Tradition Tuesday is a weekly feature where we explore the history, lore, and culture of the Dark Clouds. Confused about why we sing about Hot Nuts? Which Minnesota player coined “Nuts Of A Warrior”? Why does the section quack every so often? We have the answers in Tradition Tuesday.

We recently opened up voting for the Dark Clouds End Of Year Awards. What many of you may not know is that the awards and the auction that goes with them are a Dark Clouds tradition stretching back 12 years.

The first awards banquet was held at the Town Hall Brewery in 2004. The event was held partially to mark the launch of BlueSkySoccer.com (a Minnesota soccer news & opinions website) and to commemorate the Minnesota Thunder moving from the NSC to James Griffin Stadium in Saint Paul. At this first event, two awards (Player of the Year & Newcomer of the Year) were handed out to players and an auction was held to benefit Grassroots Soccer. Thunder player Mike Wilson helped obtain items from his teammates and others that could be auctioned off. As they are today, votes for the player awards were collected through an online poll.

Player worn cleats are typically abundant at the auction (Photo: Jeremy Olson)
Player worn cleats are typically abundant at the auction (Photo: Jeremy Olson)

The following year saw the inclusion of an award handed to the best Dark Cloud and a lifetime achievement award given to retiring longtime Thunder coach (and so much more) Buzz Lagos. Initially neither award had a name but they would eventually come to be known as the Jackass of the Year (we’ll cover the “Jackass” thing next week) and Buzz Lagos Lifetime Achievement Award.

By 2005 the awards had gained enough stature and importance to feature “voting irregularities.” The results of the online awards poll were deemed to have been manipulated. (We’ve moved to a more secure poll in the intervening 11 years!) Another lowlight occurred in 2006 when, thanks to a terrible season and the 2006 World Cup’s shadow, the auction featured very slim pickings. One of the “best” items was a photo of (new coach) Amos Magee shirtless from about 1994. Truly an item of vast value.

A signed megaphone is put up for auction with other items (Photo: Jeremy Olson)
A signed megaphone is put up for auction with other items (Photo: Jeremy Olson)

These days the auctions featured a vast array of items ranging in value (attendees are welcome to bring their own to donate). There is always a vast supply of player worn cleats but some more rare player memorabilia is also on supply like game worn and signed USMNT jerseys. Last year saw a Landon Donovan lunchbox jump into the mix and on occasion breweries have donated racks of beer. In 2014, a megaphone used by capos signed by many of that year’s Dark Clouds was offered up. Over the years, the auctions at the awards have benefited Grassroots Soccer, The Sanneh Foundation, Team 4 Gavin and several other charities.

In 2014, departing player Kentaro Takada was presented with his old tifo. (Photo: Jeremy Olson)
In 2014, departing player Kentaro Takada was presented with his old tifo. (Photo: Jeremy Olson)

The End Of Year Awards & Auctions have been held at several locations across the Twin Cities including the former Sweetwater Bar & Grille, the Nomad World Pub and most recently at the Turf Club in Saint Paul. The events serve both as a celebration of the season that has been but also an occasion for players and fans to mingle and meet.

We’re still finalizing details of this year’s event but in the meantime you can vote on the awards available by using this form. Click here to vote.

Below is a list of previous award winners:

Player of the Year:
2004 – Dustin Branan
2005 – Freddy Juarez
2006 – Matt Schmidt
2007 – Nic Platter
2008 – Nic Platter
2009 – Nic Platter
2010 – Andres Arango
2011 – Kyle Altman
2012 – Matt VanOekel
2013 – Pablo Campos
2014 – Miguel Ibarra
2015 – Justin Davis

Newcomer of the Year:
2004 – Jay Alberts
2005 – Nate Knox
2006 – Alfredo Esteves
2007 – Brian Farber
2008 – Ricardo Sanchez
2009- Lawrence Olum
2010 – Simone Bracalello
2011- Justin Davis
2012 – Miguel Ibarra
2013 – Calum Mallace
2014 – Christian Ramirez
2015 – Sammy Ndjock

Buzz Lagos Award
2005 – Buzz Lagos
2007 – Liz Schorn
2009 – Claude Duran (Thor)
2010- Manny Lagos
2012 – Chris Lidholm
2013 – Kevin Friedland
2014 – Dan Barnes

Jackass of the Year
2005 – Keith Kramer
2007 – Kevin Joseph
2008 – Neal Logan
2009 – Tim “SuperRookie” Hayes
2010 – Scott Kerssen
2011 – Anthony de Sam Lazaro
2012 – David Smith
2013 – Ben Pfutzenreuter (Arts and Crafts); Wes Burdine (Discourse); Tim Alexander
2014 – Nachiket Karnik and Doreen Hartzell
2015 – Abe Opoti

Iron Skillet Award:
(Awarded to those who fix or improve something in our organization)
2014 – Brandon Maurisak
2015 – Jeff Rueter & Jake Rueter

Misc:
2008 – Kevin Friedland – Humanitarian/Man of the Year