As far as fan rooting shtick goes, it's no different than the homer hanky, based on the same principles as pom-poms and the foam finger. It is conversely distinctive from the Thunderstix, however, as those galling balloon noisemakers were quite obviously sent to us by the devil.
Pittsburgh's Terrible Towel is tradition, as much of everything is when you consider yourself a Steelers fan. It's more than a trite fad akin to the Rally Monkey. Yes, it too started as nothing more than a gimmick by Steelers legendary broadcaster Myron Cope in 1975, but when it still persists in its overwhelming popularity 31 years later, I think it's safe to say it can be considered something greater than attention-grabbing stunt. Hard to imagine Californians will still be draping stuffed primates over their shoulders come 2033.
The towel faithful will be toting their black and gold charms to Detroit this weekend -- and the bandwagon fans may be out of luck, what with a major towel shortage going on --- as they get set for Super Bowl XL between the Steelers and Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night at Ford Field.
For the first time in three years, Patriots fans have a laissez-faire approach to the big game, spurred on to invest their cheering interest into one the local boys (Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, Sean Morey, or Mark Whipple) or their hatred of the Steelers. No Tom Brady two-minute drills. No Rodney Harrison jarring blows. No Mike Vrabel touchdown catches.
It's just as well. At least, that's what my wife keeps telling me this week. She's packing for her weekend trip to Detroit, where she will be attending her first Super Bowl cheering on her Steelers, a pair of Terrible Towels -- one black, one gold -- in tow, of course. Her brother and sister will be meeting her in the Motor City tomorrow with their father, who was the reason behind this no-holds-barred journey.
It was just a year ago when my father-in-law -- a fan since his days growing up in the Steel City's surrounding area, and a man who dedicates a room of his Connecticut condo for his wealth of Steelers memorabilia -- had brain surgery in the Washington, DC area. A risky proposition by any measure, for sure, much more so when the years passed have tended to add up. He emerged healthy, I am grateful to say. My wife calls it a miracle every time she speaks with him, and I suppose it's difficult to disagree with that.
It is in those times of desperation though that we tend to make promises, whether in prayer or just an "I wish I would have done more skydiving," sort of way. Sometimes we keep them, often we don't. For my brother-in-law, who makes a handful of commutes every season from his home in Dallas to Heinz Field with his dad, it was an easy proposition: If their father was healthy enough, they would all take him to the Super Bowl the next time Pittsburgh played in it. No barrier too large.
And so it is that they will be joining the certain swelled throng of Steelers fans making the trip to Michigan, while I, for the first time since Tampa Bay beat Oakland in 2003, will have my hands wrapped around a pint instead of a keyboard on Super Bowl Sunday.
Here's what I look to keep an eye on this Super Bowl weekend:
Big Ben: I like to call myself ahead the times, but it may have really been my irrational hatred for Tommy Maddox that prompted me to call Ben Roethlisberger "possibly the next Brady" on NFL Kickoff Day 2004, when the Pittsburgh QB started the season on the bench. Now, it's in vogue to say.
Fits the Bill: Bill Belichick could make his ABC pregame appearance legendary if he were to respond to each and every one of Michael Irvin's statements with a "Huh?" and then launch into a tirade about how the rest of the panel hates Tom Jackson.
The BC connection: Not only did The Heights get all beside themselves to welcome Duke this week, but they also get to see the second former Eagle quarterback in the Super Bowl. The first? Mike Kruczek, ironically the Steelers backup in Super Bowls XIII and XIV.
Maxim: The men's magazine is seeking women from the Detroit area to submit reasons why they should attend the annual Super Bowl shindig tomorrow night. After their submission they will receive a response that says: Congratulations, you're on the list for 'MAXIM ROCK CITY,' the hottest pre-Game Event in Detroit!" or "If you would like to recommend another HOT Girlfriend, please have them submit a recent picture."
Hmm. The Playboy party, by the way, features a "live-woman dessert-table centerpiece." There's a joke there someplace, but this is a family show, thank you very much.
It's an ad, ad, world: Download this year's crop of Super Bowl commercials? No, thanks. I still look forward to watching them, although the whole thing has been tainted in my mind since the exclusion of the Bud Bowl. The most popular will obviously be MacGyver's MasterCard spot, hopefully putting Patty and Selma into a tizzy.
They're jacked and pumped: Troy Polamalu and Lofa Tatupu, USC alums under Pete Carroll, are both Samoan-blooded players who rate as arguably each team's most excitable defensive individuals. Any arguments as to Polamalu's tenacity were ended with his ridiculous goal line charge of Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer in the AFC title game.
We know. We know: A Google search for "Jerome Bettis Detroit" brings up 8,020 news results. Enough said.
Speaking of Jerome, the running back received the key to the city of his hometown this week. SI's Don Banks points out only three others have received that honor from Detroit: "There was actor James Earl Jones. Detroit neurosurgeon, Dr. Benjamin Carson, of Johns Hopkins University. And ... oh, yeah, somebody named Saddam Hussein, who got one back in 1980, before he seemed to fall out of favor with certain members of the U.S. government. And the U.S. Army for that matter."
We kid you not.
Prediction: Steelers 34, Seahawks 25