Controversial critters

It seems that no matter where we turn these days, we find controversy, including places such as Punxsutawney, Pa.; Marion, Ohio; and French Creek, W.Va. — on Tuesday, there was a split among the tri-state area’s rodent forecasters of winter weather.

Punxsutawney Phil, the wiley veteran, the seer of seers, the prognosticator of all prognosticators, emerged from his burrow and saw his shadow, which means we can expect six more weeks of winter.

But Buckeye Chuck, who lives just outside of Columbus, failed to see his shadow, as did French Creek Freddie, which means they say we can expect an early spring.

That the groundhogs don’t see eye-to-eye on their predictions shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all, we live in a nation where every word of every politician, athlete, celebrity, cleric, commentator — make that every single one of us — is closely watched and either fawned over or ripped to shreds. That, sadly, will lead we are sure, to anti-groundhog sentiment on social media, maybe even to the point that a movement will spring up to cancel Phil or Chuck or any of the other furry critters whose prediction isn’t what we want to see.

Before that happens, we ask that everyone take a deep breath, and remember that Groundhog Day is meant to be entertainment, a little break from whatever is going on in our lives. Phil has been the leader in groundhog predictions, with his abilities tied to Pennsylvania Dutch culture. Other places, however, have seen an opportunity to grab some attention and tourist dollars and have joined in the fun, making Groundhog Day an international spectacle that was, for the most part, moved online this year in response to restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

No matter which groundhog you side with, a look at the calendar also offers some insights.

First, we expect that the truest sign that spring is approaching will come in a few weeks, when the Pittsburgh Pirates report to spring training in Bradenton, Florida. Second, no matter what any groundhogs redicted, spring will officially arrive at 5:37 a.m. March 20, which is about six weeks from now.

So let’s smile, stay warm, continue to shovel the snow and keep looking ahead. And, don’t get mad at the groundhogs.

That would be a controversy we just don’t need.


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