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Re: A little help here - I was asked a question about the Steelers I could not answer
Two weeks prior to the Steelers' first playoff game of the 1975 season, the team's flagship radio station WTAE's Vice President and General Manager, Ted J. Atkins, and President of Sales, Larry Garrett, explained that they needed Cope's assistance in inventing a "gimmick" in order to attract sponsors to his daily commentaries and talk show.
Initially, Cope did not want to participate, saying "I am not a gimmick guy, never have been a gimmick guy."However, after Garrett's suggestion that a successful gimmick would be good leverage for a raise in Cope's upcoming contract renewal, Cope replied, "I'm a gimmick guy."
The three men, along with other radio station advertising personnel, began brainstorming ideas.One idea, a black mask including coach Chuck Noll's motto "Whatever it takes", was deemed too expensive. Cope said the gimmick should be something "lightweight and portable and already owned by just about every fan."Garrett suggested using towels. Cope agreed, suggesting the words "The Terrible Towel" be printed on the front. It was agreed that the towels would be gold or yellow, with the writing in black—the colors of the Steelers. Franklin C. Snyder, who was head of WTAE's radio and television stations, held the final approval of the idea. He approved the idea on the stipulation that black towels would also be allowed, in order to avoid accusations of racism from the FCC; Cope and Garrett agreed.
In the weeks leading up to the game, Cope advertised the idea of the towel to fans on the radio and evening television news, using the phrase "The Terrible Towel is poised to strike!"However, Atkins grew nervous that fans would think the towel was a jinx if the Steelers lost the game.
Cope agreed to poll players on their view of the towel.
Linebacker Jack Ham told Cope, "I think your idea stinks";
Ernie "Fats" Holmes was also against the idea.
Also against the ideas of the Towel, was Andy Russell who mirrored Cope's original thoughts, "We're not a gimmick team. We've never been a gimmick team."
Cope simply replied, "Russell, you're sick."Growing nervous about the negative feedback, Cope, who had already advertised the towel on the news multiple times, polled the rest of the players with a "banana-republic vote".
I found Terry Bradshaw seated on a stool at his locker, reading the farm reports. "How do you feel about the Terrible Towel?" I asked him. He looked up and said, "Huh?"
I check him off as a yes...I reported back to Ted Atkins that the Steelers overwhelmingly approved of the Towel.
—Myron Cope, Double Yoi!
The Towel made its debut on December 27, 1975 in a playoff game against the Baltimore Colts.
Prior to the game, Cope watched the gathering fans through his binoculars from the broadcast booth.
Cope, whose idea had been mocked by the local Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, saw less than a dozen towels while players were going through pre-game warm-ups.Cope recalls 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!"The Steelers went on to defeat the Colts 28–10. In the following weeks, the team defeated the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, to capture the franchise's second consecutive Super Bowl victory. Even while the Steelers struggled through the 1980s, the Towel remained a large part of the franchise.
During the Towel's debut game Andy Russell, who had opposed the idea of the Towel, returned a fumble 93‒yards for a touchdown. The play inspired local fan Lisa Benz to write about the Towel, which she later sent to Cope. In part, her poem read:
He ran ninety-three
like a bat out of hell,
And no one could see
How he rambled so well.
"It was easy," said Andy
And he flashed a crooked smile,
"I was snapped on the fanny
By the Terrible Towel!"