Super Bowl remains great spectacle

In spite of Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow, the days are getting longer and it’s actually starting to feel like spring is on the way. Some general observations as the seasons change:

n According to Nielsen’s TV ratings, Sunday’s big game, televised by Fox, drew 111.3 million viewers, among the top-five all-time most viewed television programs, but 600,000 fewer than last year. That dip may be due to technology, which leads to viewership on non-broadcast devices, like streaming to tablets, cellphones and computers.

Or it may be another example of declining interest in the NFL. Like most other aspects of society, politics have wormed their way into America’s favorite sport, which has also tried to overcome a myriad of scandals and challenges over the last several years. Perhaps some fans are just tired of the negativity and looking for other outlets for entertainment.

But for the millions who did tune into the game, there were wonderful moments of patriotism and sportsmanship, a comeback for the ages and lots of fun commercials during breaks in the action. Whether you love the NFL, the Pats, the politics or don’t care for any of it, the Super Bowl is all ours: a supremely American event, an unofficial national holiday, and one of the great spectacles in all of sport.

n The Saint Francis athletic teams are once again planning their “Sports 4 Kids Day” on April 2. It’s an opportunity for youngsters to experience the wide array of sports on the Loretto campus, while playing with the student-athletes themselves. Sponsored by Sheetz and presented in memory of former Saint Francis volleyball player Alicia Richardson, the day’s events feature a circuit of sports activities, prepared and presented by each Red Flash team for children from Pre-K to sixth grade. In addition to exposing students to sports from basketball to bowling, the event also gives the elementary students positive role models and a chance to experience the values cultivated through sports. Pre-registration for the free event begins Feb. 13th.

n Special Olympics Pennsylvania recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the organization’s winter games, with competitions offered in downhill and cross country skiing, speed skating and snowshoeing in the Seven Springs area. As many as 350 athletes were supported by more than 100 coaches and 1,000 volunteers who gave their time and talents toward providing this unique athletic experience to an inspiring population of athletes.

And special thanks to the sturdy souls who braved wintery weather and cold water Saturday morning to raise funds for Special Olympics programs. Taking the Polar Plunge into the lake at Canoe Creek State Park, many of those who were “freezing for a reason” already support the organization and its athletes in many ways: sponsors, coaches, educators and volunteers. Your dedication is amazing, and your chattering teeth, blue lips and goose bumps reveal your incredibly huge hearts.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.