Tag Archives: Punxsutawney phil

The True Harbinger of Spring: Baseball and America in the Age of Trump


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Nine days ago Punxsutawney Phil predicted another six weeks of Winter, but on Wednesday spring begins. Not the actual season of Spring but real spring, as pitchers and catchers begin to report to Baseball Spring Training. My long winter of dealing with the monotony of Up Armored Slowed Paced Rugby, also known as American Football is over. Thankfully during that period I did have European Football, particularly Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga to help me through the winter.

Spring is a good thing unless you like me are very concerned with what happens on the Korean Peninsula following the Olympic Games in particular what is a very real possibility of war that easily through intent or miscalculation on the part of the North Korean, or maybe more so the Trump administration could escalate to to something that none of us want to contemplate; thus I can agree with Sharon Olds who wrote during the height of the Cold War, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”

This week is the true beginning of spring. I know that spring does not actually begin until March, but even so amid the continuing winter, spring is showing its first sign of dawning as pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. As Bill Veeck once said, “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.”

I grew up with a love for baseball that was cultivated by my late father, we didn’t always agree on much, but he imparted to me a love for the game that knows no bounds.

For me that is true. From the day the World Series ends I wait in anticipation for the beginning of Spring Training and I can agree with the great Rogers Hornsby who said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Now don’t get me wrong I really love Soccer, I like Hockey, and American Football is just a diversion to hang out with friends over a beer, but in the end they are merely sports, were Baseball is a refuge with profoundly religious meaning to me. As Bryant Gumbel once said, “The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.”

I think that unlike so many other sports and entertainment that baseball has a healing quality that is good for society. Walt Whitman wrote, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

In a time like ours when the United States is wracked by the chaos of the daily Twitter rampages of President Trump and his defiance of all the norms of society, his disrespect for the Constitution, law, and simple human decency it is nice to remember that as Bill Veeck noted: “Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.” I wish that was the case in Washington D.C. where the President and his gang of supporters in Congress and the Right Wing media is doing their best to re-write both American history as well as every political and society norm that has held the country together during even the most perilous times. They would be called cheaters in baseball, they are worse that baseball’s PED users because they are not just cheating they are trying to re-write the rules of the game to cover their misdeeds.

Conservative and former Republican commentator George Will wrote:

“(Barry) Bonds’ records must remain part of baseball’s history. His hits happened. Erase them and there will be discrepancies in baseball’s bookkeeping about the records of the pitchers who gave them up. George Orwell said that in totalitarian societies, yesterday’s weather could be changed by decree. Baseball, indeed America, is not like that…”

The only problem is that Will wrote that before Donald Trump. I just wonder if indeed Trump will succeed in changing the very fabric of the American experiment.

When I came back from Iraq the ballpark was one of the very few places that I could go and feel absolutely safe. There is something comforting in looking out over that beautiful diamond, smelling the freshly cut grass, the carefully manicured infield, and taking it all in. In fact for me tit still is one of my few truly safe refuges where war, terrorism, political and religious hatred, and the endless ideological battles of conservative and liberal pundits and politicians take a back seat, even those of Donald Trump. As the concerns of the moment fade away as I take in the beauty of that beautiful green diamond I find a peace that I seldom find anywhere else; and yes, that includes most churches where I find neither peace, nor God. Maybe that’s why I believe in the Church of Baseball. Unlike church there’s no guilt and it’s seldom boring.

I guess that is why it baseball matters so much to me, and why in spite of all the terror that the President triggers within my soul, that the seemingly insignificant act of pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training means so much. For me it is a symbol of hope.


Padre Steve+


Filed under Baseball, faith, Political Commentary, PTSD

Groundhog Day in Iowa



Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a short post to note that first that one it is Groundhog Day, and two that it is the Iowa Caucus. Personally, since I am already worn out by the 2016 election cycle that began in November of 2014. I am much more interested in what Punxsutawney Phil has to say than any of the pontificating pundits have to say about Ted Cruz’s narrow victory over Donald Trump, and the razor thin Democratic race in the Iowa Caucus between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In the next couple of days we will see the herd of also rans thin out.

Please don’t get me wrong, I have strong political beliefs and yes I already know who I will vote for in the West Virginia primary, should I not get disenfranchised again as happened when the state changed the rules on absentee voting without telling those of us in the military. But as a serving military officer I can neither publicly endorse a candidate nor write things that could be interpreted as trying to directly influence someone’s vote. It doesn’t mean that I cannot say what I believe; it is just that I have to be more circumspect in how I say things, but I am just tired of all the pundits on all the cable news channels and internet. I am worn out, but I digress…

The fact is that no-matter what happens today the political fratricide being stoked by the most extreme pundits of each political party regarding their own primary campaigns, and the positively extreme partisanship that exists between the two major parties is going to stop.

I was a Republican for 32 years, I worked for the Gerald Ford Campaign in 1976, and in 2008 after my tour in Iraq I left that party, thoroughly disgusted by the lies I had witnessed regarding that war. I became a Democrat, a proud one at that, but even so I could never imagine the train wreck the party that I was a part of for so long has become.

While I am very progressive in my views on social issues, including civil rights, economic policy, environmental issues, full equality for LGBTQ people, women’s issues and women’s rights, including reproductive rights and single payer healthcare. I guess this makes me somewhat a democratic socialist.

But like another great Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, I am also a realist concerning what is going on in the world, and that there are people and nations that would like to destroy this country. Sometimes they have legitimate gripes, and their anger toward the United States is well founded, but that being said, I have no illusions about the world, which means that sometimes you have to stand up to tyranny. Please know I am not defending the Bush Doctrine or other forms of aggression, but dealing with real enemies using the full range of our nation’s diplomatic, informational, military, and economic power to deter, defend, and hopefully defuse danger before we ever go to war. Sadly, we are already in a war that seams to be without end.

Admittedly, my views mean that some of my liberal and progressive friends and followers will disagree with me, just as my conservative friends. But the good thing is that I do not pick my friends based on their political, religious, or ideological beliefs. Maybe in the terribly divisive climate of our day that makes me odd, but I see people as people and friends are friends, more valuable than a vault full of gold pressed latinum. 

That being said I will not be silent when I see certain candidates espouse unbridled fascism and theocratic views, I will speak up, because those are not American values, and too many American soldiers have died fighting those kind of views for me to stay silent when American politicians, pundits, and politically motivated preachers embrace then.  I am a historian and when historical parallels exist, I cannot help but to point them out. Unfortunately there are many historical parallels being played out before our eyes, and as the ancient curse says “may you live in interesting times.”

All I know is that I have a hard time watching the incessant vitriol being aired on all the cable news channels, and frankly I refuse to get myself sucked into that. I have better things to do, like drinking beer and watching Star Trek episodes until Baseball season begins. By the time it ends the Presidential election will just be days away. I can live with that. Likewise, unless something really unusual and earth shattering happens that changes my mind like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman or Abe Lincoln entering the race from an alternate universe that I will support my party’s nominee, whoever that person is because I like both Hillary and Bernie and I don’t like the alternative. 

But back to Groundhog Day, it seems as much as things change the more that they stay the same. Technology may change, but people will always be the unchanging constant in this world. So when I get back home from having dinner and drinking beer with my wife and friends I just may have to watch the classic comedy Groundhog Day, after all, it seems that we have been stuck in this election cycle for ever, and that we will keep reliving the news cycle again, and again, and again.

I need a beer, and it’s only seven in the morning.


Padre Steve+

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Groundhog Day Predictions


“It’s the same thing your whole life: “Clean up your room. Stand up straight. Pick up your feet. Take it like a man. Be nice to your sister. Don’t mix beer and wine, ever.” Oh yeah: “Don’t drive on the railroad track.” 

Well, Punxsutawney Phil, the seer of weather seers made his predictions today. You guessed it, six more weeks of winter are on our way. Hopefully my next trip to Gettysburg will fall in between major winter storms like it did last year, apart from that I really don’t care, unless winter drags on into baseball season. A number of years ago I remember attending an opening day here in Norfolk where the temperature at game time was 38 degrees and winds were blowing in from center field at close to 40 knots. That was a cold ass opening day. I don’t want that again, but I digress…

However, Phil has expanded his predictions. Phil predicted another six years of political gridlock and insanity from the Tea Party and Religious conservatives, like that’s news, give me a break. Like that prediction takes some kind of gift….  Phil also predicted yet another decade or more of war in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. I have to admit, the rodent is a genius, he should be employed by a think tank and as a talking head on the various cable news networks. Likewise, the furry beast predicted that the NFL would have another five years of cheating, wife beating and other criminal activity in the NFL before Congress finally revokes the league’s non-profit status.

All that aside, I and probably you live Groundhog Day. I mean like the movie Groundhog Day. Hell, my wake up song on my iPhone is I Got You Babe just like the movie. Since I have been in the military over three decades I can say that every day is Groundhog Day, and every day I wake up on this side of the dirt is not a bad day. Actually, I wouldn’t mind a chance to replay a single day again and again until I exhausted all possibilities and got it right. It could be fun.


Tonight I am again watching Groundhog Day and I can relate. If I was Bill Murray’s character, Phil Conners, I cannot say that I wouldn’t have done any of the things that he does in the movie. Presuming I wake up tomorrow, something that nothing none of us are guaranteed of doing, I will wake up to the words of I Got You Babe.

So until tomorrow, happy Groundhog Day and many more…


Padre Steve+




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Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day: If Phil Simms Sees His Shadow Do We Get 6 More Weeks of Winter?


Well it is Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day to boot, two great events that go great together. Unfortunately Phil Simms, victor of Super Bowl XXI and CBS NFL Commentator will not be helping to call the game since it is on Fox, but I digress… Had CBS had the game this year they could have had Simms out in the parking lot with the early tailgaters as the sun came up.


Like the more famous Phil up in Punxsutawney, Simms has been able to keep a pretty good gig going for himself after his NFL career was over. Last night before I went to bed the significance of Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl being the same day astounded me.


To my twisted mind it seemed like some sort of cosmic Karma. It would have been great if Punxsutawney Phil could have been at the new Met Life Stadium in east Rutherford New Jersey today.  Then the two events could have been even better orchestrated, a lot more money made by all, and as a bonus we could have watched Governor Chris Christie eat Phil during the game.


Had the game been in New Orleans we might have been treated to Phil hiding out in Phil Robertson’s beard trying to avoid being eaten. On the other hand that would be kind of gross, but again, I digress…

I like watching the Super Bowl, I enjoy football, but it does not have the religious significance of baseball to me.  So tonight I will be watching it at my favorite hang out, the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant at Virginia Beach Town Center.

This is a good thing because it will get us out of the house for a few hours, and since Servepro can’t get out here until Tuesday to start dewatering my ground floor this is not a bad thing. The good thing is our upstairs has a nice living area, otherwise we would be in a hotel.

So for the next few days, maybe even weeks we will be living in a sort of water induced Groundhog Day as the house is dewatered, dried out, ripped up and reconstructed. But it could always be worse. Unfortunately the longer it takes for Servepro to get out here the worse the damage will be and the more that will need to be replaced or repaired. That is not their fault, because they, like so many other businesses like them are having lots of work to do after the big winter storm that his last week.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, damning us to 6 more weeks of winter hell. But can we hope that Phil Simms, wherever he may be today will not see his shadow and that somehow if he doesn’t that it will cancel out the other Phil’s prediction?


The one drawback to the two events coinciding for me is that I will have to put off my annual observance of watching the movie Groundhog Day until tomorrow. As Ross Perot would have said to Larry King back in 1992: “That’s just sad Larry.”

Have a great day and enjoy the game!

Oh, as a P.S. Go Broncos!


Padre Steve+

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Groundhog Day 2013! Phil Doesn’t See his Shadow


“This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You’re hypocrites, all of you!” Phil Conners (Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day


Well it looks like we will have an early spring according to the rodent name Phil in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, so even the rodent admits that Global Warming is a fact. Well maybe not, what does a Groundhog know about that? When did he go to science class and why are thousands of people waiting in the cold for his prediction? The good thing is, if the rat is right then Spring Training will be very nice, and maybe opening day will be free of winter weather.

I don’t know, but I do love the movie Groundhog Day. I have to admit there have been times in my life that I have felt that I was living it. When Bill Murray’s character Phil Conners asks “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” I can say that there were times in my life that was exactly how I felt. I imagine that a lot of people, including some that read my articles that sometimes feel the same way.

I think that the movie is a great metaphor for life in our country in the instant news and media world that is modern America. Politics, economics, foreign policy, scandals, mass murders… You name it and it seems like we just saw it, like Yogi Berra said it is like “Deja Vu all over again.”

When we lived in Pennsylvania we had groundhogs all over the place, and since we lived on a military base most were undisturbed. Our first dog, a Wire Hair Dachshund named Frieda used to look at them like they were long lost cousins, but I digress… Groundhogs are fascinating rodents, but I don’t know how much credence that I give to their weather prediction ability, especially, like most weather forecasters and prophets they tend to disagree with each other more often than not.


So happy Groundhog Day to you, may it be a day of new beginnings regardless of how long the winter continues.


Padre Steve+

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Groundhog Day and the 2012 Presidential Campaign

I don’t know about you but the endless cycle of fratricide among the Republican candidates for the GOP Presidential nomination is getting old. Unfortunately this to use “Biblical” terminology is just the beginning of the “birth pangs.” The really intensive labor will begin after the respective party conventions in the summer and climax on November 6th when either Barack Obama will be re-elected or be defeated by Newt Ronmittorum, or possibly Mitt Gingrontorum or maybe Ron Santrongrich or Rick Mittpaulich.

That campaign promises to be one of the nastiest in our history and will be propelled by hundreds of millions of dollars in primarily negative campaign ads from the Super-PACs aligned with the candidates of both parties. I am also resigned to the fact that no matter who wins in November that the endless campaign will continue without a break beginning on November 7th when the parties will gear up for the 2014 mid-term elections and the 2016 pre-primary festivities for the losing party will begin and prospective  candidates will begin a series of 262 debates leading up to the Iowa Caucus.

I am starting to feel like Bill Murray’s character, weatherman Phil Conners in the movie Groundhog Day which coincidentally is observed tomorrow, Wednesday February 2nd 2012.  Unfortunately the emergence of Punxsutawney Phil tomorrow morning will not allow us to get out of this. Much like Phil Conners we will be trapped in an endless cycle of hate filled half-truths that will air between every TV show and even displace popular Super Bowl commercials.  I’m sure that even the infomercial networks will be airing campaign ads.

Happy Groundhog Day,


Padre Steve+


Filed under film, Political Commentary, purely humorous