Every February 2nd, I ask myself the same question: Will there be six more weeks of winter if the groundhog sees his shadow...or if he doesn't? As a result, I never know which to root for. Thankfully, there's enough coverage on the radio and the internet that I get the answer fairly quickly. Of course, when the groundhogs disagree...
Perhaps the most famous groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil, who gained worldwide fame thanks to the Bill Murray movie. But we have Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal here on Long Island, as well as Staten Island Chuck, who is the spokesgroundhog for New York City. (Perhaps Chuck's real claim to fame was his "political comment" last year when he bit Mayor Michael Bloomberg's finger.)
This year, Phil, Mel and Hal all saw their shadows, forecasting six more weeks of winter. Considering the frigid temperatures we've experienced since November, that's not something to make us happy. Chuck, on the other hand, did not see his shadow, so I guess winter will be ending early in the five boroughs of NYC. Here on the other side of the city line, we'll still be freezing our butts off.
One amusing sidelight: Mayor Bloomberg apparently learned something from Chuck. In this year's photo op with the groundhog, the mayor is wearing heavy work gloves. I don't think it was because his hands were cold.
A few years ago, Laurie and I were on a vacation tour of Italy. During a long bus ride from Naples back to Rome, Laurie was bored and started "working the crowd," asking the other members of the group about themselves.
One family hailed from Punxsutawney and proceeded to tell us (and most of the bus) all about the Groundhog Day celebration there... in excruciating detail! We heard about the all-night outdoor celebration and the food and the members of the Groundhog Committee and what Phil does the other 364 days of the year and, well, you get the idea. We left Italy knowing more about Punxsutawney than we did about Rome, Venice, Florence or anywhere else we had visited.
As this story spun into the history of groundhogs and why the committee members wear top hats, a girl sitting in front of us asked her mother if how much longer our bus ride would take. When he mother replied that we were almost at the hotel, the girl exclaimed, "Oh, thank goodness!"
According to a story posted on AOL, despite his lesser notoriety, Staten Island Chuck has a much better track record than Punxsutawney Phil. Chuck has been correct 76% of the time while Phil's accuracy rate is only 39%. No one mentioned how well Mel or Hal do.
I'd sure like to believe Chuck's prediction that winter is coming to a rapid close. On the other hand, even if we have to go with Phil, Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal, spring is only six weeks away, so I can start looking forward to the day when we open up the pool again.
Of course, we'll have to wait for the giant block of ice on the cover to melt first.