Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 9:09 AM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Groundhog Day 2011 results: Spring!

By Alexandra Petri

Whenever I try to write about Groundhog Day, I always get the creeping sense that it's been done before...

"Did the groundhog see his shadow?" everyone asks. "Will Mubarak remain in office for seven more months?" I'm sorry, that's not the question. But the answer is in!

But now the unspellable Punxsutawney Phil (and Staten Island Chuck) have both peered from their holes and concurred: no shadow, no more winter!

For those of you who have been holding your breath about this, you can stop now, although I urge you to take a moment to think about what this says about you, and to maybe apologize to your family and co-workers. Are that many calendars with inspirational daily messages a right or a privilege? Ask yourself this.

Groundhog Day could be viewed as a commentary on the nature of modern celebrity. A cute, hairy creature has become famous for doing something with minimal accuracy because he is surrounded by men in funny hats. Subtract two legs and a tail and that's the Justin Bieber narrative all over. Sure, Phil is only right 39 percent of the time, but that's more than Mel Gibson.

Of course, you could also see this as a statement about our views on prognostication. When it comes to the weather, we still seem convinced that the old ways work best. Sure, we have doppler radar and weather balloons and large, in-depth wall-sized graphics of pressure fronts and low-pressure fronts and Amy Chua standing next to clouds looking disappointed, but do we trust it? In most lives, the Weather Channel is just a form of continuous fiction for people whose self-images prevent them from getting really invested in General Hospital. And no matter what Thundersnow or Snowpocalypse or Snowki or what-have-you our prognosticators conjure up, whom do we trust?

A groundhog, surrounded by men in funny hats. I hope he's right.

Update, 3:45 P.M.: Over at the BlogPost, my colleague Melissa Bell ponders whether Punxsutawney Phil is really the right species for prognostication!

By Alexandra Petri  | February 2, 2011; 9:09 AM ET
Categories:  Big Deals, Petri  | Tags:  celebrity, gravitas, groundhog day  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Google vs. Bing: Finders vs. Keepers?
Next: Anderson Cooper attacked? Forget the protests -- this is news!

Comments

What a terrible article. Did you really just compare the Groundhog to Justin Bieber? True they are both small and can be a little annoying, but the nice thing is that at least we only hear about the groundhog once a year, versus the poor comparisons of a child star to every little thing that the media can imagine.
There is very little science to the groundhog day phenomenom, and the public is smart enough to know that. However, this is something that people find entertaining, which is why it is followed. At least it is ammusing... which can't quite be said about this article.

Posted by: NO_BS | February 2, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Alexandra, I accidently came across your Groundhog Day article. Thanks so much for the laughs you gave me today regarding the rodent.

Posted by: twopawslp | February 2, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I find this article to be rediculous. Groundhogs day is a tradition yet the author writes as though the groundhog is our sole means of understanding the weather. Hardly!

Attempt at writing an original article that is interesting and enjoyable: fail.

Seems to me like the author groaned inwardly when recieving this assignment and thought she was going to challenge the idea of this tradition with ideas that are hardly true because she's not good enough of a writer to do otherwise.

Posted by: ArtRoomDirector | February 2, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Cmon - spend the money on something useful. I'm one of people losing jobs. I'll take it, along with many others.
look at the calendar - Spring is when it is!

No wonder we are in the mess we are!

Posted by: dave1919 | February 2, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I just stumbled across this, and literally laughed out loud at work. You just made my morning! Thanks

Posted by: nessahall24 | February 2, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Hilarious. Don't listen to the humor-challenged.

Posted by: Call-for-Reason | February 2, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

If you wish to learn more about the German role model for Phil and Chuck, read here:
http://brainmindinst.blogspot.com/2010/02/annotations-to-groundhog-day.html

Posted by: Melzerpeter | February 2, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

i thought it was funny. lighten up, people.

Posted by: jfbast | February 2, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Some of you need to lighten up! Can you not pick up on the writer's "tongue in check" humor? There are plenty of other things to worry about in this world besides this article. Laugh a little!!

Posted by: twinsis2 | February 2, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the misspelling...should be "tongue in cheek".

Posted by: twinsis2 | February 2, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"... Sure, Phil is only right 39 percent of the time, but that's more than Mel Gibson."

No, No! This means we've had it wrong all along! It should be:

Phil sees his shadow = No more winter

Phil does NOT see his shadow = 6 more weeks of winter!

Then Phil is RIGHT 61% of the time!

We've had it wrong all along!

In studies of ESP it really doesn't matter if you're right or wrong 61% of the time. Either way you're beating the odds of just guessing, which is 50/50, 50% of the time being right, or wrong. So, if we "know" someone is wrong 61% of the time we take that into account and switch our perspective. Now we can depend on their answer 61% of the time. In ESP studies you do NOT tell the test subject this, which in Phil's case is not a problem, I think...

pk ;-)

Posted by: PhilKE3FL | February 2, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"... Sure, Phil is only right 39 percent of the time, but that's more than Mel Gibson."

No, No! This means we've had it wrong all along! It should be:

Phil sees his shadow = No more winter

Phil does NOT see his shadow = 6 more weeks of winter!

Then Phil is RIGHT 61% of the time!

We've had it wrong all along!

In studies of ESP it really doesn't matter if you're right or wrong 61% of the time. Either way you're beating the odds of just guessing, which is 50/50, 50% of the time being right, or wrong. So, if we "know" someone is wrong 61% of the time we take that into account and switch our perspective. Now we can depend on their answer 61% of the time. In ESP studies you do NOT tell the test subject this, which in Phil's case is not a problem, I think...

PhilKE3FL ;-)

Posted by: PhilKE3FL | February 2, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Let's see...

If the groundhog sees his shadow, that means we will get six more weeks of winter, right? This is supposed to be bad news, I assume. When he DOESN'T see his shadow, as happened this morning, the rules are less clear but the widespread presumption is that Winter will then come to an earlier end.

So let's do a little date calculation, shall we? Four weeks from Groundhog Day is, obviously since February has 28 or 29 days, either March 2 or, in a Leap Year, March 1. Two more weeks, an additional 14 days, which would then represent the six weeks in all since Phil stuck his head out of his burrow, takes us up to March 16 (or 15).

Doesn't Spring normally commence on the date of the Vernal Equinox? I believe that may be scheduled most years for March 20, with this year's reportedly arriving at precisely 7:21 p.m. EDT on that date.

So therefore, shouldn't having ONLY six more weeks of Winter be considered GOOD news? Wouldn't the Winter end four days sooner than expected?

Just askin'. It's a matter of some importance to me personally, inasmuch as Groundhog Day is my birthday.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | February 2, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Even at 39% accuracy Phil does better than most meteorologiests on a good day.

Posted by: LadyMac | February 2, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

haha, exactly. Weather channel is hardly ever right--coworkers kept telling me is was supposed to snow 5 days before is finally did. Why not trust a groundhog?? hahaha

Posted by: jennifu1 | February 2, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm not one of the people who held her breath on this, but I will say that amidst the rioting, our country's current state of peril and the general idiocy of those who actually have influence over the world, a relatively pleasant (albeit trivial) story about something that was a big deal for us all in elementary school, is a welcome change of pace.

Easter may have had some less-than-desirable origins, but I still enjoy my brunch and the kids still love their chocolate bunnies and egg hunts. Lighten up.

Posted by: kaidesign3 | February 2, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Great. Another "elite" makes the headlines. I wonder if "Phil" is a closet independent. Change we can believe in?

Posted by: deepthroat21 | February 2, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I have a question? If "Phil" sees his shadow and 7 other groundhogs don't, who is right?

Posted by: IIICountyCredit | February 2, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Actually, folks, we need a chilly, slow-warming spring, so all that snow on the ground can melt gradually. If it warms up fast and stays warm, watch out for flooding.

Posted by: kstack | February 3, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company