Boomer Esiason has worked alongside notable announcers during his decade and counting working the radio broadcasts of “Monday Night Football”: Howard David, Marv Albert, and currently, Kevin Harlan.
On Friday night, Boomer would add another name to that list: Craig Carton.
That’s right: The top-rated (and should-be-syndicated, IMHO) morning duo on New York’s WFAN were working the radio broadcast of the Brooklyn Nets/Washington Wizards game. It was clearly an experiment that the station agreed to do with the Nets, who produce their own radiocasts and purchase airtime for clearance on WFAN. Before Friday night, Carton has had no play-by-play experience on his resume that we know of (late in the game, Esiason noted that Carton called a game “once every five years”). (Update: I’m told the two also worked a Nets/Celtics radio broadcast for WFAN last year. So this apparently was not their first rodeo – well, it was in Brooklyn; last year was the Nets’ last in New Jersey.)
But the Nets certainly knew what they were getting.
Who knows if that was also the case for their foe for the evening, the Wizards, who own one of the worst records in the league. In fact, they’re third in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division, if you can believe it, and that’s by virtue of two other teams, the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats, owning even worse records than the Wizards (in fact, with the Miami Heat winning their seventeenth straight game on Friday night, they’ve already clinched the first berth for this year’s playoffs – and there’s still another month or so of regular season games to be played).
But with the Wizards trailing by upwards of twenty points in the very first quarter, as Nets point guard Deron Williams converted on seven three-pointers en route to a record nine treys in a half, and falling one shy of the single-game record of twelve, it predictably provided fodder for Carton’s work at Barclays Center. After Wizards point guard A.J. Price got his first points of the game, pulling his team to within 19 points of the Nets, it was an opportune time for a “TV timeout” with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the quarter. Or, as Carton saw it, “All you have to do is score a basket, and [Nets head coach] P.J. Carlesimo says, ‘I’ve seen enough’.”
When the first quarter was completed, Carton took radio listeners to break by alerting them, “this is not a typo,” and after announcing the score after a dozen minutes of play was Nets 38, Wizards 14, he joked, “You can go home now.”
And while the Wizards would ultimately lose to the Nets, 95-78, they almost served up a little humble pie to Carton, who likened the Wizards to “a D-League team” that the Nets had “better beat… by forty points”: Washington outscored Brooklyn 25-15 in the third quarter, much to the chagrin of Carton, who midway through the third quarter feared the Wizards would actually go on a run and turn this into a competitive game.
With the Wizards trailing the Nets by just sixteen points as the final quarter started, Carton admitted: “I can’t believe they made it a game… but they made it a game.”
There are some that thought Carton, in particular, was a bit too harsh on the 19-41 Wizards, with ten of those wins coming over their last nineteen contests. “I thought Craig Carton was beyond unprofessional in calling the Nets game,” tweeted noted WFAN listener Leslie after the game. “It was disgusting to even hear what he had to say about the Wizards… He was a jerk.”
Some could easily share that opinion. But really, what else do you expect from a team that ranks dead last in the league in scoring? And with all due respect to Washington, what New Yorker didn’t enjoy this one-liner from Carton as WFAN returned from a Wizards timeout, after the team was trailing 22-2, which included a six-pack of three-pointers by Williams: “If your subway was late getting to the building, you missed everything!”
Esiason also showed some of that color analyst luster that he exhibits on “Monday Night Football.” As the third quarter winded down, a quarter in which Williams went just 1-6 with a turnover, he acknowledged: “I think Williams is getting a little tired.”
That one shot Williams did convert during that quarter, naturally, was a trey – and it was at that point that Carton finally decided to work the familiar “Hello! La la la” phrase from his radio show into the call.
Williams would make his final three with 1:39 to go. But he would get the opportunity to take another outside shot. Carton: “They’re trying to get him the record. Frankly, that’s a bit offensive.”
And of course, the duo would display that same chemistry that they normally do for four hours every morning. “Deron Williams is feeling it right now,” Esiason said after the player made his seventh trey in the first eight minutes of the game. Countered Carton: “I’ve never had a night like this.”
The low points, in my opinion, were when each of them went off the beaten path during live reads – Boomer, after assessing the Applebee’s slogan “See you tomorrow” vowing, “Well, I won’t be there”; Carton struggling through the pronunciation of the name of a Brooklyn hospital, Maimonides. While even I will admit that, at first look, “Maimonides” could be a bit of a pronunciation challenge, keep in mind that sports, and radio, is a business, and keeping the sponsors happy is vital. I would have practiced how to pronounce “Maimonides” on the side during a timeout, but that’s just me. Also, Carton pronounced the first name of Deron Williams as “Darren” way too often throughout the game (and when Williams claimed the three-pointers-in-a-half record as his own, the Barclays Center crowd chanted, “De-ron,” which led Carton to debate out loud whether or not they were chanting “De-ron” or “Darren”).
While I won’t stop short of saying Esiason and Carton put the lotion in the basket (to borrow an idiom the latter of the duo used a few times during the broadcast), I must say they were certainly a stimulating listen. As someone who has not seen or heard a Nets game from start to finish since the 1990’s, this was more of an event for me than a casual sports event. And regardless of the opinion that the two are Knicks fans – and there was even a running bet that Boomer would be watching the Rangers game during his Nets assignment – I don’t think Nets fans would mind them returning to the radio booth again – perhaps against a more formidable opponent than the Wizards.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, the regular Nets radio announcing duo of Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw were both in the building: Carrino was working the play-by-play on YES Network alongside Greg Anthony (YES’ usual Nets announcer Ryan Ruocco, who moonlights as a radio host on ESPN New York/98.7 FM alongside Stephen A. Smith, was at Barclays Center as well, tweeting updates throughout the game). After the game, Carrino and Capstraw reverted to the radio booth for the Nets postgame show on WFAN, and hearing Boomer and Carton assume their roles, according to Capstraw, was “a whole lot of fun,” adding that Carton in general was “really talented and entertaining.”
After the game, both Carton and Esiason thanked the Nets organization on-air. And Boomer thought his WFAN morning mate “did one hell of a job” calling the contest. “It just kind of came out naturally, and you did a good job.”
And for someone who exclusively works NFL radio broadcasts, Esiason did a commendable job analyzing this basketball game.
Even Al “Dukes” Hughes, who produces the WFAN morning program, was involved in this broadcast, providing “fun facts” about the year-old Barclays Center during the game. “This is pretty good,” he said. “I might start watching basketball games.”
If Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason made this a semi-regular thing, it might just make people start listening to basketball games.
Here’s a small sample of the game – including Dukes’ appreciation for the state-of-the-art urinals at Barclays Center.