Posted: Wednesday October 11, 2006 12:09PM; Updated: Wednesday October 11, 2006 3:38PM
Gary Cohen was the radio voice of the Mets for 17 years before joining SNY's Cable TV broadcast booth this season.
Mets play-by-play man Gary Cohen says New York has historically been a National League town.
SI.com: This is the first time since 1988 that the Mets have made it deeper into the postseason than the Yankees. Can you describe what that must mean for Mets fans?
Gary Cohen: I think it's been only natural for the last 10 years for Mets fans to judge their team vis-ŕ-vis the Yankees. For those of us who are old enough to remember the '70s and the '80s, the fact of the matter is that for a good deal of the time the Mets were the dominant team of that time. Never more so than in the late '80s, when they were seemingly the only team in town, which for the past 10 years is often the way the Yankees have been perceived.
You know, you hear Mets fans, after Mets successes that have nothing to do with the Yankees, chanting anti-Yankee slogans rather than pro-Mets slogans. So that gives you an idea how the fans feel about it. You go around town and see kids ages 5-15 and they all have Derek Jeter jerseys. Well, this is the year where that is starting to change a little bit. You see some of the kids wearing the David Wright jerseys and the Jose Reyes jerseys, and you don't know if it is the beginning of a sea change or an evening of the playing field, but the fact of the matter is, all things being equal, generally over the last century this has been a National League town. When the Dodgers and Giants left after '57, the Yankees' attendance the next four years, before the Mets came into existence, went down, not up.
SI.com: And the Mets outdrew the Yankees in the early '60s, too.
Cohen: Once they got to Shea, the Mets outdrew the Yankees almost every year. That was in the day when American League and National League attendance was being counted differently. They counted tickets sold in the American League and only bodies who showed up in the National League. The fact of the matter is, until the last 10 years it has been a Mets town for most of the Mets' existence. However, the last 10 years the Yankees have been so thoroughly dominant that things clearly changed. But there is definitely a feeling that the tide is beginning to turn.
SI.com: Do you get a sense that Mets fans have a sense of entitlement toward winning which Yankees fans have? Does a city like New York foster that, or are Mets fans generally more cautiously optimistic by nature?
Cohen: That's a complicated thing to answer because I think the entire landscape of sports fandom has changed over the last 10, 15 years because of the advent of sports talk radio and the advent of the Internet. I think there is a lot more expectation and anger among sports fans in general than there was the last time the Mets had a large run of success. I think that fans are much less easily satisfied. There is this notion that if you spend the money, there should be this expectation of winning. So while I certainly wouldn't say that Mets fans have the same level of expectation and entitlement that Yankees fans have, all fans in general have that to a greater degree than they did 10, 15 years ago.
SI.com: Look at what happened to Carlos Beltran this year. He was booed on Opening Day and ended the season as their best all-around player.
Cohen: Well, yeah. There has always been a certain level of booing in New York directed toward the big player, going all the way back to Mickey Mantle. I mean, nobody wants to remember that, but Mantle was booed as a young player; Roger Maris was definitely booed; Darryl Strawberry got booed. Big players have gotten booed in this town for a long time. I don't think it is so much about the booing as it is the way in which fans can personally attack players on the Internet, message boards and on talk radio. The level of constant agitation and discussion regarding sports has changed.
SI.com: How has this year been different for you, moving from the radio booth to the TV side of things, particularly now that the Mets are deep into the playoffs and you find yourself not calling the games?
Cohen: Certainly, one of the downsides of moving to television is that you don't have the opportunity to call the postseason games. Fortunately, I've been afforded the opportunity to sit in the radio booth for a couple of innings every game [in the playoffs], so that's been a lot of fun. And I'm very fortunate that a lot of people made accommodations for me to be able to do that. You know, this year has been different for me in a lot of ways because television is so different from radio. Radio allows you to vent your passion in a lot more complete way, whereas in television you are captioning as opposed to lending the full emotion of the moment. But in its own way [TV] is extremely satisfying because I've gotten an opportunity to work with great partners who have tremendous insight into the game. As more of a complete view of the game, I've been able to provide that in much greater substance than I was able to on radio. But the emotion is a little bit different. Television is a cooler medium, radio is a hotter medium. So as a fan turned broadcaster, it's a different kind of experience for me.
SI.com: Even though you don't have to provide the same kind of pictures and narrative that you would for a radio broadcast, do you find that you have been able to continue learning new things about the game working on television?
Cohen: Well, I've been afforded the opportunity to work with Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, who have taught me an immense amount just by being with them through nine innings throughout an entire season.
SI.com: Even just by osmosis?
Cohen: Absolutely, and through discussion. I have my own view of the game from somebody who has been around it for the last 20 years and who has been watching it for the last 40 years. These guys have a perspective from on the field that I could never have. I think the opportunity to share our perspectives -- for them to hear my view and, more importantly, for me to hear their view -- has benefited all of us.