Steelers fans toast Myron Cope

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Okel-dokel, let's agree that any Steelers fan who's no dummkopf knew that Sunday was the late Myron Cope's birthday and celebrated the fact it occurred, hmmm-haa, the same day as the AFC championship game in, of all places -- yoi and double yoi! -- Pittsburgh.

Steelers fans were anxious to offer a mazel tov to the rare coincidence that Mr. Cope's birthday would fall on the same day as the championship game -- evidence, in the opinion of Star 100.7 deejay Bubba Snider, that "God is a Steelers fan."

It also presented Mr. Snider an opportunity to memorialize Mr. Cope as "leader of Steeler Nation," genius behind the Terrible Towel, and poet of Pittsburghese who named Chuck Noll "The Emperor" and Jerome Bettis "The Bus."

Before the game, fans felt the coincidence foretold a Pittsburgh victory and called on the Steelers to "win one for Myron," whose memorable acts, famous quips and notable idiosyncrasies inexorably will be linked with Steelermania.

"All the signs are heading in the right direction," said Erich Mulzet, 28, of Marshall.

Mr. Snider, morning deejay at Star 100.7 and operating partner for Mullen's bar and grill on the North Side and South Side, celebrated the happy coincidence during the buildup to the AFC championship clash Sunday between the Steelers and New York Jets.

Up to 500 people packed shoulder-to-shoulder inside Mullen's at 5 p.m., when the toast detonated a frenzy of Terrible Towel twirling designed to dispel any gorgonzola about the Jets disrupting the Steelers march to an eighth Super Bowl appearance and seventh win.

"We revere Myron like the British revere Churchill," said Tom Campedel, 31, of Pleasant Hills, before the toast inside Mullen's on Federal Street.

Prior to 6:30 p.m. kickoff at Heinz Field, the Steelers broadcast a 10-minute tribute to the Terrible Towel in honor of Mr. Cope's 82nd birthday.

Pittsburgh native Myron Cope was born Myron Kopelman on Jan. 23, 1929. He launched the Terrible Towel Dec. 27, 1975, prior to a playoff game against the Baltimore Colts. While Mr. Cope didn't initiate the idea, he promoted it endlessly until it became the Steelers' battle flag. The waving of the Terrible Towel has inspired poetry and song and the towel has been displayed in all corners of the globe, including atop Mount Everest and at the South Pole -- and even in outer space with it being waved inside the space station.

In recent years, the famous and often-copied towel is thought to invoke spiritual powers by aiding the Steelers and hexing anyone who dares to disrespect or desecrate it.

In 1996, Mr. Cope turned over his rights to the towel to the Allegheny Valley School, a school in Coraopolis for mentally and physically disabled children, and the school has realized more than $3 million in royalties.

Mr. Snider said he had an opportunity years ago to honor the man long before Mr. Cope died from respiratory failure on Feb. 27, 2008.

He recalled one Jan. 23, during his morning radio show, that he convinced singer Brian McKnight to travel with him to Mr. Cope's Mt. Lebanon home to sing "Happy Birthday" to the broadcaster.

That morning, as the two knocked on the door of his Mt. Lebanon home, Mr. Cope appeared in his underwear and robe.

As Mr. McKnight piped "Happy Birthday," Mr. Cope sat in his foyer in full joy of the moment.

He later would tell Mr. Snider, better known as "Bubba," that the incident had been one of the unexpected highlights of his career.

Even after his death, Mr. Cope remains the source of Steelers inspiration, as proven Sunday.

"The whole Myron thing brings it to another level for us," said Brent Yahrling, 32, of Wellsburg, W.Va., prior to the toast. "The Jets fans don't know what the Terrible Towel brings to the table. Myron is a Pittsburgh legend. He was there in the '70s, and when you think of the Steel Curtain, you think of Myron Cope."

When it came time for the 5 p.m. toast, a rambunctious crowd grew silent as Mr. Snider spoke of Mr. Cope's importance to Steelers history and the reverence the Steelers Nation still holds for him.

"We'll be getting help from a higher power," Mr. Snider said during his toast in a rare moment of silence inside Mullen's. "Not only do we know that God is a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, we know that in heaven, Myron Cope, the true inspirational leader of the Steeler Nation, will be waving his Terrible Towel, and for this game, he will be a fan with the best seat in the house."

Then Mr. Snider asked the hundreds of Mullen's patrons to raise bottles and glasses as he toasted the man "who created the flag for our nation, the Steeler Nation."

"Myron Cope, you are loved by all Steelers fans everywhere, and tonight, we know, you will be waving your Terrible Towel with us as we chant, 'Here we go, Steelers, here we go.' "

David Templeton: or 412-263-1578.


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