Now that football is officially over, what is left to look forward to this winter?
Certainly, the NHL playoffs promise to be exciting in Pennsylvania with the Flyers and Penguins standing 1-2 respectively atop their division.
Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to big-league training camps this week, and NASCAR teams are rolling into Daytona; they didn't need the groundhog to tell them that spring is just around the corner.
It will be a bittersweet Speedweeks this year, as NASCAR marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500.
Several tributes are planned, including Michael Waltrip running a mostly-black paint scheme in the 500. Waltrip was driving his Earnhardt-owned car to the checkered flag on the day of the fatal crash.
Dale Earnhardt, Junior has said it is still too painful to personally participate in tributes to his famous father, but he'll watch as they happen with the rest of the world.
It's hard to imagine what racing would be today if the Intimidator were still at the track. He may not have still been driving; at 60, he'd be eight years older than the series' most senior full-time driver, Mark Martin.
Earnhardt, who was known for his often aggressive style that helped him to a record seven Cup Championships, was just starting to settle into a different role, that of mentor. His pride for his own drivers, and particularly his son was evident during his last few years. Perhaps Dale would be loving life as a full-time car owner, enjoying a healthy rivalry with the Hendricks and the Childresses.
NASCAR may still be trying to fill the void left by the loss of its biggest and most popular personality; Earnhardt, Junior continues to be a fan favorite, but has admittedly struggled to live up to the expectations created by his father's accomplishments.
While others, like Jimmie Johnson have enjoyed amazing success, they've yet to match the stature of the Earnhardt persona.
Only a handful of Earnhardt-era drivers are still on the track, including Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek and Bill Elliott, who will run a part-time schedule in 2011.
Of course, drivers like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson raced against the elder Earnhardt, but were not part of his coming-up circle of drivers and friends like Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace, who have both moved to the broadcast booth.
With declining television ratings and attendance numbers, NASCAR is feeling the pain of the post-Earnhardt era, as well as the recent recession which has caused companies to re-think their sponsorships.
However, the images of the sport's most famed driver will be everywhere over the next few weeks as the iconic Earnhardt legend and mystique live on during the 10th anniversary tributes. It may be exactly what the sport needs to get back on track.
Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.