Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hogging the Spotlight

I ought to like Groundhog Day. I appreciate a holiday that's entirely silly, I don't care for winter, and groundhogs are adorable. But every year I'm more baffled by the "festivities" and nearly as irritated by Groundhog Day as by Valentine's Day.

First of all, according to the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, "a groundhog's life span is normally 6 to 8 years. Phil receives a drink of a magical punch every summer during the annual Groundhog Picnic, which gives him 7 more years of life." Um...yeah. Even with the magical drink, that means there've been 2 to 3 Phils in my lifetime. And without magic, as many as six. What's up with that? How come Phil's death and miraculous rebirth never makes the news?

Then there's what seems to be general confusion about the legend itself. As my mother (who, in her typically weird way, is really into Groundhog Day) explained it to me when I was little, if the groundhog sees his shadow and runs back into his hole because he's scared of it, it means 6 more weeks of winter. Even as a child, this confused me. If I stepped out of my house and saw a bunch of reporters and children on my usually tranquil front lawn, I'd run back inside too! On the other hand, a Phil near the end of his lifespan is probably used to all this by now, living in a zoo and all, so maybe nothing fazes him. But in recent years, the people on the news seem to just focus on did he or didn't he see his shadow. Wikipedia (oh yeah, I did research!) is remarkably unhelpful: "If the groundhog emerges and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end; however, if the groundhog sees its shadow because the weather is bright and clear, it will be frightened and run back into its hole, and the winter will continue for six more weeks." Huh? What of he sees his shadow but isn't frightened? What if it's sunny but he's looking the other way? If it's overcast then do we just get six weeks and not need the groundhog at all? Also, I definitely had the radio on at 7:15 this morning and heard the "results," but it was still barely light out.

And which damn rodent are we supposed to pay attention to anyway? Southern New York and Pennsylvania have pretty similar weather, generally, but Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow (or so they claim) more often than not, and Staten Island Chuck, good New Yorker that he is, fears nothing. So whom do we believe? I think I'm going to go with the groundhog from Canadia, since they have better healthcare and allow gay marriage up there, so they're obviously more sensible.

Last but certainly not least, who cares??? Well, I do, obviously, judging by the length of this post. But that news piece I linked to was the top story today. Not Iraq or child abuse or the man who jumped from the Empire State Building or drug-smuggling puppies. Ooh, now there's an idea! Let's give the groundhogs some heroin and see how they do!

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