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Groundhog Day is a tradition observed in the United States on February 2nd of every year. It comes from a popular tradition dating back to 1887 that if a groundhog leaves its underground winter home on this day and sees its shadow, it will go back to its den and cold weather will last for six more weeks. By contrast, if it does not see its shadow, spring will arrive early. The Groundhog Day ceremony held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, centering on a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, has become the most frequently-attended ceremony. On February 2nd 2024, Punxsutawney Phil came out and didn’t see his shadow, meaning that we should expect an early spring. Or should we? While Groundhog Day remains popular in the 21st century, studies have found no consistent pattern between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the arrival time of spring weather. In fact, one study found that Phil was right only 39% of the time, which is particularly bad, since Phil could flip a coin instead of relying on his shadow and predict whether there will be 6 more weeks of cold weather correctly around 50% of the time.

So does this mean that the groundhog tradition is meaningless? I don’t think so. If Phil is not a good weatherman, perhaps he can be redirected towards something different: instead of the change of season, he could predict which team will win the Super Bowl. If Phil sees his shadow, then the NFC team will win. On the contrary, if Phil does not see his shadow, the AFC team will win. If you look at Super Bowl outcomes from the last 10 years, you will find that the shadow-NFC/no shadow-AFC association occurred in 6 of the years. Since 6/10 is 60%, Phil does a much better job predicting the Super Bowl winner than he does the weather.

If my theory is correct, since Phil did not see his shadow in 2024, the AFC team should be more likely to win this year. So, in a game of Chiefs versus 49ers, Phil (and I) will be rooting for the Chiefs. Tune in to the Super Bowl on February 11th this year to see if Phil is right. If so, perhaps Phil should move from Punxsutawney to Las Vegas.

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