Observations from fading fall season

Commentary

Some random thoughts while wishing the fall sports season didn’t fly by so fast…

n The Penn State women’s soccer team held its senior day festivities over the weekend, an appropriate time to look back at the accomplishments of the graduating class.

They brought home the program’s first NCAA championship last season, not to mention three regular season Big Ten titles. Their statistics are impressive, without a doubt; but perhaps even more than their wins, trophies and accolades is an intangible impact, which will be felt for years to come.

They have set a standard that will attract future recruits, and set a bar that the underclassmen are challenged to meet and exceed. And they still have some work to do in the conference and NCAA tournaments. It will be exciting to see what their final curtain call might bring.

n NASCAR’s playoff field was cut from 12 to eight over the weekend, as the 2017 season is mercifully nearing the end. The series’ television ratings have been uninspiring, much like the changes made to the rules and race format this season.

Viewership for the Kansas race on NBC Sports was down 20-percent compared to last season’s race on NBC. The numbers were even worse for the October 9th event at Charlotte, with viewership down 44 from 2014.

The one bright spot in the television viewership came at Talladega, which earned 4.7 million viewers, one-third more than 2016. The bump was likely due to the race being Dale Earnhardt Junior’s farewell laps at the track where he’s tied with Jeff Gordon for the second-most wins behind his Dad.

Earnhardt Junior has announced that he’ll join the NBC broadcast team in 2018, but it will take more than the sport’s favorite driver commenting on the action to revitalize the series. NASCAR has some serious strategizing to do this off-season to try win over some waning fans and bring the younger generation on board, or you may see only major races like Daytona and the Brickyard earning major-national-network TV time in the future.

n I’m always impressed by the professional athletes who take on the challenge of Dancing with the Stars. Most of them do well, thanks to their strength, agility, coordination and mental toughness. But this season, professional athletes from the NBA and NFL have been outshined by former Paralympic Gold Medalist, Victoria Arlen.

The now-ESPN reporter overcame a rare virus and years of paralysis to not only walk but to dance. The inspirational Arlen personifies the virtues of determination and gratitude.

n A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about women working in sports and mentioned the female athletic directors at Penn State and Pitt. I neglected to include St. Francis AD Susan Robinson in that column. My deepest apologies to Red Flash faithful. I, like you, know that Robinson is a rock star; her omission was entirely unintentional. Go Flash!

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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