Big Lead Sports Bar


R.I.P, Myron Cope

Here is the "simulcast" of the Myron Cope article I wrote for Deadspin this morning:
Steeler fans around the world will be hanging their Terrible Towels at half mast today, as legendary broadcaster Myron Cope passed away at the age of 79. Cope was the Steelers' color commentator from 1970-2004 and became the first pro football broadcaster to be elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005.

Best known for his catchphrases, Cope had many of them: There was "Mmm-Hah!", "Okel Dokel" and his most famous, "Yoi!" (often "Double Yoi" or "Triple Yoi" in a moment of great excitement). In addition to being the creator of the Terrible Towel in 1975, Cope also fancied himself at the nickname game, popularizing "The Bus" for Jerome Bettis and creating "Slash" for Kordell Stewart. His radio show was also credited with making the phrase "Immaculate Reception" a household term. Think of him as a more likable version of Chris Berman, sans YouTube videos and "You're With Me, Leather" stories.

As much as Steeler fans will miss the playful side of Myron, it's the serious side that will leave an equal void. Cope's son Daniel was born with autism and has battled it his entire life, confined to an institution that can fulfill his special needs. So in 1996, Cope made the decision to contribute his ownership of the Terrible Towel trademarks to the Allegheny Valley School, a Pittsburgh institution that provides care for more than 900 mentally and physically disabled individuals. Proceeds from towel sales have helped raise over $1 million for the school.

Football is always taken a little too seriously in Pittsburgh, so when the voice of 35 years no longer walks among us, trust me, it is a huge loss. And while the Steelers family has suffered numerous losses in the last few years (most recently Ernie Holmes), Cope's death would probably rank as the biggest loss since the passing of founder Art Rooney in 1988. Although I was only 11 years old at that time, I can remember The Chief's passing being treated with the same reverance as the death of a pope. Expect something along those lines for Cope.

I realize that I'm known for a sarcastic take on Pittsburgh sports, but in all honesty, I'm having a hard time showing anything but sadness when discussing this news. Yes, he was goofy and he was schticky, but he was our goofy and schticky guy. He was a Yinzer through and through. He epitomized the city of Pittsburgh and connected with the vast majority of Steeler Nation. His nasal delivery, his nicknames, his catchphrases...they would all be looked at as pure filler today. But somehow he was able to pull it off, and for 35 years at that.

His influence on the Steelers and pro sports in general cannot be discounted. Yes, the Terrible Towel was a gimmick, but now it's copied on some level (and poorly, I might add) by countless teams during a playoff run. And at least Myron's version is doing some good for people.
Our city has a lot going on right now. We have a college basketball team with an RPI of 26 who's knocked off Georgetown and Duke. We have a Stanley Cup-contending team who just picked up a hired gun for the stretch run. But despite all of that, today the legendary Myron Cope will get his much-deserved final turn in the spotlight. We'll miss you, Myron.


Unknown said...

Despite my overwhelming distaste for Yinzers as a Browns fan and Cleveland native, it's definitely sad to hear of the passing of someone who truly was part of the "fabric" of not only a team, but an entire city. If I owned a Terrible Towel, I'd be waving it, if only for one day. God Bless Myron and the Cope family.

Anonymous said...

Well put, Mondesi.

To many people in their 20's and 30's, Cope WAS the Steelers in many ways.

I was in PGH last summer and stumbled upon Cope as Stan's guest on SportsBeat one night and decided to call in b/c I figured it would be my last chance to give Myron a "How do?" on the air, something I did on a regular basis in high school.

It was great to see Myron at Heinz Field one last time, (2006, I believe) leading the crowd in waving his Terrible Towel one final time.

Myron's legacy will live on as long as the Steelers play football.