Watching the TV screen whilst working out last week, I suddenly became acutely aware that I was, in fact, living in the United States of America. Whereas moving to the rural area of South Carolina where I am now has been quite a culture shock, it did immediately become clear to me that I was living in the South, a place very different from the United States that most Europeans get to know.
In fact, for the past few months, I became so thoroughly immersed in Southern Life that I kind of forgot I was living in a much vaster country. Controversies about Confederate monuments, Dixie flags, and white nationalists (see one of my earlier blog posts) tend to pitch the South against the remainder of the nation, and sometimes make it feel as if the Civil War is not quite over yet.
But all of that seemed to have been forgotten last week. On Friday, our local TV channel joined in the craze surrounding Groundhog Day – a concept I happened to know about from the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie: each year on February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil (from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania), the most famous groundhog in the USA, emerges from his burrow and predicts whether the Americans will have an early Spring or rather whether there will be six more weeks of winter. This year, Phil predicted six more weeks of cold weather, to the great dismay of his audience of thousands. You can see the video of his prediction here. For those of you who have no idea what a groundhog is, you can read all about it here. They are much more common than I thought, and we actually have one passing through our backyard regularly – always making me smile.
What I did not know, however, was that there is not just one meteorologically gifted groundhog in the States, there are dozens of them! Some will predict winter, others will predict an early spring – apparently, their accuracy is not as great as their followers would like to believe. According to a calculation by TIME magazine (yes, they actually have time for this kind of thing!), Phil’s accuracy rate is only about 36%. Compared to Phil, the accuracy rate of one of our nearest groundhogs, Chattanooga Chuck, is extremely high, at 87,5%. Unfortunately, he also predicted six more weeks of winter this year. But all of those ‘secondary’ groundhogs only confirm that Groundhog Day truly is an all-American phenomenon, with the whole prediction aired at local, regional and national TV stations alike. Only the name of Georgia’s famous groundhog, General Beauregard Lee, reminds us that the South is still the South …
Fast forward to two days later, last Sunday February 4th. Blissfully unaware of sports events that I am, I was stunned at the images that again, I saw on our local TV station during workout. Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday, a name that sounded familiar. Frankly, up until now, I only knew it was a Sports event – I wasn’t even sure whether it was football or baseball, to the great dismay of my fellow Americans. But then, on Sunday afternoon, I saw the pre-game craze; the continuous coverage of what was going on in and near the stadium in Minneapolis; interviews with players, coaches, former players, former coaches; endless discussions among sports experts on possible strategies and fitness of the players; and so on. The game was to be played between the winners of last year’s Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, and a team of underdogs, the Philadelphia Eagles. The 70,000 fans in the stadium, the 1,000,000 fans in the city of Minneapolis, and the more than 100,000,000 people watching at home (a figure that is just unimaginable from a European point of view) saw the underdogs win their first Super Bowl title ever. The game is said to have been very exciting, so I was a bit bummed that I didn’t get to see it (we have no TV at home and staying in the gym for four hours didn’t really appeal to me). Even though I didn’t watch the game itself, the whole Super Bowl craze did remind me that, in the end, the South is still an integral part of the United States. Despite the controversy surrounding the NFL’s Take a Knee-Movement (read more about it here), most Americans are still enormous football fans and wouldn’t miss the Super Bowl for the World.
So last week, I finally realized: ‘Wow, I’m living in the United States of America!’ It was a funny feeling.
– Jozefien De Bock, Clemson University (SC)