Cope fans say 'Bye, now' in towel-twirling tribute
March 1, 2008 10:00 AM
VWH Campbell Jr./Post-Gazette
First-graders Ryan Greer, left, and Max Sybert cut out paper Terrible Towels during class yesterday at Connoquenessing Valley Elementary School in Zelienople, where teachers, students and staff honored Myron Cope.
Sharon Cubarney, of Morningside, grasps her Myron Cope memorabilia during the ceremony.
Mark McEwen holds up his "D-Fence" sign during yesterday's "Terrible Towel Wave" farewell to late Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope on the steps of the City-County Building, Downtown.
By Moriah Balingit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The man who is synonymous with the official flag of Steelers Nation was given a send off by its citizens yesterday in a ceremony that could only be characterized as Terrible.
A Terrible Towel twirling tribute seemed a fitting farewell for Myron Cope, the famed Steelers broadcaster and sports journalist who died Wednesday.
So yesterday, in the midst of a winter snowstorm -- "Steeler weather," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl called it -- about 350 fans and friends gathered with their Terrible Towels outside the City-County Building to pay tribute to the man who became their leader, sporadically erupting into cheers of "Let's go Myron!" and his trademark "Double Yoi!"
Addressing the snow-drenched fans, Mr. Ravenstahl recalled watching Steelers games with the television turned down and the radio turned up to hear Mr. Cope's broadcasts.
Dan DelBianco, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, recalled Mr. Cope's lesser-known contributions to the community, including co-founding the charity car race that benefits the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Valley School. Mr. Cope's son has been a resident at the school for people with developmental disabilities since 1992. He donated the Terrible Towel trademark to the school 11 years ago so that royalties from towel sales go to the school.
"He became known across this country as the voice of the Steelers ... but Myron had another voice. It was one that was softer and it spoke for thousands of those who cannot speak for themselves," Mr. DelBianco said. "I'm talking about individuals and families in the region dealing with the challenge of autism and developmental disabilities."
Much like the Terrible Towel he named -- which he once called "a positive force that lifts the Steelers to magnificent heights" -- Mr. Cope's impact on Steelers football eludes definition.
"Myron did so much for the Steelers it can't be put into words," Steelers chairman Dan Rooney told the crowd. "The biggest thing he did was to keep us loose, brought humor to it."
"I remember when we went to play Super Bowl IX, we were playing the Vikings. We were there for the first time, but we were very loose."
Though he never played a game, Mr. Cope came to symbolize the Steelers Nation as much, if not more, than many of the players.
For Mike Scott, a teacher at Allderdice High School where Mr. Cope is a graduate, the fact that Mr. Cope never donned his own jersey does not diminish his importance in the Steelers Nation.
"He never played a down, he never took a hit, but ... he's a Steeler," he said.
"He brought a sense of identification and a voice of all the fans and the hard-working attitude of the fans," said Marco Wuslich, a tech support engineer at the ceremony. "He was noticeable to everybody and he really brought us together."
For Sylvia Corcoran, a Pittsburgher and bank employee, he was more than that. Surrounded by raucous towel-waving fans, she stood and cried.
"He was Pittsburgh. I just loved him. I just loved hearing his voice," she said.
At the end of the speeches, Mayor Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Mr. Rooney led a minute of silent towel-twirling, turning the rambunctious crowd startlingly solemn.
For a man who was known for his voice and stirring the passion of Steelers fans everywhere, it was an ironic tribute.