Troubling Times for Punxsutawney Phil

March 5th, 2013

It’s always risky to criticize an icon, so I know I’m going out on a huge limb here by raising questions about beloved groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.

Before all the hate mail starts, please hear me out.

Like most Americans, I love Phil.  I look forward to his annual weather prognostications from Gobbler’s Knob every February 2nd.  While I could probably do without the polka music and the handlers dressed like it’s still 1887, the year the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was founded, I can’t help myself.  Every year, I glue myself to my television set and wait for Phil’s verdict.  Will it be six more weeks of winter or an early spring?

Last year, Phil saw his shadow and pronounced the dreaded news that winter would continue.  He managed to survive his role as bearer of bad news because he was wrong.  Everyone enjoyed the beautiful weather and laughed off Phil’s little error.

This year, Phil might not be so lucky.  Quoting Phil, his handler plainly announced “[a]n early Spring for you and me” this Groundhog’s Day.

For those of you in the country currently hoping that authorities will be able to find your home and dig you out after today’s March snowstorm, this is no laughing matter.  Clearly, Phil blew it.  Those of us in Texas aren’t particularly thrilled either.  The weather is toying with us.  One day it’s in the eighties and gorgeous, and the next day it’s in the thirties with winds strong enough to blow the average sized Texan to Kansas City (and on average we’re not small people).

I’d say Phil may find himself with a serious public relations problem if he’s not careful.

As Americans, we’re pretty forgiving of our legends. Make a mistake and we’ll give you a hard time for a while with a strong dose of public humiliation, but after a few mea culpas, we’re all fans again.

I just hate to see that whole drama play out for Phil.

Too many more winters like this, and Phil is likely to turn to the groundhog punch, the elixir that reportedly keeps him going, a little more often.  Next thing you know, we’ll all wake up one morning and see his mug shot on TMZ.

This doesn’t need to happen. Phil still has time to repair his reputation. He just needs to effectively employ devices our politicians have used for years when faced with similar crises.

Here are a few ideas.

Blame Others.  Phil is surrounded by members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.  Throwing one of these good gentlemen under the bus might buy Phil a few more years.  Afterwards, if he can have a few hits and a few less misses, his career might be saved.  He must be careful though.  These are the same people who clean the burrow and feed him the groundhog juice.  If he miscalculates which of these fellows takes the fall, poor Phil might not be around to find out if it’s winter or spring next year. For starters, he should go after an assistant no one ever heard of.  Don’t fire the big fish unless things get really desperate.

Adopt a Cause.  Phil could simply lay the blame for all these errors on climate change.  He could become the poster child for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe call up Al Gore and start a national billboard campaign together.  The fact that they both look so much alike could help generate discussion. Separated at birth?  The debate will rage.

Distract. Dance crazes started on You Tube are extremely popular now.  Phil is very into poetry as evidenced by his annual long winded poem leading up to the spring versus winter announcement.  He could employ his clever writing skills into a catchy rap, set it to music, and post the accompanying “dance” on You Tube.  It won’t be long before everyone’s doing The Groundhog, and we’ll all forget how cold, wet, and miserable we are.

These are just ideas.  Obviously, Phil has been around a very long time and probably has a much better PR machine at work right now.

All I can say is he’d better hurry because one thing is certain.

It’s definitely not Spring, yet!



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