Share This Page

Terrible Towel copycats

It's arguably the most widely used towel in sports, and likely the first, according to a local sports marketing expert.

The Terrible Towel won't be so ubiquitous Sunday when the Steelers play at Paul Brown Stadium now that the Cincinnati sells out its games to Bengals fans, who get something called a Jungle Towel once a year.

But terrible copy-cat rally towels are popping up at sports venues everywhere in recent years and causing a phenomenon not seen since The Wave.

"It's something that's very inexpensive that's purchased in volume and can be used to get everybody pumped up," said Ron Dick, an assistant sports marketing professor at Duquesne University. "You don't want to have 10-cent beer day and bat day on the same day. A towel is very safe."

The Philadelphia Phillies handed out thousands of promotional towels during the last week of this baseball season, and then again for their two home playoff games. It didn't work.

The Indianapolis Colts gave fans blue towels for the team's playoff game against the Steelers in January 2006. That failed to produce a win.

Back in 1975, Myron Cope urged Steelers fan to bring gold or yellow dish towels to a playoff game against the then-Baltimore Colts and wave them to lift the team to victory. It worked -- straight through to victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X.

It's been a staple among Steelers fans since.

Variations of the good-luck charm have surfaced over the years, albeit none with the staying power of the Terrible Towel. Most are given away as promotions.

Among those sold, only a few benefit charity like Cope's towel. Proceeds of Terrible Towel sales go to the Robinson-based Allegheny Valley School, which operates programs for the mentally disabled.

The towel, which costs about $7, has generated more than $1 million since Cope handed over ownership of the towel to the organization in 1996.

The Minnesota Twins Homer Hanky has remained popular since the Minneapolis Star Tribune introduced it during the Twins' World Series run in 1987. But the towel is reserved for playoff games.

"I think it caught on because the Twins won the World Series," said Tom Rainey, the Star Tribune's director of partnership marketing. "When the Twins make the postseason play, everyone wants Homer Hankies."

Fans bought about 2 million hankies during each of the World Series runs in 1987 and '91, Rainey said. Each hanky costs $1, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Twins Community Fund and the local children's hospital.

UNC Pembroke introduced rally towels as a fundraiser during last basketball season and has sold towels again at two football games this fall, said Robin Langley, the university's women's tennis coach who proposed use of the towels.

Towels cost $2, down from $3 during basketball season, with proceeds benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Additional Information:

Sports phenomenons, promotions

The wave: Popularized during the early 1980s. Fans stand and raise their arms

Rally towels: Waved by fans. The Terrible Towel is considered the first, but myriad others have come along in college and professional venues.

Bobbleheads: Dolls with metal-spring necks that allow the doll's head to bounce around.

Thundersticks: Inflated plastic balloon noisemaker popularized by the Anaheim Angles during their World Series run in 2002.

Whiteouts: Reaching the height of their popularity, particularly at college football games. All fans attending the game wear white, or any other designated color.

Rally monkey: Yeah, we don't understand it either.

Source: Tribune-Review research

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.