If there was one candidate for higher office everybody could get behind in 2016, it was Oscar Madison. Our favorite fictional sportswriter was running for New York City Council, which you might have missed amid other political news, but in reruns, the best campaigns always pick up right where they left off. In “The Odd Candidate,” which first aired on October 20, 1974, on ABC, it wasn’t Oscar’s idea to seek the seat — Felix got him involved on behalf of saving neighborhood playgrounds — but once Oscar committed to the race, he literally used his head to win votes. He and his volunteers fanned out all over the 34th District and showed residents they were devoted to New York’s best interests in the most accessible way possible.
By wearing Mets caps on the stump.
As we Mets fans understand intrinsically, the Mets cap doesn’t always signify a winner (Oscar lost to longtime incumbent Councilman Simpson) but we know when we see one that there’s a lot of heart in the head that hosts it. At the end of every year , we salute the character who wore the Mets cap with the most verve and panache of anybody in the history of popular culture, Oscar Madison, portrayed for five seasons on The Odd Couple by Jack Klugman, and hand out the Oscar’s Cap Awards. They, in turn, recognize the breadth and depth of the Mets’ presence in pop culture over the preceding twelve months.
What “Aristophanes” is to “ridiculous”  is what the Oscar’s Cap is to the sighting of Mets apparel, memorabilia, personnel or awareness in film, television, theater, literature, song…really anywhere outside the world of sports and sports-related news where you wouldn’t necessarily expect to encounter Met-specific content. If it pricked our consciousness in 2016 — either as new or new to us (’cause we’re always discovering great old finds) — it rates a mention here. And that, sports fans, is essentially the Oscar’s Cap.
Whereas the original Odd Couple series smoothly and subtly worked the Mets into its fabric from 1970 to 1975, the rebooted version currently airing on CBS makes a bigger show of its Met associations, but since when do we mind attention? In the episode titled “Madison & Son,” which ran on April 28, Oscar (Matthew Perry as a sports talk host in this incarnation) gets to realize a lifelong dream and throw out the first pitch prior to a game at Citi Field. His catcher for the occasion will be his buddy Marcus Murphy — “Murph,” they call him — a former Met who has six All-Star appearances and eight Gold Gloves to his credit. Oscar clearly had dad issues, because he tries overly hard to impress his father, Walter, played by the creator of the original incarnation of the series, Garry Marshall. Instead of hitting Murph’s mitt, Oscar hits Mr. Met in the head. Well, as these things will go, Oscar becomes a citywide object of ridicule and he has to return to the Mets clubhouse and apologize to Mr. Met, who is wearing a bandage on his head. Mr. Met plays himself.
Other notes from this most Met-intensive episode of anything from 2016:
• Oscar wears No. 4, Murph No. 11 — authentic Mets jerseys.
• Walter wears a very old Mets cap.
• In Oscar’s living room, he and Walter watch Matt Harvey pitchers versus the Marlins. Harvey’s “really throwing smoke,” in Oscar’s estimation. Walter tells him he thinks he saw Harvey once at a Denny’s, maybe a Red Lobster.
• Howie Rose can be heard providing play-by-play.
On November 7, in “Taffy Days,” The Odd Couple tacitly acknowledged Marshall’s real-life passing by having the character of Walter die and Oscar attempt to scatter his ashes. The son’s parting words: “I hope that wherever you are, the New York Mets are on and it’s always the ’86 World Series.”
As if all this isn’t heart-tugging enough, a second CBS sitcom determinedly colored itself orange and blue in 2016. Kevin Can Wait, starring celebrity Mets fan Kevin James, draped itself in Metsiana to a greater extent that Citi Field did when it opened in 2009. A fleece blanket with the Mets skyline logo was visible in a summertime promotional spot. In the pilot, which aired September 19, retired cop Kevin Gable (James) wears a Mets hoodie while sitting on an exercise bike he’s not pedaling too strenuously. “GO TO METS GAMES” is on a PowerPoint presentation of potential group outings he shows his similarly retired cop friends, which should be easy enough since the series is set in Massapequa. James chose to shoot the series on Long Island in part because he wanted to stay close to home and take his real-life children to more Mets games. In later episodes, Kevin’s TV wife Donna (Erinn Hayes) wears a Mets shirt to bed and Kevin sports The 7 Line’s New York State tee.
But why stop with Met garments when you can have an actual Met? James used his pull to lure Noah Syndergaard onto the October 31 episode, “Hallow-We-Ain’t Home,” in which Thor guest stars as the Viking, an otherwise unnamed character who plays his music loud at a Halloween get-together, but is otherwise soft-spoken and cooperative (his girlfriend wanted the music loud; when he explained he turned it down in deference to a complaint, she complains that he’s so boring).
Syndergaard got around in 2016, In a baseball-themed episode of Cartoon Network’s Uncle Grandpa, which debuted October 22, Noah voices himself and is drawn in a Mets uniform. He is introduced (alongside several other All-Stars) as “the powerhouse pitcher that his fans call Thor.” Noah emerges from the cartoon’s version of the cornfield and says to the title character, “I’m guessing you want me to sign that for you,” pointing to an oversized Thor’s hammer. “Yes, please,” the coach says, and Thor does. Later, Thor explains baseball: “It’s just hitting the ball with a stick. How hard could it be?
While Thor was being animated, Harvey was being Harvey on Bravo’s Look Who’s Talking: Live with Andy Cohen, guesting alongside Connie Chung on January 28. There was one baseball question (pertaining to staying in for the ninth inning of Game Five; Harvey claimed he had no idea what inning it was until he went back out to the mound) and the rest involved whether Harvey’s been in a three-way (he has), whether he’s had shall we say relations on a ballfield (he has, in college), whether he’s in the mile high club (he’s not) and which Met brings the most sizable Louisville Slugger to bear, if you will (he invoked the Fifth Amendment). At the end of the show, Cohen promised a call-in to the aftershow from “the catcher with the best ass in baseball,” Anthony Recker. On February 3, Harvey continued his run of unlikely appearances when he showed up on Late Night With Seth Meyers, ostensibly promoting his role as a “men’s ambassador” during New York Fashion Week.
The talk/variety show circuit has always had a place for the Mets. If you got the Decades channel in 2016, you were reminded that in the introduction to the trailer for 1986’s Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee, as himself, wears a Mets cap, selling tube socks on the street. This was shown on The Dick Cavett Show, where Spike entered in a white NEW YORK baseball jersey (block letters blue with orange outline). As rerun on Decades thirty years after the fact, Spike and Dick discussed how great the recently completed 1986 World Series was. Spike said he was at Game Six. “Here we are in December, and you’re still celebrating the Mets,” Cavett said. “Believe it or not, after all this time, we still have a few Mets fans in the audience,” Cavett winked as he opened the show, which aired on ABC late in the fall of 1986 but was taped not long after the World Series for later broadcast — and after he had some genuine Met guests. Nothing new for Cavett. In the previous iteration of his late night show, on April 14, 1970, Dick Cavett welcomed defending world champs Jerry Koosman, Art Shamsky, Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool and Ron Taylor.
Indeed, the Mets had come a long way since October 1, 1964, when, on that evening’s episode of The Jimmy Dean Show, Rowlf the Dog (Jimmy’s puppet sidekick) held up signs that said “Drop Dead Mets” and “Lets Go Mets”. The tenth-place Mets were about to put a scare into the pennant-contending Cardinals on that season’s final weekend, so one supposes Rowlf couldn’t be too careful. The early misfortunes of the Mets no doubt informed the thinking of composer Skip Battin in his 1972 musical lament, “St. Louis Browns,” when he wrote and sang, “The St. Louis Browns were a baseball team/and they lost more than the Mets could ever dream.”
Ah, but when the Mets were good, they remained legendary. In Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, there is an exchange between two time-disconnected characters, Eddie Dean (from New York, 1987) and John Cullum (Boston, 1977). Cullum wants to know, “Have the Red Sox won it all yet? Have they ever won the Series? At least up to your time?” Dean talks him out of wanting to know before cheerfully telling him, “You don’t want to die before 1986. That’s gonna be a corker.”
On the first episode of HBO’s 2016 animated series Animals (“Rats”), two “PDNY” horses are discussing parades they can march in and doubt there’ll ever be a “Mets parade…they’re terrible this year,” though one says his father’s father “was in the ’86 Mets parade” and adds an aside about Doc Gooden, “blow” and horse tranquilizers. Similarly, on February 2’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine (“Karen Peralta”), Jake Peralta is told his “birthday surprise” has arrived: “You got the ’86 Mets? Be warned, a lot of them turned out to be drug addicts, so this could be a bummer.” (A few episodes earlier, on December 14, 2015’s “Yippie Kayak,” Rosa says to Amy “You’re always cold. You brought a blanket to a Mets game in mid-July.”) Remembering a more innocent championship season was Coach Ken Reeves on The White Shadow, December 23, 1980, in “A Christmas Story”: Ken Howard’s lead character chooses a 1969-vintage wine because, as the nun (Penny Peyser as Coach Bellini) he’s drinking it with notes, “The Mets won the Series.” Ken confirms that he indeed chooses wine vintages based on a given year’s World Series.
Ken Howard, like Garry Marshall, passed on in 2016. Along the way, we picked up on a couple of other Met pop culture contributions left behind by another star who departed the constellation this year. You can’t beat this lyric from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Skypager” (1991): “I keep my bases loaded like the New York Mets.” The Tribe’s late Phife Dawg wore a Mets jacket and Mr. Met cap on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on November 13, 2015.
In Everything Is Copy, the 2016 HBO documentary, Nora Ephron is seen wearing a Mets cap while she’s directing the 1992 film This Is My Life, which may explain this exchange from her script for When Harry Met Sally (1989):
HARRY (Billy Crystal): Did Julian seem a little stuffy to you?
JESS (Bruno Kirby): He’s a good guy, you should talk to him, get to know him.
HARRY: He’s too tall to talk to.
JESS: He took us all to a Met game last week, it was great.
HARRY: You all went to a Met game together?
JESS: Yeah, but…it was a…last-minute thing.
HARRY: But Sally hates baseball.
A different kind of romantic comedy vibe emanates from “The Panic in Central Park,” the March 27 episode of Girls (“The Panic in Central Park”), in which Marnie encounters this complaint from another young lady: “Why is everybody such a fucking disappointment?” She asks, “Guy problems?” and is told, “Yeah — if you call a hot dyke with a strap-on and a Mets cap a guy.”
New Yorkers should be familiar with the fashion happening that is the Met Gala, an event, that Stephen Colbert explained on the May 3 edition of The Late Show, “is all for charity, and I hope they raise enough money so Mr. Met can finally get the cranial surgery he so desperately needs.” In the realm of fashion, let’s award style points to O.T. Genasis for wearing (or “rocking,” as some prefer to say) a custom leather Bartolo Colon jersey during his performance at the 2016 BET Awards; the members of Major Lazer for performing at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival at NYC Central Park while dressed in pinstriped Mets jerseys; and one of Bruno Mars’s backup singers, who modeled a black Mets jersey with HUNDLEY 9 in white letters on the back on October 15’s Saturday Night Live.
Two other SNL sightings to log: on April 9, in advance of the New York primary, Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton flipped around a Yankees cap to reveal a Mets cap, thus proving her longstanding allegiance to “the New York Meats”; and Michael Che wore a Mets cap during the goodbyes at the end of Saturday Night Live, October 8. That was the installment hosted by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which provides the segue to note one of the managers of the Hamilton softball team wore a Mets shirt  as the cast, led by Miranda, gathered outside the Richard Rodgers Theater on June 1 to sing “Heart” from Damn Yankees.
As long as we’re up on stage, let’s record that in March 2015, Jon Weber, our esteemed blolleague over at The Ballclub , directed a play titled Great Kills, at Theater for the New City. As Jon describes it, the production “opens with a solo character, Mr. G (played by Joe Pantoliano), watching a fictitious Mets-Reds game on TV. Yours truly played the part of Gary Cohen’s voice, as Jacob deGrom pitched to Joey Votto in the third inning. Ultimately, the sound is turned off and the game becomes part of the background. Later, Mr. G requests to be left alone so that he can go back to watching the game. The play closed with the TV being turned back on and we learn that Bobby Parnell ended up blowing a three-run lead and the Mets wind up losing, 6-5.”
All the world’s a stage, and regarding the one we care about most, Citi Field, we became aware in 2016 that the May 21, 2009, episode of Ugly Betty (“Curveball”) was filmed in part at the then-new ballpark. It was the first television show to shoot there. Game footage of the Mets and Nationals is interspersed. A first ball is thrown out and relationships are pondered. The CitiVision board is used to great effect as the title character considers the two guys she likes and imagines their faces appearing on the Jumbotron, each getting a “ding!” for every nice thing she thinks of them. The magazine at the series’ center, Mode, is promoting its wedding issue at the game, which explains what the characters are doing there. Much of the show’s action takes place in the Delta Sky360 seats. Also, in case you missed it, Law & Order: Criminal Intent shot footage in 2012 at Citi Field in Caesars Club, Acela Club and the board room of the administrative building.
While the Mets were away winning  at good old Turner Field  on June 25, Dead & Company played Citi Field, and when it came time to play “Ripple” for an encore, John Mayer came to play in a No. 77 Mets jersey .
Elsewhere on the Met pop culture spectrum…
Randy Rice wore a The 7 Line neon Shea catcher cap on the January 29, episode of The Smartest Guy in the Room on the History Channel.
In the 2015 novel Third Base…A Love Story by Kenny Arena, fictional Mets third baseman Danny Reynolds is a gay ballplayer who falls in love with Jake, who is based loosely on the author (a real-life Mets fan who grew up in Jackson Heights).
“…that shit-brown Camaro you won betting on the Mets,” is something Skip says to a record store guy on HBO’s Vinyl, March 6.
On The Middle (“Crushed,” April 6), perennial misfit Brick wears a slightly too large hybrid blue and orange Mets cap to prove his commitment to becoming a “professional baseball man,” which is really about trying to get his parents to loan $700 they don’t have to his girlfriend Cindy’s parents so they don’t have to move.
In 2016’s Season 2 Episode 2 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix (“Kimmy Goes On A Playdate!”), Titus Andromedon is hit on by construction worker Mikey: “I like you. You remind me of Carlos Delgado of the Mets.” In Season 2, Episode 12 (“Kimmy Sees a Sunset!”), Mikey wears a The 7 Line “Eat, Sleep, Mets, Repeat” t-shirt.
Mets fan John Oliver wears a Mets cap riding alongside Mets fan Jerry Seinfeld in a 2016 installment of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.
In the 2016 play, Another Way Home, Philip, the dad character, wore a Mets cap in its Washington, D.C., production.
On March 8, 1996, Jason Isringhausen appeared live via satellite from Port St. Lucie on The Late Show With David Letterman, throwing baseballs at an archery target. Dave kibbitzed aggressively, Izzy appeared a little baffled.
A Dwight Gooden jersey is visible on the cover of the 1989 Beastie Boys album Paul’s Boutique.
In HBO’s The Night Of (2016), Stone (John Turturro) has a son named after Dwight Gooden.
In the 2016 CBS series Angel From Hell, Kevin Pollak as Marv Fuller tells a love interest that if she loved the Mets, he’d marry her right now.
Yogi Berra, portrayed as a Met, is one of the many characters portrayed by illustrator Jack Davis — another 2016 loss — on the cover of the 1979 Mad Magazine paperback It’s a World, World, World, World Mad.
In the 1966 film Penelope, banker’s wife Penelope Elcott, played by Natalie Wood, asks police lieutenant Horatio Bixbee, played by Peter Falk, “Who’s Ron Swoboda?” upon finding him in a pack of baseball cards (that Falk is carrying only for the bubble gum) and “Do I get to I keep Ron Swoboda?” as they part ways.
Kristy McNichol as Molly (or “Pete,” as she prefers to be called) wears a Little League-style shirt — yellow letters on red background — that says METS, Starsky & Hutch, “Little Girl Lost,” a Christmas-themed ep first aired on December 25, 1976. Southern California seemed to breed this sort of off-brand Mets identity in the Bicentennial year, for one of the teams in the North Valley League in The Bad News Bears (1976) is known as the Mets.
In bringing up the First Lady’s Chief of Staff Lily Mays, The West Wing Weekly co-host Joshua Malina likens her name to Willie Mays and briefly mentions his Mets fandom on the podcast as he and Hrishikesh Hirway discuss the Season One West Wing episode, “The White House Pro-Am” (recorded in 2016).
In Season 2 of USA Network’s Mr. Robot (2016), taking place in the early summer of 2015, a character is reading a newspaper and says, “Mets won again…this could be their year!”
In the Amazon series Crisis in Six Scenes (2016), Episode Four, Lennie Dale (Miley Cyrus) complains to Sidney Munsinger (Woody Allen) that he had the TV on until 2 AM. He tells her that game went into extra innings and he wanted to see “if the Mets would beat the Dodgers.”
Characters dress up in Mets jerseys and caps at a Halloween party on Fox’s Scream Queens, 2016 (the show’s second season).
Looking ahead, a trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017 release) includes a PIAZZA 31 HALL OF FAME pennant in Peter Parker’s apartment. Next year will also see the premiere of Going In Style, which, as reported in this space a year ago , is slated to feature Morgan Freeman in a Mets cap.
Thanks to all who tipped us off, knowingly or otherwise, in the course of the last year to stuff we weren’t aware of. We keep an eye peeled for Mets pop culture appearances, whether they’re fresh or well-preserved, but we don’t necessarily see or hear everything. If you want to tell us about any Met sightings you think we might not already know about, feel free to mention them in the comments or drop us a line. (And for more on Met-infused lyrics, particularly in hip-hop, check out this comprehensive Amazin’ Avenue survey .)