"Punxsutawney Phil" predicted an early spring Saturday morning.But the Little Rock Zoo's groundhog, "Mid-South Maple," forwent the traditional weather prediction for Groundhog Day and instead chose the San Francisco 49ers as her pick for tomorrow's Super Bowl.
In a morning ceremony earlier today, Maple was set down by her keeper in between two "burrows," or decorated kennels, representing each team and paused intently for several moments before making a decision.
"It was obvious that Maple took this decision very seriously," said Zoo Director Mike Blakely. "Maple has been studying up on the teams and watching a lot of ESPN the last few weeks. Maple has been studying the stats and watching the players in order to make this important prediction. Any groundhog can predict the weather but predicting the Super Bowl takes some real skill," added Blakely.
After a long pause and looking both ways, the groundhog slowly walked over to the burrow labeled with the 49ers logo and settled in.
Blakely added that Maple's initial reluctance to pick a team could indicate a tied game in the final inning with the 49ers pulling out a win in overtime.
After maple made her prediction, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola read Mid-South Maple's official Super Bowl proclamation. The groundhog said:
"Here ye, Here yeSpring's around the cornerthat's easy peasy
Dear Punxsutawney, a truly gifted hog,I can predict things that are harder, you dog!
Ravens versus Niners, tomorrow we'll seeI'm sure I know just who it will be
Younger brother, Jim, has something to proveYou can bet the Niners will get in the groove
Their defense is one of the bestThey'll beat the Ravens and ace this test
Kaepernick can throw and runHe'll make sure this deal is done
The 49ers will win this gameThanks for listening, I'm glad you came"
Maple's keepers were somewhat surprised at her prediction stating that in previous practice sessions the groundhog favored the Ravens 4-1.
"Maple must have done some last-minute research that led her to the conclusion that the 49ers would prevail in this Super Bowl," said keeper Hannah Baker.
Maple, a one-year-old groundhog, is a part of the Little Rock Zoo's EdZOOcation Outreach program. She makes special appearances on Zoo grounds and in classrooms to teach children and adults alike the importance of conservation.
A gifted groundhog with many talents, Maple is an avid sports fan and always says on Groundhog Day that spring is just around the corner.