The Origins of the Terrible Towel and the Lambeau Leap

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Super Bowl XLV will take place on Sunday, February 6th. It would take far too long to detail the long, storied history of both teams. So, in the interest of brevity – and to avoid the Super Bowl overdose that is surely on the way – let’s just take a look at the origins of two of their most famous game day traditions: The Terrible Towel and the Lambeau Leap.

The Terrible Towel

Steelers fans are among the most loyal and rabid fans in all of professional sports. And when they descend on downtown Pittsburgh clad in black and gold to cheer on their hometown team at Heinz Field, they don’t show up empty-handed. They bring towels.

The Terrible Towel was created by the late, beloved Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope as a radio station promotion back in 1975. Even if you don’t like the Steelers, you can’t have anything but affection for Cope as he describes the way the tradition came about:

If that didn’t make you love him, here’s another part of the story, as detailed on the website of the Allegheny Valley School – an organization that provides care for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities:

In 1996, Myron Cope walked into Allegheny Valley School President and CEO Regis Champ's office and said, "Rege, I've got a gift for the school." He then handed over documents that gave the ownership of The Terrible Towel® trademark to Allegheny Valley School. From that day forward, the proceeds from the sale of any Terrible Stuff have come to Allegheny Valley School.

Why Allegheny Valley School?

"My son Danny, who was born brain-damaged and can neither speak nor otherwise function normally, has lived at Allegheny Valley School since 1982," Cope explained. "For my late wife Mildred and me, Allegheny Valley School was a Godsend. Danny is happy and is cared for with expertise, understanding and love."

As Pittsburgh fans pack up their Terrible Towels and get ready to head to Dallas to watch their team face off against the Packers in Super Bowl XLV, here’s an interesting twist they may not be aware of: The Terrible Towel (a “Pittsburgh Original” though it may be) is actually produced by McArthur Towel & Sports in Baraboo, Wisconsin – located just a few hours from Green Bay. The company's president is a big Packers fan.

The Lambeau Leap

The storied history of the Green Bay Packers is full of larger than life icons: Vince Lombardi, Super Bowls I & II, the “Frozen Tundra.” As if that weren’t enough, they are also the proud owners of the most famous touchdown celebration in football – the Lambeau Leap.

For a franchise established in 1919, the Lambeau Leap – which consists of a celebrating Packer player diving full-on into the Lambueau Field stands located through the back of the end zone – is a very new phenomenon. First performed in 1993 by Green Bay safety LeRoy Butler, the Lambeau Leap is now an indispensable part of the Pack’s home game experience.

Here is a brief description of the initial leap, taken from Butler’s website:

On December 26, 1993, the Packers were playing the visiting Los Angeles Raiders. On a second-down swing pass to running back Randy Jordan, Butler forced a fumble that was recovered by Reggie White at the Raiders' 35-yard-line. After running with the ball for 10 yards, White lateraled to Butler, who ran the remaining 25 yards into the end zone and then made a spontaneous leap into the arms of fans in the south bleachers. The Packers went on to win 28-0 to clinch what would be the first of six consecutive playoff berths.

For their part, the Packers encourage the practice – even labeling a section of the stadium the Lambeau Leap Zone. On their webpage dedicated to the area, they detail some of the tougher logistical challenges a Green Bay player may encounter while attempting it:

Some “leaps” are very graceful and flamboyant, while some are somewhat awkward with heavier players barely getting the loft to clear the barrier separating the field from the stands. At times slightly chagrined, but still festive, bulkier Packers have been “helped” into the stands by fans who tugged them up and over when the player couldn’t quite muster the feat unassisted.

Presented here, for the historical record, is the original Lambeau Leap:

January 25, 2011 - 9:32am
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