The real rivalry that started much earlier on Super Bowl Sunday was the South vs. North battle over Groundhog Day bragging rights between General Beauregard Lee and Punxsutawney Phil.
And all those Atlantans still recovering from last week’s winter blast and epic traffic jams better hope General Lee is right.
At 7:33 a.m., the upstart groundhog at Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn didn’t see his shadow as he emerged into the thick fog Sunday, thus predicting that warm spring weather is just around the corner.
About 200 people were at the animal attraction near Stone Mountain, urging him on with chants. Some held signs asking for an early spring. A smaller number — despite last week’s winter fiasco — still wanted more snow.
Meanwhile, up in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil popped out about 7:30 a.m. and saw his shadow, which according to Old World folklore means there will be six more weeks of winter.
Who’s likely to be right?
One’s as likely as the other, since groundhogs can’t predict the weather, meteorologists say.
A few years back, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center did a tongue-in-cheek analysis of the groundhogs’ national weather predictions over the previous two decades and concluded they were correct a bit over 40 percent of the time. A prediction based on tossing a coin should be right about 50 percent of the time.
But that hasn’t derailed the two groundhogs’ support teams from their rivalry.
Yellow River Game Ranch, which began issuing General Lee’s predictions more than three decades ago, claims that the large rodent, also known as a woodchuck in some parts, is accurate more than 90 percent of the time, besting his northern cousin.
The folks in Punxsutawney, on the other hand, have been issuing winter forecasts for 128 years in an early morning event that now draws thousands, and was featured in the 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day.” Their website states that theirs is “the only true weather forecasting groundhog.” Phil has a perfect score, they claim, and any misses stem from animal-to-human translation errors.
One way or the other, the next six weeks will reveal who’s right this time. Let the contest begin.