Forbes List: Bad Sportsmanship

By Ashley Robinson

The recent Forbes article singling out the most miserable cities in the United States was not just bad journalism, it was an insult to everyone who doesn’t live in the glorious metropolis cities these writers work from … which I’m guessing is a majority of the United States.

What exactly was Forbes trying to prove? What good did they think would come out of this list?

[DON’T read it here. It will only make you angry.)

Raised in the Southern Central Valley, I’m used to my home turf getting beaten up. It builds character, I say. I smell manure, I think money. I see graffiti, I think some guy with a paint company will get paid to come out and cover it up. So, therefore I was not surprised to see Stockton, Merced and Modesto ranked up at the top. The towns usually get beaten up as they have almost always been ground zero of hardship, but the 209 is still an integral part of an industry that supplies the FOOD THE WORLD EATS and should be respected as such.

However, when Sacramento rolled across my screen at number five, my jaw dropped.

“No state taxes $50,000 of income like California, with a rate of 9.55% on incomes above that level for singles. Sacramento is a one-team sports town, and that team has been awful in recent years. The NBA’s Kings have won just 26% of their games the past two-plus seasons,” it said.

The first sentence doesn’t really apply to the city of Sacramento as it does to the general state of California, which is an unfair correlation.

But the thing, the thing that got me the most was this: “Sacramento is a one-team sports town.” Wow, Forbes, you are right. We have only one pro sports team.

But if we are judging cities on sports, and I don’t know if you know this, Kurt Badenhausen, we have more than one sports team (River Cats, Mountain Lions, Sac City Rollers, two major university athletic departments with great programs, rowing teams, tennis tournaments, the CIM, nearby hiking trails and cycling). And so what if they aren’t all professional? It is still a pretty shallow grade factor. I feel sorry for you if you think fan fervor is what defines a city, and I seriously question the integrity of Forbes in thinking this is relevant.

(And PS, Sacramento has one of the largest, if not the largest, collection of golf courses per capita. Guys who read Forbes don’t care about golf? I’m not in the boys club, so I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it.)

Sacramento is a great city. Personally, when I think of things that make this town great, the “urban forest” lining our streets, the thriving food and wine industry encircling us, and the vibrant political atmosphere are the first to come to mind. And once I really start thinking about it, the diversity of peoples who live in the Sacramento region is pretty spectacular. I love hearing Russian, Greek, Tagalog, Spanish and Japanese in my neighborhood post office. The enormity of industry in the region is also astonishing. For example, among skyscrapers housing offices for various types of associations, industries, lobbying firms, manufacturing organizations, etc., the Sacramento region represents a massive agricultural community, most of which ship out their crops to countries overseas.

Yea, Kurt, I’m talking to you. That day-old sushi you are eating, ten bucks the rice came from right outside Sacramento city limits. Don’t get mercury poisoning.

We have dozens of exciting museums, rivers to cruise (which sometimes does have an eau-de-Deliverance, but that’s what makes it adventurous, right?), farmers markets, festivals, an art scene, a bike culture and a rich history of dreamers. Heck, just three months ago, what other city could say its governor was a movie star AND its mayor a sports star? Not New York City.

And yes, Sacramentans don’t always play inside the city limits. With San Francisco, Napa, the Pacific Ocean and Tahoe all being within a short drive, it’s so easy to enjoy Northern California at its best. 

So, how did they come to this most miserable list?

They looked at the 200 largest cities with the minimum population at 249,000. Ranking occurred on 10 factors: “unemployment over three years, tax rates (both sales and income), commute times, violent crime and how its pro sports teams have fared over the past three years.” (Again with the sports teams? Who gives a s***?)

“We added two housing metrics this year: the change in median home prices over three years, and foreclosure rates in 2010, as compiled by RealtyTrac. We also considered corruption based on convictions of public officials in each region, as tracked by the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.  Lastly, we factored in an index put together by Portland, Ore., researcher Bert Sperling that rates weather in each metro on factors relating to temperature, precipitation and humidity.”

(By the way, I do understand they are looking at Sacramento proper and economic components, not the quality of live for those enjoying its outer limits … but I don’t care! They should have also gauged cultural participation, accessibility to resources, educational opportunities and suicide rates, among other emotional statistics. I’m continuing …)

You think the weather is bad here? Here?! Well, Forbes Magazine, I lived in New York City and I cried every day because it was so miserable. I personally think the weather here, most of the time, is quite comfortable. Yes, it can be unbearably hot during the summer, but we live in inland California, we’ve got air conditioners. Don’t like it? Move to the beach. Oh wait, you can’t afford it?

I will say this; the best thing to come out of this stupid article is a renewed patriotism for Sacramento. Sure, it’s no Portland (as we are all constantly reminded of how great it is, blah blah blah), but this is our town. Most of us adopted this city because of its role as the capital of California, which means we are a dramatically loyal and idealistic bunch.

And I invite Mr. Badenhausen and his cohorts to come out and check Sacramento for realzies. I know Girls on the Grid would show them a very un-miserable list of things to do.

 But in the meantime, as someone from TV said to me, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it all.” I think Forbes should be reminded of that, as well.

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  1. Amelia says

    Whoo, hoo!! Love it! You should send it to the reporter…Open invitation to Forbes!

  2. Lisa says

    Thank you for saying exactly what I’ve been thinking!

  3. Bethany Hill says

    Ashley – love this piece! I’m happy to know that I am not the only outraged Sacramentan on the block. I would just like to say, I spent six years in Southern California – two years living in Rancho Palos Verdes, two years in Orange, one in Marina del Rey and one in Beverly Hills and I chose to quite my PR job in Century City in April of 08 (great time to quit your job right?) to move back to Sacramento (where I’m originally from) because I found Southern California quality of life to be THAT miserable and I could no longer deny my love for this town. The quality of life here in Sacramento is incomparable to Los Angeles – the blessings that come from living in Sacramento is something Los Angelinos’ couldn’t even imagine. LA is full of narcissistic, arrogant people who think every California city north of Santa Barbara is “Nor Cal” – a.k.a. the absolute worst. Disclaimer: I know not everyone is like that there, but there are definitely quite a few.

    Below is a common conversation I would have with people in Southern California:

    Arrogant Southern Californian: “Where are you from?”

    Me: “Sacramento.”

    Arrogant Southern Californian: “Oh, I’m sorry…” (said with a noticeable smirk.

    Me: “Seriously? Have you even been there?”

    Arrogant Southern Californian: “Well, I’ve driven through it on my way to Tahoe.”

    Me: “OK- so because you’ve driven on one of our freeways once, you think that’s enough for you to evaluate where I grew up? If I drove on the freeway through South Central LA, do you think that would give me enough information to evaluate LA?”

    Arrogant Southern Californian: “ haha…whatever. Nor Cal sucks.”

    I think that pretty much sums it up. I chose Sacramento over LA because life in Sacramento is just better. And frankly, I would rather Mr. Badenhausen not visit Sacramento. The less ignorant fools in this town, the better.

  4. Brook Taylor says

    Great job Ashley. I was equally outraged and you caught all the major points.

    One thing I will say, coming from Oregon and the Portland area, Portland folks would be surprised how much they have in common with Sacramento. The laid back but business minded culture. Walkable / Bikable communities with an emphasis on good/cheap eats. Lots of great pubs, bars, and an active night life.

    Portland is great, but Sacramento is heading in the direction and the people here know what they want out of their city.

  5. Jennifer says

    I love this post almost as much as I love the Sacramento area. 🙂 Thank you so much for writing this!

  6. Megan says

    Ashley, and now commenter Bethany too, are my heroes!

    Ashley, this is a great piece. I love that you not only put the article in its place but even broke down why its premise is completely flawed to begin with. Kudos!

  7. Jessica Love says

    The other thing that makes this article terrible is how many other great cities showed up on it. Chicago? DC? Really? And obvi, Sacramento. It really is terrible journalism. Thanks for speaking up for us.

  8. Robert says

    As a former resident of Sacramento and native to the general area, guess what kids? Sacramento isn’t all that great. I suppose if I came from the southern central valley I would view Sacramento as a shining bastion of all that is right and good, but for virtually everyone else who doesn’t hail from either Stockton area or a third world country (though in fairness the difference is negligible) Sacramento isn’t all that impressive. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time in Sacramento when I lived there. Now I live in Boston. What a difference 3,000 miles makes. Oh, and the terrible weather that NYC has? Boston is colder, but low and behold we have heaters in the winter, so regardless of how cold it is outside I never cry, I suppose I have a stronger constitution than various unnamed writers that live in third rate towns and are aggressively proud of it. While I agree that #5 does seem misplaced, it’s not a far cry from the truth. Just as a side note, while I couldn’t care less about sports (and I really couldn’t), generally speaking, cities do tend to rate themselves on the richness of their professional sports and having a good local team is a big morale booster for a lot of people. So while the emphasis on pro sports teams should not be so heavy, it is a factor, and should be factored in, albeit to a lesser degree, to the “livability” of a city.

  9. Jamie Romas says

    Great piece, Ashley!

    I’m a Chicago native who has lived in Berkeley, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Spain, and I can honestly say that Sacramento is the BEST place that I have lived. The people are wonderful; the weather is phenomenal (I don’t mind the occasional 110-degree day; that’s what air conditioning and pools are for, right?); there is no shortage of fun things to do (from cultural events to outdoor activities, top-notch restaurants to dive bars); and it’s affordable!

    Oh yeah, I’m also a huge NBA fan, and even with their losing record, the Kings are one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the entire league. So Forbes can suck it.

  10. Jessica Esperanza says

    I have lived in Sacramento since June 2010 not nearly long enough to have a blind sense of loyalty that some have been discredited with. I grew up in White Plains NY, a wealthy suburb 25 miles north of New York City. I have a huge love for NYC and don’t attempt to compare other cities to it, I also never bothered trying to live there because the quality of life as a result of rent and lack of jobs is dismal. I lived in Northern New York (1 hour North of Albany) for the last five years, I have seen negative below temperatures more time that I care to remember. Rent was great, weather was terrible and there was just not enough to do.

    My husband and I made a crazy choice to move our life across the country to a city we knew very little about where we had no friends and no jobs. After about 8 months we both have really great jobs that we never would have gotten in our previous cities, and we are both much happier than we have been in years. I have lived throughout New York and Massachusetts and though I have fond feelings for all of the places I have lived at this point Sacramento is already my favorite.

    The idea that someone who has never lived in a place and using very random statistics thinks he has the right to bash a city in such a way is absurd to me. And to do it at a time where the whole country is struggling is just plain mean. I have never understood the point of lists like this. At a time when everyone is having a rough go, why try to make it harder? What does that say about you as a journalist?

    With all that said, thanks for the article Ashley!! I have not even lived here a year and I was pretty outraged, glad I have a lot of well articulated company.

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