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Dear Coach:

I worry I may be greatly misunderstood; that people misinterpret my actions to an almost dyslexic degree. Maybe my retreat back into my home has less to do with me being spooked by my own shadow, and more to do with my dislike of crowds; a Marshawn Lynch-like disdain for public appearances and speaking to the media. It certainly has nothing to do with the sun or the gray skies. It makes no sense to me at all that the local prognosticators up here say that me seeing my shadow is a reliable predictor that we're in for six more weeks of winter. Seriously? Local folklore has it that if the weather today is gray, or cold, or bleak, or really any version of what passes for seasonable here in southeastern Pennsylvania this time of year, and I don't see my shadow, then the rest of the winter will be mild. But, that same story goes that if the sun happens to be shining, and I cast a shadow when I walk out on my lawn, then we will be in for six more weeks of winter weather. So, if it's sunny we're in for bad weather; but if it's already crappy out, well, don't worry, winter's almost over? I don't buy it. It seems counterintuitive to me; like telling couples whose outdoor weddings get rained on or rained out that that wedding day shower is good luck. Bull. It's cold and I'm cranky, and I don't like all these damn people on my lawn on a Monday morning; and that's why I go back inside my house. It's not to re-hibernate for another six months, and it's certainly not any sign of what winter weather we will or will not have for the next six weeks. And while I'm on my soapbox, shadow-casting or not, there's nothing lucky about rain on your wedding day either. It's just like the so called silver lining that is at the core of the cynically spun "luck of the Irish." It's not "lucky" at all.

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Punxsutawney P.

Punxsutawney, PA

Our furry friend from the Keystone State makes a great point. The "luck of the Irish" isn't about having "extreme good luck" at all; nor is it, as some suggest, bad luck disguised as good. Sure, some analogize it to the sort of "luck" associated with stepping in dog doodoo, but shrugging off doing so because you're wearing your knocking-around sneakers; maintaining a more positive outlook than a negative one ("at least I wasn't wearing my good shoes" said with a smile and a shrug). Despite being made to suffer through trials like famine and exile the Irish are credited for maintaining a generally affable outlook. According to American academic scholars, the "luck of the Irish" cuts both ways, carrying both positive and negative connotations. An expression that came into common parlance during the gold and silver rushes in the second half of the 19th century — when and where many successful miners were Irish immigrants — the "luck of the Irish" was, when said in good humor, meant to connote extreme good luck and good fortune after persisting through periods of oppression and suffering. But, when said derisively, the "luck of the Irish" belittled any skill or character that may have been forged through the trials of famine, exile and the like. The latter version of the "luck of the Irish" was more akin to just being in the right place at the right time.

Being a well-regarded meteorologist seems a lot like being a Hall of Fame baseball player. Players who bat .333 long enough end up in the Hall of Fame. Meteorologists who put the odds of weather-related events at 50-50 and get those "odds" right more often than not, end up being considered reliable weathermen. 50-50, that's a coin-flip. It's almost as "reliable" as being in the right place at the right time.

I tend to agree with you Punxsutawney, it seems a bit counter-intuitive that seeing your shadow is the barometer by which the passing or persistence of winter weather should be measured. Maybe, like other customs passed down through generations, the story got skewed somewhere along the way. Maybe you are misunderstood. Maybe, it has nothing at all to do with shadows or over-cast skies. Maybe, like most of us this time of year, it has more to do with the wind and the bitterness of the cold. Maybe, sunshine or gray skies, like most of us, if you step outside and the temperatures are seasonably mild, you linger when you walk to the end of the driveway to get your morning paper; maybe even stopping to chat up your neighbors. And, maybe, if the temperatures dip into single digits, as they're forecasted to do today, you scurry back inside as quickly as you can, not even noticing if you cast a shadow or not.

Oh well, if the weathermen got the local forecast right, today will be a "rain on your wedding day" sort of day; snow-filled skies, bitter cold, and no sign of the sun, which somehow suggests — as the story goes —that winter is almost over. Better wear those knocking-around shoes just in case.

Matt Laczkowski is a former University of North Carolina basketball player and Westminster native who writes a weekly Monday sports column for the Times. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or coach@with-character.com.

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