In the long-awaited Super Bowl matchup between Cheeseheads and Terrible Towels, set aside your allegiance for a moment and ask yourself a simple question.
If you were inventing a merchandising gimmick, what do you think customers would prefer: An easily transportable item they could use to wave, wipe their seats, warm their hands, wash their cars and flag down help in case of emergency?
Or one that makes them look like the victim of a fraternity prank?
If you went with the first option, congratulations! You are a person of style, common sense and decency.
If you went with the second, you are from Sheboygan, Kenosha or Muskego and have a cholesterol level approximately 10 times higher than your IQ.
Unless you bow three times a day toward Vince Lombardi's grave, you would never voluntarily go out in public with a foam-rubber cheese wedge on your head. If Lombardi were still alive, even he would probably laugh at you. I realize them's fighting words for Packers fans, but I'm on your side here.
I like cheese. I'm all for expressing love for your team. I just hate to see you lose your dignity in the process.
And for your own protection, please don't mess with the Terrible Towel. Those who do tend to come back as cockroaches or Bengals fans in their next lives.
I can't explain such cosmic powers. I just know the Gods don't offer the same protection to cheddar-headed Packers fans. They simply can't be worried with defending the nobility of a woman wearing a cheese bra.
That's right, a cheese bra. It's one of the many spinoffs of the original cheesehead, which was actually sort of clever.
The snotty people from Illinois used the term as an insult toward Wisconsinites. So a guy cut a foam-rubber wedge out of his mother's couch, burned some holes in it and painted it yellow. He wore it to a Brewers' game in 1987.
A movement was born. Now it has turned into a marketing monster. Besides heads, you can now order cheese caps, sombreros, necklaces, earrings, bowties, blankets, Frisbees, erasers, dice, butt cushions, key chains, toilet seats and women's undergarments.
I'm all for state pride. But unless Victoria's Secret comes out with a Dairy Product line, it's unlikely an NFL quarterback will ever marry a cheese model. Though Brett Favre might text one.
The Terrible Towel is so much nobler. Pittsburgh radio announcer Myron Cope came up with the concept in 1975, helping wave in the Steelers' dynasty. There have been a few commercial off-shoots, but the Towel has maintained its majesty.
Terrible Towels have been on the International Space Station and to the top of Mt. Everest. When you think of towels, you conjure visions of a leggy woman -- or man, if you prefer -- coming out of a shower with one clinging to their steamed-up body.
When you think of cheese, you think of Tony Siragusa pouring a pound of melted queso over a pile of nachos.
When Cope died in 2008, mourners observed a minute of silent towel-waving. He'd long since given Terrible Towel marketing rights to the Allegheny Valley School, which cares for mentally and physically disabled children. The school has gotten more than $2.2 million from Towel proceeds over the years.
Such gestures are why you just don't mess with the Terrible Towel. Just the recent examples:
2008 – The Titans stepped on one during a 31-14 win. They then lost eight straight games, at which point some Tennessee players autographed a Terrible Towel and mailed it to a Pittsburgh charity. The Titans won their next five games.
2009 – Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon handed Cardinals mascot Big Red a Terrible Towel at the team's Super Bowl sendoff rally. Big Red wiped his armpits and blew his nose with it. The Steelers won, 27-23.
2011 – Jets fans stomped on Terrible Towels before Sunday's AFC Championship Game. We all know how that one came out.
In this battle of iconic marketing items, Cheeseheads should just go ahead and throw in the towel. But in a diplomatic nod to Green Bay's place in NFL history, the Terrible Towel might have one more use in a couple of weeks.
The Steelers can use one to polish their newest Vince Lombardi Trophy. Let's see them try that with a wedge of cheese.