The Terrible Towel was "invented" by Myron Cope. Of course, how someone can be credited with "inventing" an object that already exists is beyond me. If I raise a fork or a microwave above my head and then twirl it around stupidly, can I be credited with inventing the Terrible Fork or the Terrible Microwave? Evidently so ... at least in Pittsburgh. Meaning you've already learned something in this column before we finish the first paragraph. The fount of creativity in Pittsburgh? Taking something that already exists and waving it around your head. Voila, you're a brilliant inventor.
Talk to any Steelers fan for more than three minutes and they'll mention their stupid towel. The yellow towels that they twirl above their head like rhythmic gymnasts from Moldova hoping to be rescued via airlift from behind the Iron Curtain in 1985. The stupid yellow towels that block your view if you're at the game and disintegrate, slowly, into tiny pin pricks of towel dust that inevitably get lodged in your eyes until you can't really see anything at the game. When you point out how stupid the towel is, and make no mistake it's incredibly stupid, Steeler fans get emotional.
How dare you insult the towel, they say, dabbing their eyes with the towel? Yep, the towel's more important to Pittsburgh than the two other things that most characterize the city: 1. the three dirty rivers that surround the Steel City and 2. all the fans fleeing it for better places to live. (The reason people think there are so many Steeler fans in the country isn't because there are so many, it's because everyone leaves Pittsburgh the moment they have the opportunity to live anywhere else).
Criticize the towel and inevitably Steeler fans will mention that it was invented in 1975. When you point out that it's not fair to say that the towel was invented -- after all, I believe people have been getting dry using towels in years that predated 1975 -- Steeler fans will get as rough as Ben Roethlisberger in a college bar bathroom after two beers. They'll bristle, bow up to you, "Myron Cope is dead," the Steeler fan will say. "You're a jerk."
Myron Cope, towel "inventor," is, in fact, dead. That's true and sad. But it's not necessarily unexpected. So far, after all, death is, like the 1972 Miami Dolphins, undefeated. To Steeler fans, Cope's death means you can't criticize his towel "invention."
This argument might be even dumber than the towel ... which is saying something. All inventors die. When someone stuck in an airport on a flight delay remarks, "Man, flying sucks," do fellow travelers immediately respond, "Orville and Wilbur Wright are dead! You're a jerk!." Of course, not.
The death of the inventor isn't usually connected to your opinion of the invention. Except in Pittsburgh. Steeler fans will accuse you of speaking ill of the dead when you criticize Cope's towel. So let me be clear about this: Myron Cope, R.I.P., your towel is stupid.
What's more, the towel offers no connection to the city of Pittsburgh. The towel says nothing unique about what it means to live in Pittsburgh, say, instead of Baltimore. (Although Ravens fans might well argue, accurately, mind you, that Pittsburgh is dirty and in need of a good cleansing. Hence, the towel is the perfect representation of Pittsburgh). Excepting filth, any city could stupidly wave a towel above its collective head and the towels would mean just as much. If a city is going to embrace a symbol for its football team, that symbol needs to evoke a connection with the city or state.
Need an example?
In this year's Super Bowl many Green Bay Packer fans will wear cheeseheads. I actually like this because the cheeseheads are a unique symbol of Wisconsin's image as a dairy state. The cheesehead both mythologizes and mocks national perception of Wisconsin. It's a winking irony, and it's funny. Most important, it's directly connected to the state. That's why my misguided colleague David Whitley, probably taking breaks from writing his column to wave a pen above his head -- look a Terrible Pen! -- is so fundamentally wrong in his derogation of the cheesehead. That's a symbol that means something.
The Terrible Towel means nothing. It's the dumbest, most absurd symbol in all of professional sports. The only thing dumber than the Terrible Towel? People who take offense when the towel is disrespected. Seriously, there are people who do this.
For instance, god forbid you pull a Keith Bulluck, step on the towel, and have the absolute temerity to make a terrible towel dirty. No, no, no, even though a towel exists, principally, to remove dirt, debris, or wetness from the human body, the Terrible Towel must be treated as a modern day shroud of Turin, a relic of Pittsburgh football life. Steeler fans will take offense if you don't wake up every morning and genuflect in the direction of the towel.
That's why this Super Bowl, I'm rooting for Aaron Rodgers to perfect a new touchdown celebration. Instead of putting on the championship belt, he should take another page from the pro wrestling handbook. On the final Super Bowl touchdown he scores, the one that will give the Packers a double-digit lead and send Pittsburgh fans streaming back to their dirty city with towels hanging limply by their sides, Rodgers should use the towel in his victory celebration.
Instead of putting on the championship belt, he should lift the Terrible Towel high above his head like a championship belt. Turning to all four corners of the stadium, he should play to the Packer faithful, a cheeshead clad army. Then he should yank both ends of the towel simultaneously until that stupid Terrible Towel rips in half.
He can give the pieces of the towel to a Packer fan. Use it to dust to off the cheesehead.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail back on a weekly basis, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com.