Myron Cope is a Pittsburgh icon and I’m hoping he will make the Steelers Hall of Honor this year. He deserves to be nominated. Besides the six Lombardi trophies that immortalise the Steelers, the Terrible Towel is recognised around the world as a unique sporting image.
Naturally, the Towel has been copied. Imitation can be considered as the sincerest form of flattery and the success of Myron’s Towel has invoked many imitations.
The Terrible Towel began as a gimmick and developed into Pittsburgh’s symbol of defiance to all the jokes that were made about the city.
Like his Towel, Myron was unique. Armed with a voice once described as, “a tornado going through a junk yard”, he joined WTAE in January 1968 for a daily slot of sports news. Two years later, he became part of the Steelers radio broadcasts coinciding with the rise in status of the team.
So, it was in 1975 that Myron laid down the marker that is still enjoying immense success today. Asked to come up with a gimmick to bring some colour to his broadcast on WTAE for the playoff game against the Baltimore Colts, the idea of fans bringing a towel to the game was floated.
“A towel?” Myron considered. “Yes, we could call it the Terrible Towel and I can go on the radio and television proclaiming, ‘The Terrible Towel,” is poised to strike. Myron invited fans to bring their gold or black towels along and at first thought he had failed with the idea because there wasn’t any in sight.
“Nearing kickoff, the Steelers gathered in their tunnel for introduction whereupon the crowd exploded. Suddenly, by Myron’s calculation, 30,000 Terrible Towels were twirled around the stadium.” The Terrible Towel had come to life.
Lynn Swann admitted in 1979, “I can’t swear it helps, but we’re 6-1 in playoff games here and the only one we lost to the Dolphins in 1972, the Towel hadn’t been invented.
Dolphins’ coach Don Shula bought seven when he attended Super Bowl XIII, but Myron wasn’t impressed. He suggested it was because Shula was rooting for the AFC Champions, but “Shula was stiffed,” said Myron. “The only legitimate Terrible Towels are sold by Gimbels in Pittsburgh.”
Myron the writer
Myron was not only a broadcaster. He was also a writer. On my bookshelf, along with numerous Steeler delights, there’s an interesting chronicle about the early days of pro football written by Myron.
“The Game That Was,” first printed in 1970, includes a chapter on Art Rooney that recalls the beginning of the Steelers. Even earlier in the semi-pro football days, it recollects the Hope-Harvey. Anyone who has visited the Heinz History Center will know about Art Rooney’s Hope-Harvey football team.
Myron began his early career writing in the fifties for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports pages. The Browns Hall of Famer Jim Brown asked Myron to help him write his biography. Second-hand copies of the 1964 book, “Off My Chest,” are still available on Amazon.
For Steeler fans that remember his distinct nasal voice and for the younger fans that only know him through the Terrible Towel that became an eminent image, Myron’s, “Double Yoi!,” is a must read.