The Terrible Towel

The Terrible Towel of the Pittsburgh Steelers
••• Terrible towels fill the stands with a sea of yellow at this Pittsburgh Steelers home game. © Kimberly Powell

The brainchild of Myron Cope, a broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Terrible Towel was a gimmick created to excite the fans during a 1975 playoff football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the then Baltimore Colts. It's nothing fancy - just a bright yellow towel with the words "Terrible Towel" emblazoned in black -- but every self-respecting Steelers football fan has one.

Why a Towel?:

Originally suggested to Myron Cope by radio station sales executive Larry Garrett, the towel was chosen for his "gimmick" because it was small, portalbe, and something that "already is owned by just about every fan." At least Steelers fans aren't stuck waving large foam we're #1 index fingers like everyone else!

What's So Terrible About a Towel?:

When those yellow towels start waving at Steelers games, the stands literally turn to a sea of yellow. They offer a strong, very visible show of support for the team, and really rally the already loud Steelers fans to a fever pitch. The terrible towel is feared by opposing teams everywhere, of course!

Terrible Towel Trivia:

The Terrible Towel began as a gimmick - basically just a plain yellow towel. Any towel would do, as long as it was yellow (or black). According to a 1995 story in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, however, department store owners soon became vexed, because fans were buying up all of the yellow and black hand towels, and leaving the matching bath towels behind.

Since towels are produced according to a fixed ratio of hand towels to bath towels, this left the manufacturers a bit miffed.

To remedy this towel dilemma, a special souvenir version of the Terrible Towel was created in 1975, bearing the slogan "Official Myron Cope Terrible Towel." The Terrible Towel is currently manufactured exclusively by McArthur Towel & Sports Co., of Baraboo, Wisconsin, and distribution is under sole control of the Steelers.

A Helping Wave:

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of The Terrible Towel(TM) benefits Allegheny Valley School in Pittsburgh, one of the largest providers of care for people with mental retardation in the state of Pennsylvania.