Monday, February 20, 2017

Wooden Spoons

When I worked in radio in rural North Central Kansas, we broadcast a daily sports interview program, and one of the things we did on Fridays during football season was pick winners of five games that were to be played that weekend. There were six or seven of us. We kept standings and everything, even had a end-of-season event where we celebrated the champion.

Something else we did was give the last-place finisher a spatula. The idea was mine, a derivative of the wooden spoon concept that is known in the Australian Football League. All I did was go get one from housewares at the nearby grocery store. I wasn't very good at picking games, so I usually wound up keeping the spatula in my office at work.

It was good, clean fun had by good people. Plus it helped fill an interview slot on Fridays.

So I thought I'd look into the wooden spoon history in the AFL. The side that finishes last on the ladder during the season gets the wooden spoon. It's not a recognized thing by the league, but it's a very common topic of discussion.

The wooden spoon custom apparently has its origins in academia in the late 1700s. Students at the University of Cambridge awarded the 'prize' to whomever got the lowest test scores but still earned a third-class degree. I haven't seen anything about how the concept migrated to Australia. Perhaps it connects to Britain's colonization of Australia which began in 1787.

Last year Essendon won last year's "award," their fifth but their first since 1933. That's impressive, but not as noteworthy as Carlton's wooden spoon drought that saw the Blues stay out of the basement for 105 years, picking up their first one in 2002. The bad thing for them is they've picked up three more since then.

The wooden spoon leaders are St. Kilda, with 27 last-place finishes, with their most recent one coming in 2014.

It looks like five wins is the magic number-- win that many and you should, *should* avoid it, at least nowadays, since the most recent five-win side to finish dead last was Brisbane in 1999. Every team has at least one spoon with the exception of newer clubs Adelaide which joined the AFL in 1990, and Port Adelaide, which began league play in 1997.

It also appears that us Yanks have latched onto the wooden spoon thing, as in Major League Soccer (MLS) the team with the fewest points at the end of the season takes one home. Chicago Fire won the inaugural spoon in 2015.

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