default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

The tender story behind the Steelers’ Terrible Towels

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Saturday, September 22, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 7:05 am, Sat Sep 22, 2012.

This Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Oakland Raiders in a matchup between the perennial Super Bowl contenders and the the 0-2 underachievers.

Plenty of Terrible Towels, the Steelers' most visible symbol, will be on display. Wherever the Steelers play, loyal fans wave their towels with abandon. Around Pittsburgh, fans can buy towels that celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween and St. Patrick's Day. The towel has been on Mount Everest's peak, on the International Space Station, at the Great Wall of China and in Vatican City. A pink towel, introduced in 2009, promotes breast cancer awareness. At Heinz Field, a Terrible Towel wall displays each of them. Whatever the occasion may be, there's a towel to match.

But few outside of Pittsburgh know the touching legacy behind the towel, which is much more than simply evidence of the Steelers' football excellence.

Here's the towel's wonderful story: Myron Cope, a longtime and beloved Pittsburgh broadcaster, created the towel in 1975. Sales immediately took off. In 1996, Cope turned the towel's trademark over to the Allegheny Valley School, which has several campuses and group homes throughout Pennsylvania that treat developmentally disabled people. The school receives all the profits from the towels' sales.

Ever year, in virtually every Pittsburgh retail outlet and online, hundreds of thousands of the towels, officially trademarked "Myron Cope's the Official Terrible Towel," sell for about $7 each. The Steelers manage the towels' marketing and then cut a check, usually in the low five figures, payable to the school. When the Steelers play in the Super Bowl, sales can exceed $1 million. In all, the Allegheny Valley School has received nearly $3 million.

Cope specifically outlined how the school is to spend the proceeds. Each dollar goes to benefit residents and not for the general construction fund. The money is earmarked for specialized wheelchairs and for programs that will enable the most challenged to turn on lights or music by merely blinking their eyes. As the school's chief executive officer, Regis Champ, said: "Our needs are daily."

Danny Cope, Myron's son, is one of the roughly 900 people the school serves. He has been a resident since 1982, when he was a teenager. At 2, Danny was diagnosed with severe mental retardation and autism. Today Danny, who has never spoken, is 44. Thanks to the loving care he received, however, Danny now has a paying job on an assembly line that packages snack food.

As Champ recalled the glorious day that the towel's rights were transferred, Cope came into his office with a pile of documents, threw them down on his desk and said, "'Regis, I'm giving you the Terrible Towel.' I was speechless. I knew that this would be the legacy that outlived Myron."

Cope, aged 79, died in 2008. His daughter Elizabeth draped his coffin with a quilt made out of Terrible Towels sent to the family by a fan. Whether you are a Steelers fan or not, buying a Terrible Towel helps a great cause. You can purchase them here: shop.steelers.com/catalog/TerribleStuff/.

Joe Guzzardi lives in Pittsburgh. He advises all visitors to claim a lifelong allegiance to the Steelers regardless of the team they may truly root for. Contact Joe at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.

Recent Comments

Posted 9 hours ago by jeffreyrinek.

article: San Joaquin County supervisors approve …

Mr. Chang, from your latest comment concerning out of county comments I presume you are referring to me, at the least. Thank you for partic…


Posted 10 hours ago by Frank Gayaldo.

article: San Joaquin County supervisors approve …

My passion is promoting our local economy. When the sheriff does things like waste $9 million dollars on jail design plans, that has a dire…


Posted 10 hours ago by Eric Barrow.

article: Letter: Pastor Frank Nolton forgets abo…

Left wing political propaganda nonsense? I thought you weren't caught up in the left right paradigm.


Posted 10 hours ago by nth degree wise.

article: Letter: Pastor Frank Nolton forgets abo…

Now who is promoting political (right wing) propaganda nonsense? That a sign on a school building (Gun-Free School Zone) is the cause of sc…


Posted 11 hours ago by Ron Werner.

article: Chris Piombo: Life can be hard for a Do…

The Dodgers, just like the federal government. They think that if you throw enough money at something you can buy what you want. With the …



Popular Stories


Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 31


Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists