When Myron Cope introduced the The Terrible Towel in 1975, many Pittsburgh Steelers voiced against the concept, some labeling it as too "gimmicky." The Men of Steel were preparing to defend a championship for the first time, and the popular announcer was asked to produce a gimmick heading into the playoffs.
Deciding to carry forward with "that towel idea," a timeless cultural craze would be born. Myron publicly announced to all who would listen that "The Terrible Towel was poised to strike!"
Cope's yellow towel graced Three Rivers Stadium, and the Colts entered town with dreams of a Steel City upset lingering in their minds.
One of the towel's naysayers, Andy Russell scooped up a Baltimore fumble, returning it 93 yards for a touchdown. His success, coupled with Cope's claims that the cloth possessed powers that would propel the Steelers to victory, inspired a response from the eccentric broadcaster! A fan, Lisa Benz, wrote words describing the mystic events, and Cope read her poem with the zaniness only he could produce:
"He ran ninety-three
like a bat out of hell,
And no one could see
How he rambled so well.
"It was easy," said Andy
And he flashed a crooked smile,
"I was snapped on the fanny
By the Terrible Towel!"
-Lisa Benz, as read by Myron Cope
With winning, the "gimmick" was suddenly embraced...to no surprise!
In the years and decades since its creation, the towel has become a central symbol, as powerful (if not more so) than the logo on the team's helmets. While its origins of supernatural blessings on the Men of Steel still hold their place with Steelers fans, tens of thousands of twirling "terribles" at every home game are a sign of the great communal loyalty of a city and its beloved team.
Sales of the Steelers staple helps to educate and care for children with disabilities, notably at the Allegheny Valley School, who use Cope's generosity to care for those in need.
From the outsiders' perspective, it would be easy to view it as another "shtick" from another professional franchise. But, as it concerns banshee-like towel waving, the Steelers and Cope own the original and best of the bunch. Beyond the awe-inspiring site of a stadium blanketed in circular yellow waves, the towel holds a history and meaning that is deeper than just sports.
The Terrible Towel has been to many locations, ranging from the deserts of war to weddings to the moon, and nearly every Steelers fanatic has a few. After all, from its original roots have spawned "themed" towels, each carrying the distinct recognizable look of the classic with its own twist.
There are a few that aren't on the list, including the pink towels. While I love the charity behind these sales, colors define franchises, so I would prefer a more subtle use of the pink. They rank, in my opinion, with pink jerseys.
Also, the individual Super Bowl towels (and conference championship items) are not individually included in the countdown.
Keep in mind that this is just opinion, a fun recap of towels past and present. Any sentiment fans have for one version over the other cannot be taken from them, and we all have that one battered, yet tried and true, stringy towel that is the good luck charm. Bless it!
So, which Terrible Towel is the most terrible (in a good way) of the "Terrible's?" Let's find out!
An inverted version of the classic gold towel, this creation sees the color scheme swapped. Certainly making sense, the staple colors are honored with "Black and Gold" clearly dominating.
Still, there's something powerful about the unity of a sea of gold twirling in the Heinz Field (and, formerly, Three Rivers Stadium) stands!
Overall, it's a fine version to add to a collection, but the towels that make the top 10 are surely more game-worthy!
The Steelers fanbase spreads across America...and the world!
I remember when the Steelers played preseason games in Mexico dating back to the late 1990s, and the games were referred to as "The American Bowl." Typically, they were played during the first week of a five-week preseason, and the teams participating across the border played in five exhibition games.
During their southern travels, Steelers played amongst crowds of fervent, loyal followers who boisterously supported Pittsburgh in spite of the non-stakes.
Likewise, the American public is a diverse demographic, and Spanish is becoming a far more common language than ever before. And, please, let's keep this about the towels; I'm not turning this into any political debate.
With a huge contingent of Spanish-speaking fans, this version is a nod to a diverse fanbase.
Ranking ninth on the list should not confuse you; I love this version of the towel but not enough to rank it any higher!
If rated on symbolism alone, this Terrible Towel would be placed at the very top of the list and beyond!
Released recently in honor of Veterans' Day, the Camo Towel is just what it says it is: a camo towel!
One of the things many fans love about the standard towel is the simplicity; could this version be just a bit too busy?
Geez, I am starting to sound like an interior decorator right now! I've come a long way from analyzing x's, o's, and pads popping.
Surely, nothing else other than this design could be expected considering the theme (camo is camo, right?), but I'm going to begrudgingly hold my ground, placing the Camo Towel at No. 9!
When the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals on January 1, 2011, at Heinz Field, it represented the first (unexpected) night contest for the heralded NHL event.
Rain threatened the event, and the outcome sullied a few spirits, but in the early moments of the classic affair, fans at Heinz Field got to witness history.
While the Steelers were not the participant, the Winter Classic Towel being waved that night was a symbol of unity amongst Pittsburgh sports fans- from the NFL to the NHL.
Yet, the Penguins lost, so a bit of the cosmic superpower factored into the towel was lost, right?
Wrong. The towel was made for the Steelers and only fully works for the Steelers! This was a unique event, and any big moment at Heinz Field that involves one of Pittsburgh's major professional sports teams deserves a towel to celebrate.
So, it's still cool!
In the spirit of the holiday season, another in a wave of recently released towels that inspired this countdown is the holiday Terrible Towel.
It features two simple snowmen dueling, one with skis and another holding a wooden sled. In the middle is a red bow. Like the Pirates implementation of red into their logo years back, I think the vibrant use of red works very well with the black and gold theme.
I don't want the Steelers to make this change, but it made sense to me considering the Pirates' logo, complete with bandana. Then again, maybe I was hoping any change would bring blessings to the Bucs! Fans in the Steel City who either remember winning baseball so long ago or have no idea what that is would take neon pink as an implementation if it meant an 82 win or better season.
My favorite element of this towel is the snow and ice placed along the lettering. It gives the entire version a wintry look while not overwhelming the original towel, which can clearly be seen here.
For every Steelers fan-to-be, complete with the hopes of Lombardi Trophies in the seasons to come, is this Terrible Towel for infants and youngsters.
Sized perfectly for children, the future of Heinz Field and whatever stadium lies beyond, the "Toddler Terrible Towel" is the original towel revised for the future of a great Pittsburgh tradition: generations of fans.
For every vocal fan there could be a loving parent, and each of those parents dreams of someday sharing a cold one and a Steelers game with their equally passionate kid.
Moreover, those same folks who have reveled in the glory of watching the Steelers hoist the Lombardi Trophy will be the loving guardian wishing for their kids to enjoy the same moment.
This towel, in a manner of speaking, represents that hope!
I know what a few of you are saying: "My child can root for whomever they choose."
Sure. But, you know you want it to be the Black and Gold. Don't you?
What do spiders, bats and black cats have in common? They're black, right?
While the third in the Halloween list didn't make the towel released this past October, the "Terri-boo Towel's" simplicity doesn't mess too drastically with the classic look of the original.
With webbing and spiders along the lettering and a cool nickname used to promote the product, who couldn't get into the "Terri-boo" spirit when the Steelers beat the Patriots for the second time during the Brady era?
In both victories over New England, it was Halloween weekend. Aside from those two wins over Brady's bunch, the Steelers are 0-6 against the perceived "Evil Empire."
If that isn't a recent to give a themed towel some extra points, what is?
This was the first in of three recently released "themed towels" late this year. It has been the simplest and, in my opinion, the best of those releases.
"Yoi and double yoi!
What's on your cranium?
The man, the legend, the reality.
Mr. Myron Cope was a wonderful and colorful broadcaster whose talents have been missed for far too long. Steelers Country was blessed to have his influence.
Dedicated to its creator, the Cope tribute is a must-have for any serious Steelers fan. It's a monument to one of the most iconic personalities and people—athlete or non-athlete—in team history!
No other franchise in the NFL could have this towel, even if they were copying. After all, no other team can boast six "sticky Lombardi's," to use the phrase coined by Mike Tomlin and revealed in "America's Game: The Super Champions."
While individual Super Bowl towels were not included in this countdown (for obvious reasons), the one that collects each of this championship moments could not be overlooked!
The towel is rife with the themes of tradition, history, success, dynasty and...dare I say...domination!
An empowering illustration of the blessed modern history of the Black and Gold, it's the perfect collector's item for the fan who wants to hold it up proudly and shout, "Six-burgh, baby!"
Before having the added lettering, the yellow towel that was twirled by fans originally had no reference to Myron Cope.
In fact, many fans simply used yellow towels to create the same effect. At the start, these items were not necessarily on every corner market in the 'Burgh! Fans had to be creative.
Gimbel's department store was an exclusive provider in the mid-70s. So, in other words, the question has changed as years have passed.
Then: "Where can I get a towel?"
Now: "Where can't you get a towel?"
As word of the Terrible Towel's powers became known and the item became marketed and mainstream, it developed into the symbol of awesomeness fans use to represent the team today.
In 1975, in the midst of a dynasty, Steelers fans watched the culture of a team and a town- shift, and the momentum was accompanied by another up-and-comer in the ranks!
The Terrible Towel!
In all of its current glory, "Myron Cope's Official The Terrible Towel: A Pittsburgh Original!"
And, for those who don't believe, ask T.J. Houshmandzadeh and LenDale White how life in the NFL has gone since their antics with the mighty weapon of the Steelers!
Giving credit where it's due, standing the test of time as a symbol of the NFL's greatest modern franchise and paying homage to its roots from the cranium (miss you, Myron) of Mr. Cope, today's Terrible Towel is a possession Steelers fans everywhere have in common.
Like bath towels, this towel carries a special place in the homes and hearts of fans across the world...and even into space, as seen in the picture!
From Earth to orbit, Steelers fans have shown their pride with the most powerful item in all of sports.