The NFL season began for real this past weekend – though I had to wait until Monday night to watch my Steelers play. One thing Steeler fans are known for is the waving of the “Terrible Towel.” Leading up to this opening game with the Redskins, the Washington Post carried a story about the concern the owner of the Redskins expressed about the Terrible Towel. He was worried that in front of a national Monday night TV audience there might be too many Terrible Towels in the stands at Fed Ex Stadium – so the Redskins gave out burgundy towels for their fans to wave.
If you have never heard the story behind the Terrible Towel, it is an interesting one. Believing that pom-poms did not fit the blue-collar nature of the Steelers or their fans, Pittsburgh broadcaster Myron Cope came up with the idea of the Towel back in 1975 when the Steeler franchise was in the midst of its championship runs. Cope got a trademark for the towel and over the next 30 years it became synonymous with cheering for team. (Initially you were supposed to lay the Terrible Towel over the top of your TV set at home to allow the Towel to do its work – which became much more difficult in the day of LCD TVs!)
What many people do not know is that in the mid-90s Myron Cope gave the trademark rights for the towel to the Allegheny Valley School, which is s a network of campuses and group homes across Pennsylvania for people with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities – and where Myron’s son Danny lives. Since that time the sale of the Terrible Towel has brought more than $3 million to the school – to be used for assistance for the residents – including providing specialized wheel chairs and other equipment.
Back in 2011, as the Steelers were preparing to play in the Super Bowl, USA Today carried a story about how the hospitals in Pittsburgh were wrapping all the new born babies in a special version of the “Terrible Towel.” Several new fathers noted that they had asked their wives to do all they could not to go into labor during the Super Bowl and one new father, Justin Eitel, was quoted in an interview saying: “She can choose her religion, but she can’t choose what team she likes!”
I can’t say too much. One of the earliest pictures we have of our oldest daughter is the one where she is wearing her Steeler jersey and holding her little Steeler football (they were presents from her grandfather!!). I do think new dad Justin did push the envelope a little bit. As much fun as sports can be, it is never more important than one’s “religion.” Indeed, the most important decision you make in life is your faith decision about the place of Jesus Christ in your life and the most important thing you can do in life is to pass on this faith to family and friends. Proverbs 22:6 reminds us, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Of course, this has to do with the passing on of the faith from generation to generation, not which team to root for.
The Apostle Paul often talks about the importance of having a legacy in the faith – one of the best known passages is in 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul talks about the faith that is Timothy’s, a faith that first burned in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. There is no legacy in life of more significance than the passing on of faith.
Each day we have the opportunity to make an impact on the future – to leave a legacy for others. What will you do today, that will make a difference not only now, but also for years to come?
(On the lighter side, Hyundai has a commercial out now that touches on the place of the Terrible Towel in the hearts of Steeler fans. It will make you smile.)
One generation believes something.
The next assumes it.
And the third will forget and deny it.
— D.A. Carson