Seattle Seahawks’ fans and management were elated when they snagged one of the gems of the free-agency market this offseason. The Seahawks inked standout wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a five-year, $40 million contract.
The Seahawks expect that with Houshmandzadeh, they will have a true No. 1 receiver for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. It is reasonable to expect over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns from Houshmandzadeh, in addition to the productivity provided by Deion Branch and Nate Burleson.
What Seahawks supporters may not have realized is that, along with his receiving skills and positive attitude, Houshmandzadeh brings with him some unwanted baggage: the Curse of the Terrible Towel. Fans of the Cincinnati Bengals are all too familiar with this curse, and are hoping that “Hoosh” brings it to the west coast with him.
NFL fans are well-acquainted with the Terrible Towel. The bright yellow towel can be seen waving in large numbers in any NFL stadium the Steelers happen to be visiting. Some players have complained that the ubiquitous yellow symbols of Steeler pride make them feel like visitors in their own house.
The invention of the Terrible Towel goes back to 1975, and is credited with being the brainchild of long-time Steelers’ broadcaster Myron Cope. The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl X that year, and the Terrible Towel became a fixture in the Steel City.
Proceeds from sales of the towel go to a charity which provides help to people with physical and mental disabilities. The Allegheny Valley School has, to date, received over $2.5 million dollars from sales of the Terrible Towel.
What does all this have to do with Seattle’s new star offensive weapon?
In Game 13 of the 2005 season, Houshmandzadeh’s Bengals beat the Steelers 38-31 at Heinz Field. Houshmandzadeh celebrated a touchdown catch by wiping his cleats with the Terrible Towel. At the time, the 9-3 Bengals looked to be one of the favorites in the AFC, and a successful postseason was expected.
However the Curse of the Terrible Towel went into effect. The Bengals lost as many times in their next five games as they had in their first twelve, culminating in their first 31-17 wild-card playoff loss to whom else? The Pittsburgh Steelers!
That playoff loss was marked by the serious knee injury suffered by star quarterback Carson Palmer. Many Bengals’ fans believe Palmer has never been the same player since.
The Curse of the Terrible Towel continued to haunt the Bengals in subsequent seasons, and the playoffs became only distant memories. The Bengals have not reached the postseason since, having slipped to 8-8 in 2006, 7-9 in 2007, and 4-11-1 last year.
The Curse of the Terrible Towel seems to be a double-whammy: not only does the offending team suffer immediately afterwards, but the Steelers seem to pick up some sort of positive karma and go on to greater success.
After Houshmandzadeh’s affront to the Terrible Towel, the Steelers never lost another game that year. Seattle fans painfully recall that season ending with Pittsburgh’s victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Those same fans should not dismiss Hoosh’s role in Pittsburgh karmic run to the title.
A similar set of circumstances helped the Steelers to another championship last season. At the conclusion of a Week 16 victory over the Steelers, Tennessee Titans’ running back LenDale White stomped on the Terrible Towel in front of the television cameras. The 13-2 Titans went 0-2 to finish their season, losing their first playoff game to the Baltimore Ravens and crushing their Super Bowl hopes.
The positive energy which was transferred to Pittsburgh led them to their second Super Bowl title in four years, as the Steelers won a thriller over the Arizona Cardinals.
Of course, the Cardinals were victims of the curse as well last year, after Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon blew his nose in a Terrible Towel and then stomped on it. Gordon’s subsequent apology was not enough to undo the Curse of the Terrible Towel, and the Cardinals suffered as a consequence.
Mayor Gordon should have heeded the evidence of the Baltimore Ravens last season, after they too suffered from the same curse. Prior to their Week 4 match against the Steelers, Ravens’ wide receiver Derrick Mason made the mistake of stomping on a Terrible Towel. Baltimore went on to lose twice to the Steelers in the regular season, and again in the playoffs.
Myron Cope, the inventor of the Terrible Towel, did not plan it as a curse on the opposition, but rather as a motivation for the Steelers. “I did not see the Terrible Towel as witchcraft to hex the enemy. It would be a positive force, driving the Steelers to superhuman performance, but if it experienced a yen for mischief and created fatal mistakes by opponents, I would tolerate that” Cope said.
Seattle Seahawks fans can only hope that the towel’s “yen for mischief” does not follow T.J. Houshmandzadeh to his new team.