Friday, August 14, 2009
Well, last night marked the official start of what we here in Pittsburgh consider the third most holy season of the year behind Easter and Christmas: Steeler football season. The Arizona Cardinals fell to Pittsburgh last night 20-10.
One of the most recognized symbols of the franchise is The Terrible Towel. Originally an idea from the late Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope, it has come to represent the team, the city, and the fans. The Towel has been to the top of Mount Everest and has been seen on Saturday Night Live. Fans take them on vacation around the globe, and one was even sent to the International Space Station.
The Terrible Towel made its debut on December 27, 1975, in a playoff game against the Baltimore Colts. Cope scanned the stands to see how well his idea might pan out. Less than a dozen were spotted. Myron later recalled the event. "Nearing kickoff, the Steelers gathered in their tunnel for introductions, whereupon the crowd exploded—and suddenly, by my estimation, 30,000 Terrible Towels twirled from the fists of fans around the stadium!" Baltimore went on to lose 28-10. The Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys lost in following weeks, giving Pittsburgh their second Super Bowl trophy.
Myron retired from the booth in 2005 after 35 years, the longest tenure with a single team for any broadcaster in NFL history. He was made an honorary captain in a Monday night game against the Baltimore Ravens and led the fans in a towel wave at halftime. That towel is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
In a game against Cleveland in 1994, Steelers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner accidentally dropped his towel, and Cleveland running back Earnest Byner stepped on it while yelling, "We don't care about your towel. We're going to beat you this time." Cleveland lost 29-9.
December 4, 2005. Cincinnati Bengals player T. J. Houshmandzadeh wiped his feet with the towel after scoring a touchdown. The Steelers lost by seven points during that game but beat Cincy 31-17 in the playoffs on their way to winning Super Bowl XL.
Last year, before the September 29 game at Heinz Field, Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason stomped on the Towel. Baltimore lost all their regular season games and the AFC Championship to Pittsburgh.
On December 21, 2008, LenDale White and Keith Bulluck of the Tennessee Titans stomped on the Terrible Towel after winning 31-14 over the Steelers. Tennessee was eliminated during divisional playoffs despite being the top seed and favorite to win the Vince Lombardi trophy.
When Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon blew and wiped his nose with a Terrible Towel on a pre-sendoff rally for the Arizona Cardinals, he then handed the Towel to Big Red, the Cardinals' mascot. Big Red wiped his armpits with it. Arizona lost Super Bowl XLIII 27-23. [Author note: I think that was the best played Super Bowls I've ever seen.]
Whether you love the Steelers or hate them, I'm asking all of you to purchase one Terrible Towel. All of the proceeds from the sale of the Towel goes directly to the Allegheny Valley School, a school for the handicapped. Myron's autistic son was a resident of the school for many years, and sales of The Terrible Towel have raised over $2 million dollars for the AVS. What you do with it is your choice, but I'd really like to see the school continue to help those with special needs.
While it does seem somewhat coincidental that those who have desecrated the Towel have lost the majority of the time, it is a symbol that unites The Steeler Nation worldwide.