Even though I write the music blog here at IFC.com, it’s almost impossible for me to conceal my love for sports. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and everyone there (and I mean everyone) loves sports.
We lost a true legend this morning as Myron Cope, longtime Pittsburgh Steelers announcer, died of pneumonia.
Cope spoke with a thick Pittsburgh accent and during radio broadcasts would come up with memorable (and yes, bizarre and enigmatic) catch phrases. He made the word “Yoi” famous (utter it in the streets of Pittsburgh and everyone will know exactly what you’re saying).
When I was old enough to appreciate Cope’s genius, he became an inspiration to me. Here’s a guy who fumbled through his words, had trouble pronouncing players’ names, and had a voice that had no right being on radio. Yet his love and excitement for the game transcended it all. He was to announcing what Nirvana was to hair-metal bands. He made it seem realistic for people like me to land an on-air job in television.
Cope’s claim to fame was his invention of the Terrible Towel. Before a 1975 Steeler’s playoff game, Cope was pressured by the front office to come up with a gimmick that would get fans excited for the game. Since Cope didn’t want the fans to spend money (we like to pinch pennies in Pittsburgh), he told the Pittsburgh faithful to bring something to the game that they already owned–a hand towel. Cope got on the airwaves and instructed everyone to bring either a black or gold towel to the game and wave it over their heads. He christened the invention “The Terrible Towel.”
Any time you go to a sporting event, or concert for that matter, and see someone twirling a t-shirt or towel over their head, just remember who started it.
I’m sending a “double yoi” up to heaven today.
Myron Cope 1929-2008