Keepers of the Spoon
Written by: RJ Montaño
Since making the move from the USL-Championship, FC Cincinnati has yet to find its footing in Major League Soccer. One piece of hardware the Orange and Blue have been able to collect is the Wooden Spoon, winning the award in back-to-back full seasons (unofficially three seasons).
The Wooden Spoon was created in 2015 and is awarded to the team who finishes last among Major League Soccer’s teams in contrast to the Supporters Shield which is given to the team with the best record in MLS. While the Supporters Shield Foundation awards the Supporters Shield at the end of the regular MLS season, the Independent Supporters Council officially awards the Wooden Spoon at the annual conference held each January.
How did the Spoon come about? “The Spoon had been talked about for a while, just as a way to shame owners who weren't putting in as much effort as others, but the actual start of the project was after Chicago won back-to-back spoons, which I think was a first,” said Wooden Spoon founder Dan Giroux of Section 8 Chicago (Chicago Fire). “There was a quick ISC discussion about it and how it would mirror the Supporters Shield, but in the end it wasn't anything too formal. It was decided it would be Section 8 Chicago who would need to make it since we held the dishonor of winning it that year, and the next year (2016), so after the ISC ended we talked at our board meeting about how we would do it. I was teaching fabrication at a college at the time and was the director of marketing so as the guy that makes stuff, it fell on me to actually execute the project,” Giroux added.
Chicago held the Spoon for the first two years of its inception in 2015 and 2016 and was happy to pass it along to the LA Galaxy in 2017. In 2018, the award stayed in California, moving north to San Jose for a year until the spoon found its way to Cincinnati in 2019. The ISC did not award the Wooden Spoon in 2020 due to the COVID shortened and regionally based season. However, if the award had been given, Cincinnati would have won it. In 2021, the Orange and Blue earned the spoon once again.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the results on the field, but I think the fan base has embraced having the Spoon for the third time, second officially,” said Jared Handra, President of Die Innenstadt in Cincinnati. “People just have fun with it now, it’s pretty cool to win a trophy three years in a row. We wanted to win trophies, I guess it’s on us for not specifying which one.”
Die Innenstadt has made the best of winning the Spoon in back-to-back official years. “The last game of the season we brought it to our last home match and people were taking turns holding it, taking pictures with it, taking shots with it, dancing with it. Everyone was having fun. I’m sure we’ll bring it to matches next year as well,” Handra said.
The Spoon is intended to be a light-hearted award but also as a way to remind the front office of the season’s worst club that changes need to be made. “Moving forward I would like to see the spirit of the award maintained as well as the statistic,” Giroux said. “This wasn't just a joke trophy; it was meant to be a tool for supporters of teams that had absentee owners, in order to shame those owners. I think that's important in this league, having watched a team stagnate and suffer and lose so many fans and culture like Chicago did during the Hauptman years. I would like to see more supporters’ groups using it in that way, not holding on to it in their own shame, but projecting that shame on their owners and hopefully getting some attention for the teams that are just in the league for their owners to collect expansion fees.”
In the end, the Spoon is a way to bring together camaraderie amongst the fan base and with other supporter groups around Major League Soccer. Handra added, “It’s fun to not take yourself so seriously. Especially when we are this bad. The Wooden Spoon trophy is a fun thing, why not embrace it? It’ll get better soon! It’ll get better soon, right guys?”