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  • November 2011
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Myron Cope’s Terrible Towel

Terrible Towel

The Terrible Towel is having the best year ever!  If you are from Pittsburgh and you love the Steelers, chances are that you own at least one Terrible Towel.  The Terrible Towel is one of the most iconic symbols in all of American sports.

ESPN has placed the spotlight on the Terrible Towel with their recent promotion:  “It’s Not Crazy!  It’s Sports!”.

The Terrible Towel also won the top spot  for The Pittsburgh Business Times Brand Madness.  The Terrible Towel beat Eat’n Park as the best Pittsburgh Brand.  The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh also vied for that title along with many other Pittsburgh Institutions.

Hines Ward often displayed The Terrible Towel during his winning season on Dancing with the Stars.  Many of his supporters in the audience waved the towel proudly.

History of the Towel

The late Myron Cope explained the origin of the Terrible Towel in his memoir Double Yoi!It was 1975 and the Steelers were headed to the playoffs.  The previous year the Steelers had won their first Super Bowl.  Ted J. Atkins, of WTAE Radio, called Myron to a meeting to talk about a gimmick for the playoffs that would involve the fans.  WTAE was the flagship radio station for Steeler football at that time.  One of the ideas that came up in that meeting was to provide every fan at Three Rivers Stadium with black costume masks with Coach Chuck Noll’s motto “Whatever it takes” printed on them.  The masks would cost twenty-five thousand dollars, so that idea was scraped.  Myron said “What we need here is something that’s lightweight and portable and already owned by just about every fan”.  Larry Garrett, vice president of sales, suggested “How about towels?”.  Myron liked that idea. “Yes, we could call it the Terrible Towel.  And I can go on radio and television proclaiming  ‘The Terrible Towel is poised to strike!'”.  Someone suggested black and gold towels, the colors of the Steelers.  Myron nixed the idea of black towels.  “Black won’t provide color.  We’ll tell ’em to bring gold or yellow towels.”

The Terrible Towel was born on December 27, 1975.  Myron estimated that 30,000 fans were waving towels during the playoff game against the Baltimore Colts.  The Steelers won the game 28-10.  The Steelers then beat the Oakland Raiders and went on to beat the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X.  The next season, Gimbel’s Department Store called Myron about marketing the Terrible Towel.  “Now it would go first class–its name and logo stamped onto thick, rich terry cloth.”  36 years later, the Terrible Towel reigns supreme as the most well-known sports rally flag.

~Marian  CLP–Mt. Washington

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