The House The Terrible Towel Built

An everyday dishtowel turned iconic symbol of fanhood, The Terrible Towel transformed a household item into a household name.

The Terrible Towel turns 35 this year. Through the decades this-the most recognizable sports-fan symbol in the world, noted by the Associated Press-is the rally towel of one of our region's legendary sports teams.

myron cope

Symbolic of the down-and-dirty, rough-and-tumble Steelers, the towel was created by the late Myron Cope, the color commentator for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a local sports journalist.

In 1975, Cope's bosses at WTAE Radio asked him to come up with a clever promotional gimmick for the station that would be embraced by Steelers fans. After considering black masks emblazoned with then-head coach Chuck Noll's motto, "Whatever It Takes," Cope came up with a less expensive idea: a gold rally towel.  Cope spent several weeks promoting the idea on the radio, with little apparent success. He even took a sample towel into the Steelers' locker room for a straw poll.

"I think your idea stinks," said linebacker Jack Ham.  One can imagine Cope reacting to Ham's assessment with his trademark, "Feh!"

Thirty-five years later, the Terrible Towel is a symbol of one of the NFL's proudest franchises. Cope once described its power like this:  "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."

Five Terribly Good Things You Should Know About The Terrible Towel

  1. The Towel Touches Down: Making its debut on Dec. 27, 1975, in a Steelers divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Colts, an estimated 30,000 Terrible Towels rallied a victorious 28-10 win.
     
  2. One Size Fits All: A symbol of Pittsburgh, The Terrible Towel represents its city and region around the world-popping up in vacation pictures and appearing with Seth Meyers on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

  3. (Black &) Gold Star Approach to Helping Others: In an effort to support Breast Cancer Awareness, a pink Terrible Towel with embroidered white letters debuted in October 2009.

  4. The Towel Is Multifunctional: Rally with the Steelers; wipe down your stadium seat, or use as a doily on your kitchen table.

  5. Why Being Terrible Feels So Good: In 1996, Cope handed over the rights to The Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School (AVS), an institution specializing in programs for the developmentally disabled with locations across Pennsylvania- with a corporate center located in Coraopolis. Cope's son Daniel was born with brain damage and has lived most of his life at AVS. Proceeds from The Terrible Towel have raised more than $2.5 million for the school.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.
Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

If you’re on the hunt for Friday night plans with a purpose, consider sleeping outside to benefit those in Pittsburgh who have to spend every night on the streets.
The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

More than 80 years after its demise was erroneously reported, the David McCullough Bridge still stands as an engineering and architectural highlight among the city’s many spans.
Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Their tic-tac-toe passing would impress Mike Sullivan.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

It's the third year running for the concept, which was created by Simon Huntley of Pittsburgh's Small Farm Central.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

The one-of-a-kind night of bingo, trivia and madcap monologues returns in a new spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

The Hanson Brothers and other stars of the classic hockey film will return to Johnstown this weekend for a 40th anniversary celebration.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Chalk It Up

Chalk It Up

Doodle while you dine, or let your imagination run wild, with chalkboard placemats from Pittsburgh-based Chalk Lots.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Breaking down what we know and only think we know about the 2017 Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments