Colorado Rapids

Oar-igin Story: A closer look into the Centennial 38's Man of the Match tradition


What started as a happenstance craft store find has now turned into the Rapids' most revered tradition: the Man of the Match oar. Centennial 38, the Rapids' supporters' group founded in 2013, has hand-painted and presented Colorado's MVP from each home game a unique, three-foot wooden oar, paying homage to the origin of the team's name and swift rivers found in Colorado.

No two oars are the same and not a single one has been reused over the years. The tradition linking fans directly to players is like no other found in Major League Soccer.

As the Rapids prepare to celebrate Supporters' Night on Saturday when they take on rivals Real Salt Lake in the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup series, let's take a closer look into the time-honored tradition.

C38 buys the oars in bulk, then sands each down to prep the wood for the paint. Once the oar is handed off to the artist, the design is within their creative limits and power. For C38 member Trevor Curry, his talents lie in the designing process and making the idea come to life using ink pens. Mason Andrade takes a different approach of using tape and an exacto knife to cut out the designs and lettering that he eventually paints in.

Oar Creation Process

Once the oar is at the C38 tailgate, it's put on display. A Rapids player who isn't starting or who is unavailable for that night's match will make their way to the tailgate, where they show off the oar, chat with supporters, and get the crowd pumped for the game through the message inscribed on the oar.

Oliver Larraz gets the C38 tailgate pumped ahead of the Rapids' meeting with Philadelphia Union, brandishing an oar that reads "It's always rowdy in Colorado".

When it's time to head into the stadium, a member of C38 will carry the oar in and hand it off to the Rapids' front office staff, who will deliver it to the captain of the match as the starting XI procession begins. The oar stays in the hands of the captain right until kickoff, when it is then delivered back to C38 at the bottom of Section 118, carried up the steps to the sound of a roaring crowd, and hung on the wall of The Dale's Bar criss-crossed with the 2023 oar that remains throughout the season.

The Path of the Oar

Once the final whistle is blown and the Man of the Match is announced, the oar is taken back down to field level, where a supporter presents it to the player chosen for the gameday honors. The player doesn't get to hold onto it too long, however, as all oars from the season will hang for the remainder of the season until they can find their way back to the hands of the celebrated player. Five oars currently hang in The Dale's Bar, marking the matchups with Sporting Kansas City, Minnesota United, LAFC, St. Louis City, and Philadelphia Union.

2023 Man of the Match Recipients

Throughout MLS, Man of the Match and honorary celebrations are marked by presenting the players with a physical object. For Nashville SC, it's the vinyl record pressed in-stadium with the broadcast audio of their goals, assists and major highlights. The Portland Timbers chainsaw a slab of wood from a "victory log" and present it to each goalscorer after a match.

But what sets the oar tradition apart from others is the people in the stands--the unique, creative touches from the supporters that keep DICK'S Sporting Goods Park roaring all season long.

There is not one person that procures, preps and paints each oar. There is not one person that presents the oar after the final whistle. It's a communal effort, and an effort that C38 is proud to share with all fans of the Burgundy & Blue.

Man of the Match Oars Through the Years

“I think it's huge. We are in such a unique position with this league and the North American sporting landscape to be able to be that close to the players" C38 member Mason Andrade said. "There’s a genuine bond between us and the players that happens. Our connection manifests itself in the shape of an oar. At this day and age to have that connection, it’s rare. With the nature of this league, it really allows us to make this our club. There's tangible overlap between us and the team, and that is huge."

Unlike other traditions around the league, the oar creation and presentation is one that the fans can be directly involved in and have a stake to claim.

"Each one of our oars is designed and made by someone in the club and it's really a projection of that emotion, that commitment and dedication to the club," C38 member Trevor Curry said. "You can go to a game, you can cheer and you can chant and the guys hear but I think it's more of a physical personification of wanting to do something for the club, wanting to give a little piece of yourself, give your time and effort to make the oar. It's just it's a really good feeling to see the player appreciate it and see it and like it. I think that's what kind of sets it apart.

"It's something that is very unique, not only to us, but if one one fan paints one they'll have that for the rest of their life."