vin’s career needed any validation, but to me, that’s the mark of a great broadcaster. Being there, through the ups and downs and being a trusted voice that people could rely on if they had a bad day or a great day. 

Vin’s passing leaves a void in our industry that will never again be filled. I say that, not just because he was the greatest baseball play-by-play announcer to ever crack a mic, but because he was a tremendous person. He seemingly had time for everyone. Even a green around the gills play-by-play apprentice, me. 

In 2004, when I was with the Cubs broadcast team, we made our annual trip to Los Angeles. I had been traveling with the team for a couple of years at that point, but never had the chance to meet Scully. I mentioned this in passing in the booth one afternoon. Pat Hughes, Ron Santo and our producer Matt Boltz started talking about Vin. Hughes said something to the effect of, let’s go visit him after the game. I thought nothing of it. But sure enough, after the postgame show, Pat motioned to me to come with him. I will admit, I was nervous. Out of character for myself, I didn’t know what I was going to say to him. I even had a baseball with me for him to sign. Such a geek. 

We made our way through the press dining room at Dodger Stadium and tucked away in one of the back corners was a doorway marked “Private”. Pat and I entered the private dining room for the Dodgers broadcasters and there was Vin and the rest of the crew. Pat was greeted immediately by the guys and proceeded to introduce me to everyone. He saved Vin for last. The ever-gracious Scully stood up from his chair and stuck out his hand. I’ll never forget what he said and in his dulcet tones, I can still hear it. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Andy, I understand you’ve been doing some play-by-play, how’s that going?” Floored, I managed to speak and told him that it was a work in progress, but I was happy for the chance. He told me to keep at it and shook my hand. He then noticed the baseball in my hand, and asked if I wanted him to sign it. The fanboy in me, shook my head and I still have that ball in my collection. 

Vin Scully

I moved on to San Diego and saw Vin numerous times. I almost literally ‘bumped’ into him before a Dodgers/Padres game at Petco Park. Vin would walk the hallways in the broadcast area to ‘warm up’ before a broadcast. I marveled at this man, who still seemingly had that nervous energy that we all experience before going on the air. He would stroll up and down humming, not loudly, but with enough volume that you could hear him. He told me that was how he exercised his voice in getting ready for a game. It was amazing to see and hear, then get the explanation. 

Scully was a decorated man, winning many awards. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1982, receiving the Ford C. Frick Award. He was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 and had his microphone retired by the Dodgers. 

This great gentleman broadcast baseball for 67 years. Starting in Brooklyn in 1950 and finishing in Los Angeles in 2016. Scully worked for both CBS and NBC during his career and not only covered baseball, but on CBS he called NFL games from 1975-82. In his final telecast for the network, he was on the call for the NFC Championship Game, when Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the endzone for ‘the catch’ that put the 49ers into the Super Bowl. He also was on the network’s golf coverage as well as tennis. 

At NBC he did baseball and he did it well of course. He called four All-Star Games, four NLCS and three World Series. Scully had some memorable calls in the Fall Classic. Scully provided the call for one of baseball’s most memorable plays when Bill Buckner’s error in the 10th in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series gave the Mets an improbable win over the Red Sox:

“Little roller up along first. Behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it! “

Scully also called Kirk Gibson’s famous homer during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series: 

“High fly ball into right field, she i-i-i-is … gone!”

Scully said nothing for over a minute, allowing the pictures to tell the story. Finally, he said:

“In a year that has been so improbable… the impossible has happened!”

Well before those moments, he was part of so many legendary and unforgettable calls with the Dodgers. Upon his retirement Dodgers fans voted on his greatest calls of all time. There are too many to list here, but a couple come to mind immediately. 

Scully had a flair for the English language. He would say things in a way that made the listener/viewer feel like they were right there with him. He set a scene unlike any other broadcaster. Take for example the 9th inning of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, a 1-0 win over the Cubs at Dodger Stadium. 

When Koufax struck out Harvey Kuenn for the game’s final out, this is what Scully said to paint the picture as perfectly as Koufax painted the corners that night:

“You can almost taste the pressure now,” he said as the ninth inning got underway. ” … There are 29,000 people in the ballpark, and a million butterflies.”

“It is 9:46 p.m.,” Scully said. “Two and two to Harvey Kuenn. One strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch … swung on and missed, a perfect game!”

There were then 38-40 seconds of nothing but crowd noise. 

“On the scoreboard in right field, it is 9:46 p.m. in the city of the angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games, and he’s done it four straight years. And now he’s capped it; on his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game.”

Brilliant. Simple, yet incredible. The first of the three perfect games Scully called, took place in the 1956 World Series. Don Larsen faced the Dodgers in the Bronx and as the game went into the 9th inning, Scully epically described the tense feeling building at Yankee Stadium.

“Well, all right, let’s all take a deep breath as we go to the most dramatic ninth inning in the history of baseball,” he said.

Scully later described Yankee Stadium “shivering in its concrete foundation” as 64,517 fans hung on every pitch.

When Larsen struck out Dale Mitchell on a called third strike to end the game, Scully said, “Got him! The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history by Don Larsen, a no-hitter, a perfect game in a World Series.”

“When you put it in a World Series, you set the biggest diamond in the biggest ring,” Scully said.

Scully was the gem of the biggest kind. I’ve heard many words used to describe the man upon his passing. Gentleman, kind, warm and friendly are a few. To me, Vin always displayed class. Even as his final game in the booth for the Dodgers came to an end, he eloquently said so long:

“You know, friends, so many people have wished me congratulations on a 67-year career in baseball, and they’ve wished me a wonderful retirement with my family, and now, all I can do is tell you what I wish for you. May God give you, for every storm, a rainbow; for every tear, a smile; for every care, a promise; and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life seems, a faithful friend to share; for every sigh, a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer. You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know, in my heart, I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what, there will be a new day, and, eventually, a new year, and when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, ooh, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball. So, this is Vin Scully wishing you a pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.”

A year after he signed off, the Dodgers advanced to the World Series for the first time in 29 years. Dodgers’ fans started a petition for him to come out of retirement and call the games on Fox. Joe Buck was even on board. Scully declined, preferring instead to lay low. “I honestly don’t feel I belong there and I would not want anyone to think I was eager for a spotlight.” Scully said. He added, “I’ve done enough of them.” 

I think any of us, that got to meet him, watch him or listen to him over the years would disagree with that last statement. You could never get enough of the great Vincent Edward Scully. Thankfully his voice lives on through audio recordings and YouTube videos to show the younger generation how it was done. And done so well for so many years. It’s always hard to say goodbye, to someone you feel like you knew, even if you never had the chance to meet him. 

Vin, I raise a microphone to you. Thank you for your graciousness and for the gift you bestowed upon all of us. I wish you a peaceful rest. And we all know where you’ll be, in our hearts and fondest memories forever.

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Sports Talkers Podcast – Linda Cohn

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Nate Bukaty Didn’t Sell Himself Short

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Bukaty remembered his friend saying to him. “That’s the sentence I remember he kept saying.”

Tyler McComas

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There’s an old Vin Scully video clip I can’t stop watching. It may be the most impressive example of how to do baseball play-by-play I’ve ever seen or listened to. It’s the bottom of the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium as the home team plays the rival Giants. Madison Bumgarner is on the mound for San Francisco and Scully is telling a story in the middle of the inning about how the pitcher and his wife saved a baby jackrabbit from the inside of a dead snake.

The story goes that Bumgarner and his wife ran across a rattlesnake while the two were roping cattle. They were startled, so the three-time World Series champ grabbed an ax and chopped the snake to pieces. That’s how they found the baby jackrabbit. Bumgarner’s wife brought the rabbit back to the apartment and nursed it for the next few days. Eventually, the rabbit was healthy enough to be released back into the wild.

Mind you, Scully is telling this incredible story while calling a baseball game and not missing a beat with the live action. It’s truly a spectacle of broadcasting mastery. 

Scully ends the story by saying, “Madison said, just think about how tough that rabbit was. First, it gets eaten by a snake, then the snake gets chopped to pieces, then it gets picked up by people and lives.”

Scully then follows with “so I guess, really, the moral to the whole story about the rabbit and the snake is you have to somehow survive, you have to somehow battle back. A lesson well-taught for all of us.”

When I listen to those final two sentences I can’t help but think of how it relates to Nate Bukaty’s journey into sports media, which is a story I heard just a few hours before the news of Scully’s passing on Tuesday night. Granted, Bukaty’s story has nothing to do with something as intense as taking an ax to a live rattlesnake, or even something as heroic as saving a baby rabbit, but his start in the business can be a comparison to the moral of the story, which was overcoming early adversity and battling back.

Bukaty realized in the front seat of his dad’s car in the sixth grade he wanted to be in sports media for a living. An hour before he made that decision, he would have told you he wanted to play the game professionally, instead of broadcasting it. But after his dad quickly pointed out how difficult it was going to be for him to be a pro athlete with a very to-the-point conversation, Bukaty turned his decision to the guys calling the Kansas City Royals game on the radio. His dad didn’t fight back at that aspiration. The father and son then spent the entire rest of the car ride discussing what it would take to achieve his newfound dream.

The dream persisted through junior high, high school, and even upon the decision to attend The University of Kansas. For over six years, Bukaty never re-considered what he wanted to pursue for his future. He made the decision long ago that he was going to broadcast games. But during one of his first days on campus at KU, his first major roadblock hit. 

“I met with the sportscasting professor and he told me I would never make it in the business because my voice was too high,” said Bukaty. “It was my childhood dream since I was in 6th grade and the professor told me the first day on campus I was never going to make it. I was pretty devastated by that for a day.”

This wasn’t a criticism an aspiring broadcaster normally gets. It was something completely out of Bukaty’s control. His voice wasn’t something he could change. Most, probably, would have changed their major as quickly as possible, but Bukaty didn’t. Instead, he remembered a time he overcame adversity by being cut from the high school basketball team his sophomore year, only to be a starter on varsity his senior season. He was ready to overcome adversity again. 

“I just went back to him and said, ‘well, I’m going to give this a shot, with your help or without’, “ Bukaty said. 

But this isn’t a story where the young kid tells the professor he’s going to do it anyway, and easily finds himself in the future as the voice of a Major League Soccer team and 18-plus year veteran at Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City. No, there’s more adversity to come in this story and it happened less than three years later.

Bukaty was now a junior at KU and the reality of how hard it was going to be to make a career in broadcasting was settling in. He was applying for internships and realized there were all kinds of people working for free. The thought of finding a way to get paid for one was starting to become overwhelming. 

His morale was starting to sink as he expressed his frustration over dinner with a friend that also attended KU. Bukaty even told him he may try to attend grad school to become a history professor or even a lawyer.

“I’m just looking at the odds and how hard it is to get a foothold in this business of sports broadcasting, especially since I don’t have any connections or anything,” Bukaty told his friend. “I think I find those other things interesting enough to be happy doing it.”

The next thing that was said is something Bukaty will never forget. You could even argue it set the tone for the rest of his professional career.

“He chewed me out and told me, how dare you give up on your dreams before you even give it a shot,” Bukaty said. “He told me I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t at least give it a shot.”

It was the exact push Bukaty needed to refocus. It was made clear to him he could go back to law school at any time, but his dream was something he needed to chase. 

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Bukaty remembered his friend saying to him. “That’s the sentence I remember he kept saying. That really helped me refocus and realize, yeah, this is what I have wanted to do since I was a kid and I shouldn’t give up on it. I’m going to keep going.”

It’s a moment Bukaty hasn’t shared very much over the years. But there’s no denying the incredible impact it had on him. From that moment, he’s never looked back. 

The funny thing is the friend that shared incredible wisdom with him that day had no intentions of going to college while he and Bukaty were in high school. The only reason Bukaty convinced him to come to The University of Kansas was because he turned his friend into a huge KU basketball fan. Without the Jayhawks fandom, there’s a great chance that distinct conversation never happens. 

But that’s not the end of the incredible interaction that night with Bukaty and his friend. 

“That night, he also said, here’s what’s going to happen: You’re going to become a successful sports broadcaster and I’m going to become a sports historian and I’m going to write a book on you someday.”

His prediction was nearly spot on. Amongst many other incredible jobs and titles, Bukaty is the play-by-play voice of Sporting KC and one of the longest-tenured sports talk hosts in Kansas City. His friend is no other than Matt Zeysing, who’s the head curator of the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

There aren’t any current plans for Zeysing to fulfill the entire prediction and write a book on Bukaty’s career, but if he wanted to, he could probably write a best-seller on just the night the two shared inside a bar in Lawrence. Regardless, it was an incredible prediction that had a lasting impact on Bukaty’s career.

And about the professor who told Bukaty his voice was too high to be in the business? It was that same person who got him a radio job in Moberly, MO. Talk about a redemption story. 

Bukaty’s career story combines overcoming adversity, living out a dream, and getting outside his comfort zone to realize new passions and talents. Calling Major League Soccer games for Sporting Kansas City is truly a dream come true for him. Play-by-play was always his first love and getting to realize that dream is one that he never takes for granted. Even if that means getting home after a game at 11:30 at night and having to do a morning drive radio show the next day at 6:00 a.m.

“My sleep schedule is a complete nightmare,” laughed Bukaty. “After a game, I cannot go to sleep. Say it’s a Wednesday game and I get home around 11:30, I’ll go for a three-mile run around my neighborhood. That does wonders. I feel three really good hours of sleep is better than four hours of tossing and turning and not turning your brain off.”

Bukaty has always challenged himself to get out of his comfort zone. That’s originally how he started in sports radio at 810 WHB. He listened to sports radio, but it wasn’t something he was immediately drawn to as an opportunity. Bukaty saw it more as a forum where hot takes were consistently lived, which wasn’t his broadcast style.

“I came to talk radio reluctantly,” said Bukaty.

The human drama and the amazing feats of athleticism were things that interested Bukaty far more than a hot take. 

“I love the storylines of humans overcoming adversity and achieving hard-fought objectives as teams,” said Bukaty. “I love the emotional connection between the team and their fans. I didn’t love sports because of the hot take.”

That’s what makes Bukaty’s sports radio career so impressive. He’s seen the beginning and the rise of the industry, yet, he’s never changed who he is on the air. Regardless of how the business has changed, he’s never let the style of other broadcasters change the way he wants to do a show. 

“What makes it easy for me is that my co-host, Steven St. John, drives the show,” said Bukaty. “And that’s the way it should be because he connects with the sports fans in Kansas City better than any person in sports talk radio and maybe better than any media member in town.”

Bukaty has a career that the young version of himself at KU would only dream about. Who knows, just like he made the decision to broadcast games in the front seat of his dad’s car while listening to a Royals game, maybe he’s helped a kid in Kansas City realize play-by-play is what they want to do. But one thing is for sure, Bukaty isn’t done getting out of his comfort zone to make himself better. That’s why he’s now calling MMA events. And it’s why he could accomplish even greater things in the future. 

“I’ve always tried to make it a habit to get outside my comfort zone and say yes to things that seem a little uncomfortable,” said Bukaty. “Every time I’ve ever done that I’m glad because it’s made me grow professionally or as a person.”

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