Writing out loud: Phil, Super Bowl LIV

By: George Stahl
Special to the Sun

On Feb. 2, as your eyes were glued to the television set, and the thrills of Super Bowl LIV from Miami Garde, Florida, an event of galactic proportions was being talked about what had taken place on the grassy knoll on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney.

Battling for their lives and the coveted Super Bowl Rings of 2020, on a field of grass, chalk, sweat, blood, and dreams, Jimmy Garoppolo and his team of heavyweights from San Francisco, squared off against the Kansas City Chief’s led by Patrick Mahomes and his behemoths in a fierce battle of skill and strength.

In another battle, equally epic, a small furry creature reluctantly emerged from his resort-style burrow on a cold, blistery day 1,228 miles away from the warmth of the Miami sun. His name is Phil, and his battle is with Mother Nature.

The strategy of Phil’s fight has been the same for the past 133 years. Phil has been debating with Mother Nature since 1887 over the end of winter and the start of spring in his midwestern town. Eventually, his predictions have spread over to the rest of the country. If this little fella comes out of his safe house and sees his shadow on the wall of his burrow, we are in for six more weeks of cold, snow, rain, hail, extreme winds and an overall nasty, don’t mess with me attitude from Mother Nature herself. If Phil does not see his shadow dancing with him on the outside of his house, winter is coming to an end, and the stormy weather must stop. It is a part of the pact Phil’s ancestors made with Mother Nature before the first Phil popped out of his lair all those years ago. Unfortunately, like most goddesses and gods, or any other entity with power over humans, and in her case, nature as well, Mother does not always play by the rules.

Phil has been growing tired and is not quite the groundhog he once was. Consequentially, his fight has been not so fierce lately, and his desire to sleep has been preoccupying his mind. His thoughts are turning to a warmer climate, one that does not require that he wear a fur coat over his fur coat. A place where his predictions are pretty much nonconsequential and he doesn’t have to face his nemesis again. Sounds like Phil wants to retire.

The people in charge of Phil’s well-being, known as ‘The Inner Circle,’ have noticed several changes in his attitude in the last few months, and have been finding travel brochures around the burrow. It seems that Phil has his sights set on a nice little active adult (mature groundhogs) community just outside Phoenix in Arizona. The current Phil moved into the burrow just over 21 years ago, and since the average lifespan of a groundhog in captivity is no more than 22 years, Phil has either one more left, or he has plans to fool everyone and go another 10 years. Afterall, he has seen his better days when it comes to doing battle with Mother. All indications are that the most famous weather-predicting groundhog in the universe is hinting that this year he has decided to take action. So, Phil’s Inner Circle improvised a plan for him. A retirement plan of sorts.

Phil’s lifestyle change has a caveat. He cannot just leave with no one to take his place. The plan is to replace Phil, but when none of the younger generation groundhogs see the importance of Phil, where does his next chapter come from? Makes sense, this Phil replaced the last Phil and there were other Phils before them. If Punxatawny is short of anything, it’s not groundhogs named Phil.

In a rare moment of candidness, Phil’s inner circle let a part of the plan slip to the public. On behalf of Phil, one of them was heard saying, they have been in talks with P.E.T.A. The animal rights organization reportedly is working on a top-secret project to aid in Phil’s escape to freedom and relaxation under the Arizona sun. P.E.T.A. has put into motion a plan to have Phil removed, and in his place, they will bring in a different sort of groundhog. One that was labeled, ‘Animatronic Phil’. The plan, according to an unnamed P.E.T.A. source, will take less than a year to happen. By Ground Hog Day, 2021 the weather predicting machine will literally be…a machine. This year ask yourself, even though the official announcement is 2021, was it mechanical Phil or fur and blood Phil? Either way, whoever it was, he did not see his shadow. Meaning, winter will be over soon and spring will be upon us early this year, by 6 weeks. Good news for all of us. Right?

As far as that other battle raging in Miami, The San Francisco 49ers truly put up a fight to defeat the Missouri Boys, but San Francisco, like Phil had seen their better days. Losing to a team that has not won a Super Bowl in 50 years, 31 to 20 is comparable to having Mother Nature step on your claws, smash in your teeth, and……awe…excuse me. It’s okay. I’m back, and oh, yeah. Congratulations to the Chief’s and have a happy, prediction free retired life, wherever you end up, Phil.