The Craig Carton-Evan Roberts dynamic can’t be like this

The thing about Craig Carton is it is always about Craig Carton. Always has been. Always will be.

In his first full post-prison show on WFAN’s marquee, it was no different. Carton essentially replaced Joe Benigno as Evan Roberts’ new afternoon partner, but the program is “Carton & Roberts.” The fact that Carton’s name is first is no accident, which could be heard throughout its premiere episode.

Early on, Carton said, “This is not the Craig Carton Show,” which, for it to be fully successful, will have to eventually be true.

Day 1, the program had a new afternoon producer who is more suited to Carton than Roberts. The opening was led by Carton, as was nearly every segment. It’s Carton’s show until proven otherwise.

And, depending on your point of view, it being all about Carton is not totally a bad thing. It is a proven fact that a lot of people like listening to him on the radio. He can do a show, which is why there is now a real battle with ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show” for sports-radio afternoon supremacy.

The best bit on opening day sounded Carton-driven, as you couldn’t imagine “Joe & Evan” sending a direct message on Twitter to new Mets owner Steve Cohen. It was a bit fun, a bit obnoxious and felt like Carton knocking off any rust after three years away in purgatory and prison.

Carton is going to have to change a little considering his crimes. He has to regain trust. He led into a segment early in the five-hour marathon talking about how you can tell a lot about a man by his “actions versus hot air.”

“It’s always action,” Carton said.

Carton went to prison for misusing loans to pay off gambling debts. He still owes $4.8 million and cost him a year in minimum-security Lewisburg prison.

“I was a big, fat knucklehead,” Carton said at one point.

There is also the gambling issue that wallpapers FAN’s air. During the initial betting advertisement of the program, Carton gave a disclaimer before Roberts’s read. Carton said you can bet, but he can’t because he is an addict.

No matter the gambling walls FAN creates around Carton, it is an odd combo. On Monday, Entercom’s parent company announced a $32 million deal with iGaming affiliate platform, QL Gaming Group.

Meanwhile, Roberts is going to be challenged more than he was with his old partner, Benigno. Roberts has a chance to be a Mike Francesa, a Chris Russo or a Boomer Esiason. He can show he is a cleanup hitter, not a seven-hole guy.

To do so, Roberts can’t be bullied by Carton. Carton is going to poke fun at Roberts’ dorkiness. He did it the whole show from Roberts’ admiring the color of the fall leaves, to how every story Roberts has is at a Mets or Nets game, to whether Roberts would embarrass Carton if they went out for some fine food.

Roberts, 37, had a good moment when he called Carton “douchey” after the 51-year-old Carton referred to COVID-19 as “the ’Rona.”

Both Carton and Roberts have radio skills. Carton is obnoxious, but he knows how to push the right buttons. Roberts is a sports nerd, which can work because the people listening care about their teams as much as he does.

The best bit of the five hours was when Roberts said that Cohen follows him on Twitter. When someone follows you on the service, you can send them a private message. Carton encouraged Roberts to ask Cohen to come on the show on Tuesday. Carton played Cyrano de Bergerac as Roberts took dictation.

They debated whether Roberts should end the message to the richest owner in baseball with, “I love you.” They ultimately decided it was too strong.

While Cohen never responded directly to Roberts during the five hours, the owner did publicly reply to a fan about appearing on “Carton & Roberts” by writing, “I got a day job.”

Now, Carton again does, too. He began it saying, “Day 1 of hopefully thousands of days.”

It might be. It will need to focus on the “and” between “Carton and Roberts.” Francesa and Russo wouldn’t have been iconic if it had been Mike with the Mad Dog.

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