Enjoy America’s unofficial holiday

We wake up this morning with the comfort of knowing the end of winter is approaching and the arrival of spring is not that far away.

This we are sure of, not because the cadre of groundhogs and woodchucks across the country, led by the most famous and accurate prognosticator of them all, Punxsutawney Phil, came out of their dens and offered their predictions Saturday morning, but simply because the first Sunday in February sits about halfway between the start of winter and the start of spring.

And, it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

It’s America’s mid-winter extravaganza, a national holiday that has never been officially declared as such. It’s a game of excesses played on a day of excesses on which snacks fly out of grocery stores, bars and restaurants where the game can be watched are anticipating larger-than-average crowds, pizza and sandwich shops are stretched to their limits in attempts to keep people fed and beverage marketers — those who sell drinks that contain alcohol and those who sell drinks that do not — are hard-pressed to keep up with demand.

Like many of the previous Super Bowls, LIII is surrounded by more than a little controversy. While it’s not a surprise to many that the New England Patriots earned the right to represent the American Football Conference in today’s Big Game, the Los Angeles Rams have arrived in Atlanta holding the baggage that comes after a missed pass interference call in the National Football Conference title game that deprived New Orleans of what would likely have been an easy opportunity to claim a win.

For fans in the Tri-State Area, today is a reminder of what might have been, a chance to think back to August, when the Steelers were an early favorite to represent the AFC in the greatest game of the season.

Those dreams were dashed, however, thanks in part to the holdout of LeVeon Bell, a collapse of the discipline Pittsburgh is known for and the somewhat bizarre behavior of star receiver Antonio Brown, who quit taking calls from coaches and management, wore street clothes on the sideline while watching the team’s last regular-season game against Cincinnati at Heinz Field and was last seen by many while dressed as a hippopotamus and performing on the television show “The Masked Singer.”

All of that means that the best option is to pop open your favorite beverage, have a bowl of your favorite snack at the ready, grab a chicken wing or two and enjoy the day, holding onto the knowledge that spring officially arrives at 5:58 p.m. on March 20, and that it’s less than a year before Super Bowl LIV will be played next Feb. 2 in Miami.

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