'Tis the season for holiday cookies, ugly sweater parties, and some very exciting sports.
The Penn State women's volleyball team gave Nittany Lion faithful a great end-of-the-season present: a fourth straight NCAA title. It's hard to put into words the magnitude of that accomplishment, which sets the Penn State program into an amazingly elite class.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this year was that the Nittany Lions won this championship after struggling early in the season, not only watching their record-setting winning streak come to an end, but also relinquishing their No. 1 ranking.
Penn State was the fourth seed in the NCAA tournament this year, and with a young team, still cruised to a straight-sets victory and fourth national title. The Lions have no need to re-build - they simply reload, creating a women's sports dynasty for the ages.
Jimmie Johnson continued his own domination this year, capturing a fifth straight NASCAR title, moving him even closer to the elusive seven championships, won by only two of the sports superstars: the King, Richard Petty and the Intimidator. Johnson seems to have lots of years of racing left, and plenty more chances to win more titles. Still, there will never be another champion quite like Dale Earnhardt.
If you are looking for a great gift for an Earnhardt (senior) fan, the DVD box set (which actually comes in a tin), called "Dale" is worth tracking down. The six-DVD collectors' edition provides hours and hours of Earnhardt memories, from his rookie of the year season driving the blue and yellow Wrangler Monte Carlo to his amazing 2004 victory lap at the Daytona 500, when competing teams lined the track to offer triumphant high-fives.
There's tons of behind-the-scenes stuff, from Earnhardt teaching his kids to water ski, to interviews with Junior as a junior high school student, to commercial shoots, raw interview footage, in-race radio traffic and more. Watching the old movies and new documentaries make you realize how much the sport lost when Dale Earnhardt died. He was not only one of the greatest drivers in history, but probably the most interesting character the sport will ever know.
Soon it will be time for Santa to make his annual ride, courtesy Rudolph and friends, bringing good girls and boys all their hearts' desires - from baseballs and basketballs to Madden games and Wii's. There will undoubtedly be Steelers jerseys under some trees, though probably fewer No. 7's flying off the shelves this year. Then the reindeer games give way to bowl games and the home stretch of the NFL regular season. It really may be the most wonderful time of the year.
Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.