Thursday, September 4

“Commentary on Commentary” Part One

You can call yourself a fan of the game of baseball if you enjoy watching a game from beginning to end. The only reasons a true fan should take their eyes off of the game is to grab a beer, or expel the previous beer out of their system. Sadly there are people who say “I’m a Yankees fan” but have not seen them play since watching highlights of the 2001 World Series on Good Morning America. These fans can recite the entire Yankees roster in seconds…Jeter, ARod, and a bunch of other guys - the majority of whom do not know A-Rod’s full name, position, or uniform number. I also know a die hard (term used loosely) Red Sox fan who recently said to me “No one’s gonna stop Red Sox nation. Our pitching rules, and Manny and Big Papi are beasts.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Manny Ramirez plays baseball in a different league approximately 3,000 miles away. But I digress.

Getting someone to convert from an uninformed baseball observer, who harbors the baseball is so boring mentality, is no easy task. Baseball is boring to these people because there are not enough explosions, body slams, celebrity gossip, or nudity. Many people, guys and gals, watch portions of games to check out how hot the guys are. It is a challenge to convert observers into fans. A vital factor that keeps fans and observers entertained during the game is, of course, the commentary. Sure, we can all see that the batter hit a ball on the ground to second base and it was booted by Dan Uggla, but without the commentary it seems less significant.

As the game has evolved, so too has the broadcasting. Improved graphics and statistics records have made the game much easier to watch than the extremely crude broadcasts of the 70’s. These are tools that often make it easier for announcers to keep you entertained. Play by play announcers, analysts, and color commentators are as much a part of baseball as the bullpen catchers, bat boys, and the mascots, if not more so. Announcers are intended to keep the viewers informed, and entertained. I am not speaking from a biased standpoint - no better example in the game exists than Gary, Keith and Ron.

These three men have made millions of Met fans truer to the sport of baseball. Astronomical feats and monumental disappointments are both part of being a Mets fan. All Met fans know this. Gary, Keith, and Ron each know how they feel. The fellow Met fan can relate to these individuals. They get very excited when the Mets win 12 games in a row usually outscoring their opponents by about 17 runs, just like us. And when the Mets drop 7 in a row to teams that began their season under .500 before the first pitch is thrown, they share the feelings of the fans. They are not mad, they are just extremely disheartened. Broadcasting is truly not just a job for them.

In the upcoming volumes I shall focus on each member of the award winning broadcast team. Today my focus is on Gary Cohen. Here is a brief argument as to why Gary Cohen is the best play by play announcer this century. It feeds of course from another outstanding quality by the class clown of the SNY booth. Gary somehow manages to stay sharp and focus while Keith Hernandez goes off on hilarious tirades. Keith’s anecdotes have my sides splitting open for days. Gary knows the task at hand, and gets the job done. He also manages to intelligently converse with Yale graduate Ron Darling on the physics of grounders, hits, caroms, and curveballs. Not to mention Ralph Kiner, a classic old timer who comes into the booth smelling like a dive bar in the east village. He often gets loaded and very few people can translate what comes out of Kiner’s mouth into understandable English. Gary can. He manages to put up with Kevin Burkhart’s nonsensical jabbering…not a simple task. Perhaps his most outstanding quality is his astonishing knowledge of the history of the game. Cohen knows every player that has ever stepped on a baseball field, and can rattle their stats off the top of his head. He also comes up with the most insane stats anyone can possible think of. “on deck is Marco Scutaro who is batting .997 against opposing pitchers wearing the number of the day of the month it happens to be. Second most all time only to Scutaro’s great uncle Gerry who played in the 40’s.” Among another things his homerun call is timeless. When it is hit by a Met player he emphatically exclaims “IT’S OUTTA HERE!!!” When hit by an opposing player he says the same words but as if he was just told by a doctor that he has a week to live. A class act all the way is Mr. Cohen. I enjoy listening to Gary call a game as much as humanly possible…upwards of 130 times for at least 3 hours from April to October. I would have it no other way.

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