Groundhogs have different outlooks

C ontroversy rules the world, from Washington to New Jersey to places as far afield as Punxsutawney, Pa., and French Creek, W.Va., and Marion, Ohio.

For on Sunday, there was a split among the tri-state area’s rodent prognosticators of winter weather.

The wise veteran Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which his handlers say means six more weeks of winter.

Over in Marion, Buckeye Chuck didn’t see his shadow, nor did French Creek Freddie, meaning spring is on the way soon.

It could be the difference between that Penn State meterological degree available to Phil or the optimism of living in the hills of West Virginia or Ohio, but the legend of the groundhogs is rife with split predictions this winter.

Given the state of the nation, where every word by every politician, athlete, celebrity and cleric is parsed, fawned over and ripped to shreds, the timing of the arrival of spring will bring some anti-groundhog sentiment somewhere.

Of course it’s all in fun, Phil led the most famous of the groundhog ceremonies, rooted in Pennsylvania Dutch culture historically. But, other places began seeing the possibilities for a few tourist dollars years ago and some fun of their own.

Feb. 2 brings fat furry hibernators out of their burrows in places including Staten Island, N.Y. (Chuck, more winter), Alberta, Canada (Balzac Billy, no shadow), Lilburn, Ga. (Gen. Beauregard Lee, who didn’t see his shadow) and more.

The calendar tells us a couple of things.

First, one of the real signs of spring approaches very soon, with the major league pitchers and catchers reporting in days to spring training.

Second, no matter who’s doing the predicting the calendar says spring doesn’t happen until March. Precisely the 21st for most of us and March 1 for meteorologists.

And, the area has experienced snow as late as early April.

So smile. Stay warm. Keep looking ahead.

And take it easy on the groundhogs. The world doesn’t need anymore controversy.