Is It Just a Towel?

” … as far as my players are concerned, it’s just a towel”.

Those were the words from Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher 24 hours after the much-discussed Terrible Towel trampling by Titan players following the beating they laid upon the Steelers at Heinz Field.

Unless you have been away from a TV, or stuck at the airport unable to get to a monitor, you have probably heard of the post-game celebration Titan stars Keith Bullock, LenDale White and Javon Kearse orchestrated using the Steelers symbol. They stomped on it and blew their nose with it.

The display got more attention than the game itself in which the Steelers proved human after all, following an incredible run through the league’s most difficult schedule. They turned it over 4 times and blew whatever early momentum they might have had.

However, the game has now become secondary to the towel trashing which elicited the expect response from “Steeler Nation”. Everything from “desecration” to the one person on our broadcast who compared it to “stomping on baby Jesus”. These, of course, are the responses we can actually print. Believe me, there were worse things said.

Now I will admit it was not a class move by Tennessee. Winning with grace is just as important as winning itself. That’s a lesson we are taught in little league and the 20-something age players on the Tennessee team have forgotten those lessons. Even worse, they have stoked a fire in the Steelers players. Not just they way they beat up on the Black and Gold, but the way they celebrated in such a crass manner.

That being said, Fisher does have a point … and it’s probably one worth remembering. It was “just a towel”. Not even a real terrible towel, just a yellow cloth with the words “Terrible Towel” written crudely on one side. The real Terrible Towel is easy to spot. A creation of the late Myron Cope, in his words, it was designed not only to give the Steelers great strength but cause great problems for the Steelers enemy. He donated the proceeds to charity.


Tennessee’s Javon Kearse blowing nose with Terrible Towel. He couldn’t find a hanky on the sidelines? ( Courtesy Tribune Review )

But even as Myron created the towel, he knew what it would be seen as outside of Pittsburgh: a symbol. A symbol just like the bulldog at the University of Georgia, or the Phillie Phanatic or whatever mascot you choose. It’s maybe not be alive, but it serves as the symbol of the team much like the mascots I described …. and what happens to mascots? They are tease, taunted and occasionally kidnapped before the game … only to be safely returned with no physical harm done.

The towel is both a symbol and a target … and I’m sure Myron would have it no other way. It’s what rallies Steeler nation to stand up … and rallies the opponents to rise up against the Black and Gold.

Just a towel? Yes, it is just a towel. However, it’s a towel that means more to us here in Pittsburgh. It’s not the baby Jesus ( not even close ), but it’s something we hold dear and something to rally around. That’s why Myron created it and that’s why moments like what we saw Sunday are important.

Besides, the last guy to do a number on the towel played for the Bengals. Shined his shoes with it during the regular season in 2005. We know how that turned out. Maybe history will repeat itself in a month from now in Tennessee.


He donated the

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