Late in his life, W.C. Fields, bibulous gambler, was spotted reading, of all things, the Bible. An astonished friend asked why.
Without looking up, Fields muttered, “Looking for loopholes.”
That brings us to the self-destructive gambler and curious specimen, Craig Carton. Understand that compulsive gamblers have severe self-delusion in common. After weekly settling their debts with bookies, they sit at a red light in their overly financed cars, relieved and self-satisfied, telling themselves, “Now I’m even.”
Carton’s Saturday morning show on life-destroying gambling, heard over gambling revenue-reliant and invested WFAN, is surprisingly good and highly worthwhile, though Carton, the rest of the week, endeavors to prove he isn’t worth any intelligent listener’s short while.
For starters, on Saturdays he’s a good listener. This past Saturday he allowed a recovering addict, Drew, to tell his story with Carton interrupting only to ask good questions.
On Saturdays he works clean, no sense that he’s eager to reestablish his pre-prison popularity among creeps by being the station’s crude, name-calling, scatological, defamatory Master Creep.
Despite (or because) working clean on Saturdays he has been entertaining, an interesting raconteur with a serious message he doesn’t wield as a cudgel.
Drew, a Gamblers Anonymous member who juggled credit card debt — the worst kind short of blackmail — until he could no longer answer his wife with anything stronger than conspicuous lies as to what happened to their lives.
To that Carton added a Ralph and Alice Kramden farce: the time he thought he’d verbally settled a debt with an A.C. casino collections agent — he had the cash and, they agreed, he would come down to make good in two days. They agreed. He even challenged his wife to listen in on a second confirmation call so she could share that truth.
But then the agent told them that, no, Carton still officially had unpaid markers. Busted. And she was done believing him that it was someone else’s error or fault. It’s said that unlike alcoholism, you can’t smell compulsive gambling. But wives can.
Carton was just another pampered high roller who lost his casinos’ love and VIP status to become a no-more-comps pariah because he defaulted on his credit.
Joined by Dan Trolaro of the N.J. Council on Compulsive Gambling, Carton’s Saturday shows have two consistent missions:
To let people know, especially at a time when sucker sports gambling and no longer the love of sports is being shoved down their senses, that no one falls alone. Hardly.
And the only gambling “system” that has proven effective is to seek and sustain help. For all the bad-odds parlays WFAN pitches, Saturday’s Carton show is the only one that doesn’t promise to “make it rain” anything better than the plagues, Misery and Regret.
Saturday mornings at 9:30, Carton throws a changeup. Conditioned to success by going low, he travels a high road. His enabling, helicopter service to Atlantic City has been canceled. His federal serial number and those mug shots aren’t worth a spin at a penny slot machine.
Recidivism among problem gamblers is high. Arnie Wexler, a living saint for his 45 years of successfully counseling rock-bottomed gamblers, tells us that many who give heartfelt personal testimony at G.A. meetings are still plunging.
Thus time should tell if Carton’s has gone straight or whether his Saturday show is an exercise in leafing for loopholes. He doesn’t like me and I don’t like him. But I’m rooting for him.
No-names make Pebble Beach coverage better
Without “the TV stars” of golf — “Rory,” “Tiger,” “Phil” — to make event coverage into “Access Hollywood,” those who used to tune to watch golf among those in the lead or closest to it, were left to cool their Footjoys.
That’s why Sunday’s final round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, sans Ams, on CBS was good on the golf senses. No “names” to endlessly gush over, no transparent messing around with the leader board to place the bigger names ahead of lesser names despite identical scores.
In fact, Sunday CBS was forced to cover nine players down the stretch. Aside from Jordan Spieth, CBS was stuck with the likes of winner Daniel Berger, Nate Lashley and Maverick McNealy.
The upside: genuine coverage.
I often wonder if ESPN’s top executives ever take even five minutes to reflect on how bona fide sports fans feel about what the network has so purposefully become.
Put it this way: Within 24 hours of the reported latest arrest of career person of interest Adam “Pacman” Jones, this time accused of having kicked a bouncer unconscious (which he denies), more than a dozen emails arrived suggesting the Jones would fit perfectly with those ESPN regularly rewards with on-air employment.
Pacman’s traveling team in Vegas for the 2007 NBA All-Star Game left two strip club bouncers shot, one paralyzed, according to the police. Despite an $11 million civil court judgment against him, Jones has insisted on his innocence.
This week’s arrest is different from Jones’ previous collars in that he no longer has pandering Roger Goodell to quietly and lightly punish him before allowing him to return to NFL teams for whom he again can cost dearly for remorselessly brutal, illegal play. Those teams deserved what he provided.
But I’d suggest that a real-deal NFL steward years ago would have gone on record stating that he plans to do all he can to keep Jones out of the league so Jones could no longer feed the league’s disrepute.
3s Wilt today’s NBA
In an exchange with reader Steve DeCillis about the 3-point shot having turned NBA games into heave ’n’ hope sideshows, we reached this junction: Would Wilt Chamberlain today even be relevant or just another stand-around guy? DeCillis: “Would Wilt shoot 3s under-handed?”
The pride of UConn stomps on: As seen but not heard — never! — on SNY, Wednesday, Geno “The Impaler” Auriemma’s women needlessly humiliated St. John’s, 77-32. Two UConn starters played 34 or more minutes. UConn subs? One played four minutes, another for two.
Nothing like raucous laughter over the antics of drunks who aren’t funny. I agree with the daughter of the designer of the NFL’s Super Bowl champs’ Vince Lombardi Trophy: The yacht-tossing of the trophy as entrusted to an apparently inebriated Tom Brady was disrespectful and childish.
College basketball continues to destroy itself from the inside out. Sunday on ESPN2, the last 12 seconds of overtime in Loyola-Chicago at Drake included three timeouts plus five other clock stops. Twelve seconds, eight stops!
Unaccomplished 6-foot-9 Duke freshman Jalen Johnson is bolting for the NBA after less that one season. When will all the hollow, habitual praise for Mike Krzyzewski as extra special be replaced by reality? Duke is the latest Kentucky.
Due to revisionist social justice pressures, Roger Goodell’s alma mater, Washington & Jefferson, this week will be renamed “&.”