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Three On A Mic

Welcome to FAFIF Turns Ten, a milestone-anniversary series in which we consider anew some of the topics that have defined Mets baseball during our first decade of blogging. In this installment, we appreciate the best reason to have continued watching game in and game out even when the seasons have pretty much gone to hell.

“[You’re] a great broadcaster. And what I mean by that is you have respect for the audience. You have respect for the audience and you have understood what a responsibility having this show every night for an hour means. And you have been a great caretaker of this time. […] Day to day, day to day, you have been a great broadcaster and I just wanted to say that…”

Al Franken said the above to David Letterman the other night [1]. With no more than a couple of tweaks, any of us could have repeated the exact same sentiment to Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling.

Letterman is ending his show next month. Gary, Keith and Ron aren’t going anywhere as far as we know. As long as they’re not, I won’t be going anywhere, either.

Try to imagine these past six seasons without GKR. Try to imagine these past nine seasons, including the ones that weren’t mostly miserable from start to finish. The SNY booth made the Mets more Amazin’ when they were good and elevated them above intolerability when they were awful.

Gary, Keith and Ron have given us Augusts that shouldn’t have been nearly as august and Septembers that we didn’t want to end no matter the tenor of the seasons barely any longer in progress.

They gave us truth and insight and friendliness and intelligence and hilarity and baseball talk like it oughta be. They’ve been a talking miracle. They narrate the often sad and lame machinations of a franchise struggling to be less sad and less lame and have been encouraged and allowed to shine as if they’re nightly counting us down toward a magic number.

On my cable system, the magic number is 60, the setting for SportsNet New York. It’s not much of a channel when the Mets aren’t on, though it’s an adequate frequency when the Mets are making a little off-field news. You can’t argue with live cutaways for free agent signings, Rookie of the Year announcements and such. You can’t help but peek in on any show that has “Mets” in the title. But the real Mets and potatoes is 7:10 on most weeknights from early April to early October, give or take a week, a matinee or an unwelcome intrusion by Fox or ESPN (Channel 11’s OK, I guess, but the SNY-produced games airing there never feel quite as kosher).

Gary, Keith and Ron start to speak. The Mets play in front of them. The Mets also misplay in front of them. That’s all right. They talk us through the three-two counts that become ball four, the mental errors, the lapses in judgment, the baserunners who take off too soon from first or turn the wrong way around second or are find themselves out at third. They hold our hands when the bullpen gate swings open and we don’t want to see who is coming in next.

They also talk us through base hits to the gap and jams escaped and what do you call those things again, where saves aren’t blown? Wins, that’s it. There are never enough wins since Gary, Keith and Ron have been coming to our psychological aid, but when they do occur, boy do our guys make the most of them.

SNY — and we’ll include the crack production team [2] along with the dear, departed Bobby Ojeda [3] and Kevin Burkhardt [4] under that rubric — manufactures the most satisfying three-plus hours of nightly television this side of my Mad Men DVDs. The Mets may have been letting us down with regularity since late 2007, but the given Mets game we watch never does. Gary, Keith and Ron don’t talk down to us and they don’t oversell unto us what we ain’t in the mood to buy. They are the Mets fans we are even if we were never the players two of them were and few anywhere could be the broadcaster their lead voice is. They avoid the unprofessional “we,” yet we know they’re in this with us. We feel it, which is why we don’t click away and rarely dare to turn them off.

I’ve stayed glued to so many Mets games on television because of them. Yeah, I’d look in anyway, especially since we blog them, but they making watching fun. It’s appointment television, destination television, immersion television. It’s television a relatively sane person talks back to the screen during, not because the person in question has a problem with the broadcast but because he sort of senses he’s welcome in the booth. He’s come to anticipate what Ron will say to Gary and what Keith will say to both of them, yet he maintains the capacity for surprise and delight. He’s sorry some Mets games drag on and on from an aesthetic standpoint, but he’s rarely rooting for the curtain to come down on SNY for the evening.

I love the show these guys put on, probably because they’ve convinced me somehow that it’s not a show. It feels so genuine, so authentic, so real. Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling embody the Mets as we wish them to be. They present them to us in a way that lets us look at our team and see our reflection and fill with elation that we are, from our respective couches, a piece of this action. When you get that much out of one cable channel, how could you not want to lock in on that?