Every Feb. 2, Americans hold their breath as they wait for a small, brown, furry rodent to come out of the ground and give us the most important signal of the year. When you say it like that, it's absolutely nuts, but Groundhog Day is a cornerstone of American tradition. Since 1886, the largest celebration of Groundhog Day has taken place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where its resident celebrity groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow (yet again) on Monday, signaling six more weeks of winter (and bringing a ton of fantastic Punxsutawney Phil memes with him). We know it's not your fault, Phil, but for the love of God, why?
According to the Washington Post, in nearly 130 years, Phil has only missed his shadow a paltry 17 times, which means that winter is almost guaranteed to be long every single year. And even when Phil does predict an early spring, he can be way, way off. In 2013, Phil didn't see his shadow and the country rejoiced, anticipating mild weather and blooming flowers to come in the following weeks. What we got instead, at least in the eastern U.S., was more cold weather and snow well into March.
Needless to say, people were not happy, and Michael Gmoser, the prosecuting attorney for Butler County, Ohio, even indicted Phil for fraud and sought the death penalty for the rodent. We're hoping that Gmoser was joking, but the collective frustration felt over Phil's predictions is real, and it's being told in memes.
Phil's wanted poster:
It's a classic case of shooting the messenger — and even when Phil predicts spring, he faces even worse persecution if he ends up being wrong. It's a lose-lose situation for Phil, who never even wanted to be a meteorologist in the first place. He's a groundhog, by the way.
Many have pointed out that the whole thing is just as silly as it sounds — forcing a groundhog out of his hole to predict the weather forecast and then getting upset about it when the groundhog gets scared and goes back inside (probably not because he saw his shadow but because there are hundreds of people right outside his home sticking cameras in his face).
And what if Phil makes the correct prediction, but his human handlers misinterpret it? That's what happened in 2013, according to Bill Deely, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. He told the Associated Press that he misinterpreted what Phil told him, not understanding the "Groundhog-ese."
So there you have it. Maybe it's time to go easy on Punxsutawney Phil and accept that he's not perfect. He's only a groundhog, after all. They don't even know what weather is.