In the summer of 2010, my first book will be coming out in stores entitled “100 Things Every Steelers Fan Should Know Before They Die.” The book, which is being published by Triumph Books, will be in stores next Summer and will retail for $14.95. We will have ordering info through Amazon as soon as it becomes available.
In the meantime, through the offseason, we’ll give Steelers Gab readers a sneak peek of some chapters of the book. Today is chapter 14, which talks about the famous “Terrible Towel,” it’s history, and the man behind it – Myron Cope! Enjoy!
It has its own entry in Wikipedia. It is the symbol of a football team and in the minds of some out there it’s the ultimate good luck tool and one that brings bad things upon other teams. Yes, the “Terrible Towel” indeed could be described as all those things – and more. Never has an item been so associated with a team and a city as the towel, and it’s history and tradition are legendary.
The towel as it came to be began just two weeks before the Steelers first playoff game back in 1975. The story goes that the GM of Steelers flagship radio station, WTAE, told the inventor of the towel, Myron Cope, that he needed a gimmick to attract sponsors to his talk show. Cope said he wanted no part in it, but in the end, he along with the GM came up for the idea for a towel with the words “The Terrible Towel” printed on it. The rest as they say – is history.
Cope went on the radio and TV telling fans to bring a yellow dish towel to the game, and as the team took the field against the Colts in a playoff game on December 27th, 1975, there were some 30,000 fans waving towels in support of their team. The Steelers went on to win 28-10, beat the Raiders the following week at home in the AFC Title game, and then topped Dallas in Super Bowl X. It was a gimmick, but one that would still be around some three decades later.
It’s a rite of passage now as a Steeler fan to own a “Terrible Towel,” and they easy to spot just about anywhere. The towel has found its way to six Super Bowls, countless playoff games, and even more regular season games not only in Pittsburgh, but all over the country. After the last two Super Bowl wins, there has been special edition towels to help Steeler fans celebrate.
The official “Terrible Towel” didn’t make it’s debut until the 1976 season, as Gimbels department store came out with “The Official Myron Cope Terrible Towel.” While Gimbels is gone, today the towel is made by McArthur Towel and Sports Co. Most of the time you can find the towel online or through the official Steelers site for aobut $7.
While Cope himself is gone, his legacy with the towel to this day remains. He never made a dime off of it, as all the proceeds for the towel go to the Allegheny Valley School in Coraopolis, PA. The school provides care for people with physical disabilities and mental retardation. To date the sale of the towels has raised more than $2.2 million for the school.
The towel is also a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as after Cope retired after 35 years, he served as co-captain for the Steelers in their 2005 home game against the Ravens. He led the fans in a towel wave at halftime of a game the Steelers won 20-19, and that towel is the one that now stands in the Hall as a signature of pride to the Steelers and their fans.
Other teams have tried to stomp on it, and the widespread belief is that it brings bad luck. Just ask the Cleveland Browns in a playoff game in 1994, or the Tennessee Titans, who jumped on the towel in a game back in 2008, then as the number one seed in the AFC entering the playoffs, were one and done. Cope always said the towel was “positive force” for the Steelers, but quite a few black and gold fans think otherwise.
The Steelers official website has a page dedicated to the towel, and other “terrible” stuff that you can purchase – such as totes, ties, hats, shirts, bibs and even gloves. At the top of the page are the words of Cope, who described the towel best:
“Is not an instrument of witchcraft…It is not a hex upon the enemy. THE TOWEL is a positive force that lifts the Steelers to magnificent heights – and poses mysterious difficulties for the Steelers’ opponents only if need be. Many have told me that THE TERRIBLE TOWEL brought them good fortune, but I can’t guarantee that sort of thing because the Steelers, after all, are THE TOWEL’S primary concern. Still, at the least, the symbol of THE TERRIBLE TOWEL will serve as a memento of your having been part of the Steelers’ Dynasty and if it causes good things to happen to you, so much the better.Is not an instrument of witchcraft…It is not a hex upon the enemy. THE TOWEL is a positive force that lifts the Steelers to magnificent heights – and poses mysterious difficulties for the Steelers’ opponents only if need be. Many have told me that THE TERRIBLE TOWEL brought them good fortune, but I can’t guarantee that sort of thing because the Steelers, after all, are THE TOWEL’S primary concern. Still, at the least, the symbol of THE TERRIBLE TOWEL will serve as a memento of your having been part of the Steelers’ Dynasty and if it causes good things to happen to you, so much the better.”