Gary Cohen, the anti-Michael Kay, also broadcasts during his time off
At the heart of Cohen’s appeal to Mets fans is his everyman-fan persona. Parachute broadcasting this is not: Cohen is as long-suffering as we all are, which means a lot to us.
His demeanor on air is genial but professionally distant. He peppers with questions his co-analysts, ex-Mets Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, but he never reveals much about himself.
This quality allows viewers to project onto Cohen what they want to, a key attribute for anyone who joins 167,000 people in their living rooms every night for several months out of the year. Case in point: As a statistics-minded fan myself, I had always harbored the belief that Cohen secretly sympathized with the “Stat Guys” in the Insider vs. Outsider, Scouts vs. Stats fault lines that have defined the sport’s discourse for the past decade-plus.
Not so, I found out. I asked Cohen about this, and, to use one of his favorite words, I was disabused.
“People who write from a remove have a different perspective. Either it’s a lyrical perspective, which is nice, or a statistical perspective, which is also useful. But when you’re actually up close and understand the human beings who play the game, it gives you a better perspective,” he said.
I asked him if he had plans to increase the focus of statistics in the telecasts, the better to appeal to what I assume would be a more stats-savvy viewership going forward.
“Statistics have their place: Advanced statistics can tell a sometimes better story than standard statistics. But that’s never been the focus of my broadcasts and it’s never going to be,” he told me.
“That’s not what people want to hear. There’s a small percentage of people who want me to talk about xFIP or WAR. But 99 percent of them do not. Most of them want to hear about the players, and the stories surrounding the players. Because numbers don’t play the game. Players do.”
Since he’s been paired with Darling and Hernandez, he has taken on the role of the straight man to Hernandez’s eccentric comic relief. Hernandez and Darling have both won Emmy awards, while Cohen has not. But insofar as it’s the play-by-play man’s role to set up the analysts, and insofar as it’s the straight-man’s role to lay out the framework in which the colorful characters, or color guys, operate, Cohen deserves a fair share of credit for these.
The SNY broadcast itself has won multiple Emmys, and is generally critically acclaimed by New York's sports media intelligentsia. I asked Cohen about the success of their partnership.
Sounding a little like he was trying not to jinx a no-hitter, he said, “Our relationship in the booth, I can’t even describe it. It’s extraordinary. It works better than anyone could’ve expected it to. And we try not to question it.”