We lost a true original this morning
February 27, 2008 11:26 AM
Steelers fans are mourning the death of veteran broadcaster Myron Cope this morning. Cope, who had been in declining health since his retirement from the radio booth in 2005, was the voice of the franchise for 35 years.
In that time, he also became the voice of a city. Cope was actually an accomplished writer before he pretty much stumbled into broadcasting at age 40. His catchphrases such as "Double Yoi" and "Dumbkopf" are familiar to any Steelers fan. Those fans always referred to him as "Myron," as if he was a close friend. And that's not far off.
He was the inventor of the Terrible Towel, which has become one of the most enduring symbols in sports. Cope had such a colorful life that he decided to write two books about himself.
As more and more voices crowded the radio, Cope's always stood out. He matched his humor and wisdom with an obvious enthusiasm for the home team. When you think of all the great traditions associated with Steelers football, Cope's name is near the top. He didn't have anything close to a radio voice - high and screechy - but it sounded perfect to Steelers fans.
"I've lost the most creative person I've ever known, a loyal and generous friend, and joy to be with," Joe Gordon, the retired Steelers executive told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "His accomplishments were just incredible. The characteristic that I most admired was his intensity to get things done, his durability to hang in there with his book, the DVD, the piece that he did for the City Paper; he really had to labor for those.
"He was such a perfectionist. I'd say to him, 'Myron, all you're doing is changing one sentence and it's taken four days.' "
Former Pittsburgh Press columnist and sports editor Roy McHugh tells a great story about Cope:
"He was a true celebrity," said McHugh. "In the '70s, he and I went to closed circuit telecasts of big fights at the Civic Arena. One night as we were leaving we fell in step with [former world light-heavyweight champion] Billy Conn. We couldn't get three or four paces without people wanting Cope's autograph. Conn they ignored."
Cope was actually born Myron Kopelman. He lived all but seven months of his life in Pittsburgh. In those seven months he took a job at the Erie Time, where his byline was changed to Cope. He eventually took a job at the Post-Gazette, but he made a name for himself as a free-lance writer for some of the top sports magazines in the country.
On its 50th anniversary, Sports Illustrated cited Cope's profile of Howard Cosell as one of its 50 all-time greatest articles. I never spent any time with Cope, but I know that he enriched thousands of lives, both through his charitable work and his voice.
His signature sign-off was "Bye now!" And when he passed away this morning, I'm sure that's what he wanted to say to his adoring fans