At a time when public figures are increasingly making public apologies for inappropriate statements or behavior…
At a time when public figures are increasingly making public apologies for inappropriate statements or behavior (“It was a big day for apologies,” anchorman Brian Williams reported on “NBC Nightly News” February 16th, citing five public ‘I’m sorries”), perhaps the most in-demand apology was issued Monday.
“I am sorry for misleading the public on six more weeks of spring,” was the statement issued by Punxsutawney Phil on April 1. Through a spokesman, the legendary groundhog, whose spotting of his shadow every year on the holiday that bears his name, said he “deeply and sincerely regrets any harm that may have come to people as a result of a prediction that proved erroneous."
On February 2, Phil made national headlines when he emerged from his hole at famed Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania, did not see his shadow, and thus predicted six more weeks of spring. “On Gobbler’s Knob, I see no shadow today/I predict early spring is on the way,” is how the verse concludes under “Phil’s Prediction,” which is posted on his website, groundhog.com. The website, which also includes a video of his emergence in February, claims Phil’s record of prophecy on the weather is “100%” accurate.
Punxsutawney Phil has been an American institution for generations. The hit film “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray immortalized the furry creature and the way in which the nation was riveted to his annual weather forecast. Among his fervent fans was the late Lyn Nofziger, longtime political associate of Ronald Reagan, who never failed to take as his holiday the day that bears the groundhog’s name.
Clearly, the public attitude toward Punxsutawney Phil changed in in ’07. There were frequent cases of snow in the Northeast and Midwest, sometimes followed by intense periods of rain, and then occasional days of intense heat. Many Americans changed from overcoats and parkas to shorts and sleeveless blouses in a matter of days. In short, it was anything but six more weeks of spring.
The resultant inability of many Americans to even so much as plan a wardrobe for any length of time or whether to drive to work led to shrill calls for replacement or even retribution of the hitherto loved Phil. Some irate bloggers called for his replacement by Billy the Badger from Wisconsion or by Clyde the Step-Dancing Sea Lion. Others in the blogosphere went as far as to call the groundhog a liar and confidence hog and even suggest his euthanizing.
While silent as the criticism mounted, Punxutawney Phil’s straightforward apology on April 1 appears to have, at least for now, staved off some of the more drastic calls for retribution.