Groundhog Phil saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter

By Zachary Schloss

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Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil annually determines how many more weeks of winter we will experience. Photo courtesy of the AP.

Americans are blessed with some spectacular holidays.  There’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Heck, there’s even Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day and Independence Day. Yet, Feb. 2 goes unnoticed every year. Did you celebrate?  If you are a typical American, you probably didn’t.  And that’s a real shame because Groundhog Day is one of the most important days of the year.

When it comes to Santa, we leave out milk and cookies for the big guy to inhale.  But what about the groundhogs?  As the Black Eyed Peas so eloquently questioned, “Where is the Love?”

For those of you who don’t know, Groundhog Day has the potential to impact you more so than any other holiday.  Every Feb. 2, groundhogs across the land emerge from their burrows and search for their shadows.  If they see their shadows, winter will continue for six more weeks; if they don’t see it, winter will end soon.

But do we honor these foretellers of truth?  Of course not. “Jersey Shore’s” Snooki gets more news coverage.  Instead, we give these rodents ludicrous names, like Spanish Joe, Sir Walter Wally, Dunkirk Dave, Wiarton Willie and Balzac Billy.  Why?  Unlike your local weatherman, these groundhogs make educated predictions using a systematic process.  A shadow means more winter.  Simple.  Easy.  No Doppler radar required.

One town has it right.  Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (yes, the same one from the Bill Murray movie) celebrates Groundhog Day every year by downing food and drink, while waiting for their town’s hero, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, to make his annual mark on history.  This year, Phil even disseminated his prediction live through webcam, text and Twitter.

Although groundhogs tend to live for about a decade, Punxsutawnians claim that every year Phil is given Groundhog Punch to extend his lifespan.  And you thought Rudolph was magical?

While you’d think being underappreciated would cause Phil and his dozens of furry comrades to slack off their duties as heaven’s messengers, this is not so.  In fact, the Staten Island Zoo claims that their groundhog, Staten Island Chuck, has correctly estimated the length of winter 80 percent of the time since he began prognosticating.  And General Beauregard Lee, the groundhog at Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn, Georgia, has been right 94 percent of the time, according to the ranch.  In other words, Channel 9 could do itself a favor by swapping weatherman Topper Shutt for one of these fuzzy little woodchucks.

This year, the forecast is cloudy.  Punxsutawney Phil and Spanish Joe (and of course lesser-known hogs, Chuckles and Woody) all foresaw six more weeks of winter; however, Balzac Billy, Woodstock Willie, General Beauregard Lee and Staten Island Chuck all predicted an early spring.  Only time will tell who truly deserves our trust (my bet’s on Chuckles).

So while Punxsutawney Phil may not be able to slide down a chimney like Santa, advocate civil rights like MLK or fill baskets with eggs like the Easter Bunny, he and his kind are deserving of some recognition.  Next time you’re in Punxsutawney, stop by and thank Phil for his hard work.  It’s a thankless job after all.

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