Vittert: In defense of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions

FILE – Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 135th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. People will gather Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at Gobbler’s Knob as members of Punxsutawney Phil’s “inner circle” summon him from his tree stump at dawn to learn if he has seen his shadow. The event took place virtually last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, depriving the community, which is about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, of a boost from tourists. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger, File)

(NewsNation) — Thursday marks Groundhog Day, where Punxsutawney Phil comes out to check his potential shadow. You know how it goes. If he sees his shadow, it’s six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see a shadow, it’s an early spring.

Evidently, the fine folks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have used our tax dollars to keep track of Phil’s predictions. They’re also known as the government’s meteorologists. They are weather experts, you see, and they say over the past 10 years, Phil’s gotten it right 40% of the time.

To be honest, if you read their article, it’s slightly dismissive of Phil. They’re experts and all, but curiously, their prediction success rate is missing from the article.

It got us thinking about the 40%. It’s easy to scoff at, but might not actually be that bad in the grand scheme of things.

For a baseball hitter, 40% is the greatest of all time. Ty Cobb batted .366 for his career, slightly less than 40%. Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of all time, batted .406 in 1941, before going on to be a fighter pilot. Nobody’s touched that since. So Phil is up there with Ted Williams. Not bad company.

Phil’s forecast couldn’t come at a more important time. There’s a huge winter storm coming across the south right now.

Find me a meteorologist who nails the snow and ice totals 40% of the time – never. That’s why they always have maps with various ranges and colors and percentages and predictions.

Phil does not get that luxury. It’s either early spring or six more weeks of winter, and he still nails it.

Another thought, since spring brings a lot of weddings. A couple that gets married today has a 40% chance of divorce, and people don’t mind those odds. They spend big money to celebrate 40%.

Still, the folks at PETA want to replace Phil with either a robot groundhog or a Groundhog Day tree, which seems a little rude. You’re trying to replace a guy with a very important job.

PETA acts like predicting spring doesn’t take skill. Think about this: If Phil wasn’t predicting the weather, what would he be doing?

PETA wants to take away Phil’s joy and purpose in life, and there’s a lot of purpose in Phil’s life.

Bees give us honey and pollinate things. Cows give us milk. Of course, dinosaurs, their very existence gave us oil. Groundhogs, their only purpose in life is to give us the weather. What else are they good for? And I’m not joking. It’s not a rhetorical question. What else are they good for? And I asked this, because we tried to look up the evolutionary benefits of a groundhog.

Groundhogs have no evolutionary value. They are best known for being an aggressive and slightly larger squirrel.

So Thursday, check out Morning in America. Phil will be there with NewsNation meteorologist Gerard Jebaily.

Phil will represent groundhogs in their one and only useful activity all year.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.

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