When Myron Cope created the Terrible Towel back in 1975, little did he know that it'd become one of the most recognizable and beloved (at least by Steelers fans) symbols in modern-day sports. You can find fans with their Towels almost anywhere, from families posing with them on the Great Wall of China to soldiers twirling them on game day in the Middle East; there's even been a Terrible Towel in space. Cope, who passed away from respiratory failure in 2008, still has a way of reminding Steelers fans that he'll always be around to watch over the team ... and curse anyone who dares to abuse the Towel.
This season adds even more fuel to the fire that there is, and perhaps always will be, a Terrible Curse on the teams who disrespect the Towel. All the naysayers will say it's just a coincidence, there's a lot more to losing a game, and the Towel's a crappy piece of cloth that Steelers fans take way too seriously. But before you grab your friend's Terrible Towel and wipe your pits with it, just remember what's happened to these teams:
- Baltimore Ravens: In September 2008, receiver Derrick Mason jumped on a Towel before the game. The Ravens then lost all 3 games they played against the Steelers, most particularly the AFC Championship, and the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.
- Arizona Cardinals: At a rally before the Super Bowl, the mayor of Phoenix blew his nose into a Towel and then threw it on the ground. We all know who won the Super Bowl.
- Cincinnati Bengals: So these guys are enjoying a really great year, much to my annoyance and utter horror. But remember when TJ Houshmandzadeh shined his shoes with a Terrible Towel back in 2005? Then guess what happened? Once the Bengals got rid of Who's-Yo-Momma, they beat the Steelers twice and are #1 in the AFC North, after going 4-11-1 last season. Houshmandzadeh is now playing with the Seahawks, who boast a stellar 3-6 record.
- Detroit Lions: When they faced the Steelers earlier this year and the Steelers were on the precipice of yet another fourth-quarter meltdown, the Lions mascot thought it'd be a great time to "eat" a Terrible Towel. A few seconds later, the Steelers defense's terrible misfortune from the past few games suddenly disappeared, QB Daunte Culpepper was sacked three times in a row, and the Steelers went on to win the game. I'm sure the Lions will continue to be awful ... but not sure we can pin that one on Myron.
- Tennessee Titans: Can't talk about the curse without mentioning the Titans. Last December, Keith Bulluck and LenDale White thought it'd be a good idea to stomp on the Towel after winning a regular season game against the Steelers. After this brilliant move, the Titans never won a game ... until Bulluck and White sent a signed Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School in Coraopolis, PA, which provides care for people with mental and physical disabilities. The players wrote, "Please release the curse!" and now the team's won their past 3 games in a row.
Many other football fans probably think the Terrible Curse is completely asinine and irrelevant. But it really comes down to Steelers fans honoring a guy who was such a wonderful representative of their team. Each Towel is a tribute to Myron, who spent 35(!) years as an announcer for the Steelers, the longest any broadcaster has been affiliated with a single team, and whose career I'll eternally envy. In 1996, he gave the rights to his beloved Towel to the Allegheny Valley School (where Bulluck and White sent their autographed one to), which helped the school raise millions of dollars in sales.
Steelers fans may hold on to this notion that Myron still lives through the curse with unnecessary passion and fervor, but the way this season has played out so far may make you stop and think for a second. If you want to try to understand the genius and talent and all-around awesomeness that was Myron and what he meant to Pittsburgh, check out this article he wrote on the Towel, courtesy of the vaults of Sports Illustrated. You'll see why Myron and the Towel are so important to us Steelers fans ... and why you simply shouldn't mess with 'em.
Follow Jill Baughman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jayboff