Fans can be brutal to one another. They are always on guard for frauds, on the lookout for posers, wary of those who don’t display proper credentials. They seek fellow true believers, regardless of subject, regardless of genre; they shun fakers.
If you call yourself a Springsteen fan, best not list “Dancing in the Dark” as your favorite tune, lest you be castigated as an amateur. If you fancy yourself a Scorsese aficionado, it’s always wise to lead with “Mean Streets” over “The Irishman,” or “Taxi Driver” over “Cape Fear.” (NOTE: “Goodfellas” is always the safest play here.)
It’s possible that Steve Cohen could have really brandished his bona fides if he’d gone with Dave Schneck or Willie Montanez when asked who his favorite Met of all time was, or if he’d have smiled and warmly recalled Steve Henderson’s walk-off home run that capped a five-run ninth-inning rally and beat the Giants 7-6 at Shea on June 14, 1980.
But he was already speaking to a wholly converted congregation when he signed on to the Zoom call at which he was officially introduced as the Mets’ owner just past 12:30 Tuesday afternoon. He’d already engaged with Mets fans over Twitter for a week, had already fired them up with talk of bringing back Old-Timers’ Day, had been mentioning, from the moment he got involved with the sale, that he’s bled orange and blue from the crib.
“My first game was with my father, in 1963, at the Polo Grounds,” were his first words as The New Boss. “My friends and I would take the train from Great Neck to the Shea Stadium station and sit in the upper deck.” He recited the proper franchise touchstones: Tom Seaver’s Imperfect Game, Cleon Jones catching the lazy fly that clinched the ’69 Series, Mookie Wilson’s ground ball drizzling through Bill Buckner’s legs.
That was all very nice.
For Mets fans, even better was the more detailed testimony that followed, proof that he really has been paying attention the past couple of years, that their frustrations were his frustrations, first as a fan, then as a limited partner.
There was this, for instance: “This is a major market team. It should have a budget commensurate with that.” That was good for the bronze medal.
And this: “I don’t want to be good one year and then bad three years in a row.” That was a solid silver.
This was the gold: “We’re not competing against the Yankees. This is the Mets. We’ll have our own identity. I’m competing against 29 other teams in MLB.”
Honestly? There isn’t a publicist or a spin-doctor alive who could make someone who didn’t feel those things say those things. Those are the same things that have kept talk-radio phone lines buzzing for 35 years. Those are the same feelings of the folks who threaten to melt down Twitter 162 times a year.
Steve Cohen asked the DJ to play “Price You Pay” with those quotes. Deep album cuts. They will resonate. And the words have already been heard. Sandy Alderson followed Cohen on the Zoom, and for an hour and a half we were treated to a far different version of Alderson than what we saw here most of the first time around — at least on the record.
And the keynote sentence he delivered that will have Mets fans salivating was this, talking about the way business will now be conduced:
“We now can emphasize the acquisition rather than the cost.”
This wasn’t just winning a press conference; this was Tyson-Spinks. It took 91 seconds to call the fight doctor into the ring.
Cohen oozes confidence, which should come as no surprise when you see the fortune he has amassed, or if even 15 percent of him really did inspire the Bobby Axelrod character on “Billions.” One of the buzzy talking points that came from the Zoom was his declaration that he’d be unhappy if the Mets didn’t win a World Series in “three to five years.”
“I wonder,” Alderson quipped, “if he knows I haven’t won a World Series in 31 years.”
Cohen also acknowledged that reaching that goal isn’t easy, but it also seems he probably buys into the credo expressed years ago by President Kennedy when he spoke of how ambitious launching a moon-walk program seemed in 1962, when he said we do these things “not because they are easy but because they are hard.”
It is, of course, possible that this might have been Cohen’s most popular day as the Mets’ owner. From here on in, as he declared he’s “all-in,” it’s all on his watch, and if it works he will be lionized and if it doesn’t he’ll be lambasted. But even that part of it shows how different he is from his predecessors.
The Wilpons always blanched at the criticism heaped on them, and on their team, never understanding that in the absence of anger comes apathy, and apathy brings slow death to a sports franchise.
“If they’re emotional,” Cohen said, “it means they care. I’d rather have anger and people who care. I think that’s phenomenal.”
He looked like he was having a hell of a good time already. Odds are, at least on this day, he wasn’t the only Mets fan feeling that way.