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Old 02-04-2011, 06:27 AM   #1
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Default Football symbolism in focus: Cheesehead vs. Terrible Towel

Football symbolism in focus: Cheesehead vs. Terrible Towel
Friday, February 04, 2011
By Michael Sanserino, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

DALLAS -- Gosh, even folks in Oshkosh are weighing in on this one.

Who will win the Super Bowl? Nah. That debate will settle itself.

Who has the best Super Bowl hair? Please.

The real matchup to watch is the one for souvenir supremacy: Terrible Towels vs. Cheeseheads.

Count Terrible Towel creator Myron Cope's daughter, Elizabeth Cope, among those not too impressed by the Cheesehead.

"I think it's stupid," she said. "That's so stupid, putting cheese on your head."
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The Packers and the Steelers are united by more than rich traditions and passionate fans who speak with funny accents (In Wisconsin, 'n'at is "dat."). They are bonded by their fans' affinity for unorthodox, must-own merchandise. Packers fans and Cheeseheads are as closely linked as Steelers fans are with the Terrible Towel. They are the only two NFL teams that can claim such a kinship with inanimate objects.

Ralph Bruno, the 49-year-old inventor of the foam Cheesehead and owner of Foamation Inc., the company that manufactures them, said that is more a testament to the fans than the actual products.

Packers and Steelers fans are hard-working, blue-collar people, he said, who want to show their pride in as many ways as possible.

"It could be a towel, it could be a Cheesehead," Bruno said. "They're somewhat interchangeable, honestly. It's because of the person."

Just don't tell that to most of the Steelers fans, who think Cheeseheads are, well, weird.

"I find cheese delicious, but it does eventually get moldy, it goes bad and it stinks," said Dorothy Gordon, chief development officer for NHS Allegheny Valley School. Terrible Towel proceeds benefit the school, which helps people with physical and mental disabilities.

Terrible Towel twirlers tout the supremacy of the terrycloth.

It is a Pittsburgh original (it says so on the towel itself). It is lightweight and easy to transport (How many square inches of a suitcase does a Cheesehead consume again?).

And if imitation is the best form of flattery, the Terrible Towel wins drying away. The rally towel is the sports giveaway du jour across the country, while foam hats replicating regional pasteurized products have yet to catch on.

But Cheeseheads -- the humans, not the headwear -- are a proud bunch.

And, they argue, some of the qualities that make Pittsburghers fawn over the Terrible Towel are the same ones that make it an inferior item.

That the Terrible Towel is small and portable makes it all the easier to hide.

"With the Cheesehead, it's just there all the time," said Todd Jacobson, 21, a University of Dallas student from Chippewa Falls, Wis.

That the Terrible Towel is often imitated shows how unoriginal it is, they say.

"Everybody's got a towel," said Packers fan John Swinbanks, 43, of Dallas. "You've got to have your own unique thing."

While the Terrible Towel was invented in Pittsburgh and its proceeds have raised more than $3 million for the Allegheny Valley School, it is printed by McArthur Towel & Sports in, of all places, Baraboo, Wis.

There, Packers fans produce the Terrible Towel, but ask anyone from the McArthur clan which they prefer -- the Terrible Towel or the Cheesehead -- and they spout what fellow Wisconsinites might call blasphemy.

"The Terrible Towel is definitely more of an iconic symbol all over the United States, not just in Pittsburgh," said Lexie McArthur, marketing manager for McArthur Towel & Sports. Though, in the interest of full disclosure, she does have financial rooting interests in the Terrible Towel.

As for the Cheeseheads, everyone from the Dells to Sheboygan knows they are made in Wisconsin, just outside Milwaukee in Saint Francis.

"It's hard to imagine making a Cheesehead anywhere else," said Bruno.

Bruno was 26 when he invented the Cheesehead, inspired by insults spewed his way from neighbors in Illinois.

Perhaps it's best to leave all Steelers-Packers disputes to the only people who, literally, have a score to settle.

Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk prefers the Cheesehead because it is too difficult to wear a Terrible Towel, while long snapper Brett Goode said the Cheesehead is better because it reflects the dairy-producing state.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the Terrible Towel is more intimidating, and wide receiver Mike Wallace gave the nod to the Terrible Towel because of the way fans can use them to change the atmosphere in a stadium.

"You can't wave a Cheesehead around," Wallace said. "You see the whole stadium flinging that towel around. Even if everybody in the stadium has on Cheeseheads, it just looks like Cheeseheads. They're not making a change in the game like when [fans] wave the Towel around. That changes the whole game.

"The Terrible Towel is the best item for any football team to have."
Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722. Staff writer Dan Gigler contributed.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11035...#ixzz1CzazTkOl
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