Opinion: Stop comparing Sac to S.F.

This is a story that I felt needed to be written – about a story that I feel never should have been.

Anyone who was born and raised in Sacramento, or has spent a considerable amount of time living here, is forced to recognize one unfortunate yet immutable truth: Sacramento has long had, or has at least been perceived to have, an inferiority complex to larger cities. In particular, to San Francisco.

I’m not saying everyone in Sacramento has it – but if you don’t crack a laugh while trying to tell me that you don’t know anyone in Sacramento that does have it, then I will certainly crack one before you finish your sentence.

It’s the age-old mid-size city paradox, often one that’s entirely self-imposed: we’re too big a city to identify ourselves as a small town, yet we’re not quite big enough to “have what they have.” This perception has been a bunion on our civic heel for years, the kind we’ve limped around with for so long, would we even notice if it healed?

Beer Week just ended (that cheering sound you just heard was my liver), as did Fashion Week – both on the heels of Bacon Fest. With so many people having spent the last month out and about in Sacramento, and even with the Kings seemingly one foot and four toes out the door, there is no arguing the fact that it’s a good time to be a Sacramentan.

That’s why Sacramento Magazine’s March 2013 cover story entitled “Sac vs. S.F.: 35 Reasons Why We’re Better” comes off like the high school freshman who spends every hour of his summer in the gym and pounding protein shakes so he can bulk up and fight back against the senior bully – only to find out that the bully never even wanted to fight anyway.

Or, the guy who rents a Ferrari and an escort to go to his high school reunion to show the cheerleader who would never give him the time of day that he’s “made it,” when he is already happily married.

Many of the claims that SacMag makes are valid points about things Sacramento can and should be truly proud of:

“Something to Chew On:” An ode to the accessibility, friendliness and sustainability of our local restaurant scene. Absolutely no argument here (more on that later).

“Home Sweet Home:” How financially accessible is it to rent or own here vs. there? Not even a conversation, really. There’s a reason why minimum wage in the City hit north of $10 per hour in January of 2013.

Some of the claims are just simply strange:

“Our Bridge is Actually Golden:” Mmmmmmmm-kay, not even sure I’d waste a bottle of Cook’s bought on sale at CVS toasting the paint job on the Tower Bridge.

“Target Loves Us:” Apparently San Francisco has only one Target store to our five. Translation: We buy quintuple the crap.

“Ban Francisco:” A shot against all the things that The City has attempted to legislate out, including Happy Meals and pet goldfish (which may be somehow correlated if anyone has tried those new McFish Bites). Yep, not quite as arbitrary as say, trying to limit the operating capacity of mobile food trucks.

“Our Mayor Can Beat Their Mayor in a Game of 1 On 1.” Really? Let’s look ahead a couple years and see how the five-on-five will go when the Warriors are transplanted to a proposed new S.F. waterfront arena, and the only team playing in our arena is Granite Bay boys varsity.

Claims like these feel like desperate reaches to finish a list that should have only been maybe half as long – assuming there is a reason why it should have even been started in the first place.

There isn’t, and it shouldn’t have been.

What’s really unfortunate about how badly this article misses the boat is that it was sitting right near the dock the whole time. It is sandwiched right between two other stories that perfectly illustrate this writer’s point – one is about the B Street Theatre’s planned new state-of-the-art digs on Capitol and 27th, the other a list of marquee products made right here in Sactown, such as Blue Diamond almonds and Ruhstaller Beer (if you’ve never had their Captain black IPA, do it now!).

With positive things like these (and so many more) to report, the fundamental question surrounding Sacramento Magazine’s article emerges: Why can’t we be content to take pride in what we have without feebly comparing it to something else?

Take a look at what happened a few weeks ago during Bacon Fest, and more recently, Beer Week. There is no denying the old adage that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy – and with all due respect to our herbivorous readers, there is similar truth to bacon.

But when the dust settled, it was bigger than bacon or beer. It was a chance for local residents to hit the town for happy hours, special dinner menus, unique creations, and large-scale events, making bacon and beer the vehicles for a B-12 shot of local appreciation. It was a chance for our local chefs (quickly emerging as a tour de force in the culinary world) to show off what they can do under a pork belly veil, and a chance for local watering holes to build mightily on their base of loyal regulars with guest taps, tasting flights and other events.

And look what happened. Local establishments were reporting record attendance during Bacon Fest. And Beer Week…well, if you attended any events, you know what it was like out there, up to and including Saturday’s Capitol Beer Fest at Cal Expo or Pangaea Cafe’s "Super Blow Sunday" where they attempted to clear out the remaining kegs after an insanely popular week.

Beer Week wasn’t just about the beer. Bacon Fest wasn’t just about the bacon. This town has a pulse right now, and there is no doubt that those who live here are responding to it.

These are the kinds of things we should be starting a list over, and there is so much happening that could be put on such a list. There are a ton of reasons to be excited about life in Sacramento, all of them happening right now.

Lists that grasp at straws while trying to compare us to other cities are the kind of thing that makes us seem petty and desperate to get our big boy pants, when we’re all perfectly happy in shorts and flip flops. Why? Because summer is comin’, so let’s get ready to crack a twenty-two of Ruhstaller, head for Concerts in the Park, grab a late dinner at Pizza Rock, and keep this town alive into the night.

Who’s with me…?

Disclosure: It was time for the "big boy pants" line to be revived...thanks, Lindol French!

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

March 4, 2013 | 9:12 PM

You know I am! GREAT article Aaron!
I’d take a Ruhstaller Captain Black over an Anchor Steam any day of the week!

March 4, 2013 | 9:28 PM

Pretty good article, thanks for sharing.


March 4, 2013 | 9:51 PM

I’ll pick Sacramento over SF any day of the week. Well, unless I’ve got tickets to the see the Giants play at AT&T Park. Otherwise, I’m here.

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March 4, 2013 | 10:00 PM

I think you missed the point of the article.

March 5, 2013 | 9:38 AM

I guess my joke didn’t go over so well.

March 4, 2013 | 10:38 PM

Dude. You absolutely crushed this one Aaron. Home run, right into McCovey Cove. Damn it.

March 5, 2013 | 8:57 AM

Thanks G! All due credit your way for the “big boy pants” line from your Crocker grand opening piece!

Article Author
March 5, 2013 | 7:27 AM

I’m with you. Best read I’ve had since The Oasis Ballroom was open.

March 5, 2013 | 9:16 AM

I think that local vegans should sponsor [Blinky Text] *Kale Fest* [/blinky text]… oh come on, who’s with me!?!

Ok, joking aside, I really like living in Sacramento. Bacon Fest, Fashion Week, Beer Week, and on and on. Moreover, all of these events are accessible to almost everyone. Then there is Hacker Lab, which is the first place I’ve been able to take my kid to do some real hands on learning about electronics. There are a lot of big state and regional events that happen here as well for sports and music. Thanks for highlighting the value of our region in this article.

March 5, 2013 | 9:18 AM

Thank you! My sentiments exactly. When I saw that magazine cover I thought really? It’s unoriginal and tired. Just move to SF already. If you like somewhere else better than the place you are at then you do yourself the favor. Otherwise love the one your with. But get over it one way or another.

March 5, 2013 | 7:59 PM

Exactly! I think people that complain about their location and do nothing about it make themselves look bad.

March 5, 2013 | 9:24 AM

I’m with Doubtful – I think you missed the point of the article. The article was clearly tongue in cheek – a point I think Aaron Davis missed. What’s funny is that Davis bashes the article YET GOES ON TO DO THE SAME THING THE ARTICLE DID – he says there is no need to compare Sac to SF, and then goes on to list a bunch of reasons why we are better.

“These are the kinds of things we should be starting a list over, and there is so much happening that could be put on such a list. There are a ton of reasons to be excited about life in Sacramento, all of them happening right now.”

Have you never read Sacramento magazine before? The ENTIRE THING is about events, food, people and business in Sacramento, including the rest of that issue besides the SF vs Sac article.

Another hack job by one publication trying to bring down another in this town. Good job, Sac Press.

March 5, 2013 | 9:44 AM

I read it differently. Davis is saying that the outright comparison is a groaner – it is, and it made me cringe when I saw the cover.

Davis is saying to love what we have, then lists what makes us great – not compare all those events to similar events in SF. Does he mention Bacon Fest in SF? No. I don’t even know if SF has one. Nor do I care. Because we have one right here, and that makes me happy.

March 5, 2013 | 9:56 AM

Giz, thank you for your feedback. I agree with you that parts of the SacMag story came off as very tongue-in-cheek. However, the problem there is that some of the points they were making were serious (or at least came off as serious) efforts to illustrate points of superiority for Sac over SF (i.e. real estate, restaurants, etc.). Ultimately the story didn’t convince me that its entire purpose was to be light-hearted and playful, which is what compelled me to respond to it.

On the subject of me doing the same thing by comparing Sac to SF… my point in the sentence you quoted is that we should be makings “lists” of positives (like those mentioned herein) happening in Sac right now and allow them to stand alone, without comparing them to things happening in other cities. If there are other elements of the story that come off as me trying to compare us to them, please let me know where you felt that happened, as I took good care not to do that. Thanks again

Article Author
March 5, 2013 | 9:25 AM

I doubt if any of the above actually read the article.

March 5, 2013 | 9:27 AM

There are good and bad points made about each city. I enjoyed the article for what it was, a good tongue-in-cheek.

March 5, 2013 | 9:28 AM

Agreed. I can’t understand why the author of this blog took Sac magazine’s article so seriously.

March 5, 2013 | 10:02 AM

I really don’t understand the obsession of some people with Sacramento becoming a “world class city”. We should be happy with who we are. We are an agricultural cow town that’s just big enough to be fun. It’s affordable, close to all the best California has to offer, and we have the best weather in the world.

March 5, 2013 | 10:03 AM

Why does it matter Sacramento is far way better than San Fran, is just another big city like L.A., to expensive to live there and traffic is horrendous. I was born here in Sacramento it may be a boring little town between San Fran and L.A.. But life is much better here in Sac Town!

March 5, 2013 | 10:06 AM

I’m with you, Aaron. Thanks for a great article. I’m a native Sacramentan who loves this town. I also love San Francisco. They are each great cities. The more people I meet who just moved to Sacramento, however, see the gem this town is.

March 5, 2013 | 11:54 AM

No comparison. In beaseball terms San Franciso is considered the big leagues and Sacramento a farm club, but all things considered Sacramento is stii my home.

March 5, 2013 | 11:58 AM

On point – apples and oranges. As somebody born in Santa Barbara (about 1/20th the size of Sacramento) and almost 10 years in LA proper, it became increasingly obvious that Sacramento has a bad case of the Napoleon complex.

March 5, 2013 | 12:13 PM

Spot on! Love both cities, but they’re completely different cities and not comparable. Well done. I like the ode to Sac that the original article meant to point out, but making it a side by side comparison list is definitely where it shot itself in the foot.

March 5, 2013 | 1:05 PM

PS The Sacramento Magazine (original) article is fun and not being serious (“our bridge is actually gold” …don’t really think a great local publication would truly feel that merited superiority.) But I think the side by wide comparison still hits a nerve for those of us like Aaron Davis who have seen many people actually try to compare the two.

March 5, 2013 | 12:43 PM

If baby poo is golden… Cooks on sale at CVS. Loved!

March 5, 2013 | 1:29 PM

We live on a flying rock called planet Earth. Only men have created boundaries, territories, nationalism and separatism which have done NOTHING but to create a very unhealthy planet, both INSIDE and OUT. Stop the bs. We ALL share this wonderful planet and are blessed. Now get off the grid, and LIVE!

March 5, 2013 | 2:46 PM

The biggest difference between Sacramento and San Francisco is that you can actually afford to buy a home here…or rent a decent place without forking over 80% of your monthly salary. S.F. is beautiful and filled with interesting, educated people, but it’s rapidly becoming a place only yuppies and Silicon Valley techies can afford. Sac has some really sweet, classic (and classy) neighborhoods that provide the opportunity for a great quality of life.
BTW, if you REALLY want to see an inferiority complex, compare Fresno’s self-image vs. its valley neighbor to the north. They envy us in countless ways…

March 5, 2013 | 4:00 PM

Sacramento has long had an envy of San Francisco. Envy of or preoccupation with someplace or somebody else is a sign of low self esteem which is why I cringed when I saw that magazine article. If the editors and readers of Sacramento Magazine were secure in their knowledge of Sacramento’s worth, there would never have been an article of this sort, satirical or otherwise. Can you imagine a San Francisco publication running an article proclaiming that, hey, San Francisco really is better than Sacramento! Of course not. They don’t think about these things.

The fact is that San Francisco is one of the greatest cities in the world while Sacramento is merely a nice place to live and getting nicer.

March 5, 2013 | 5:03 PM

No different, really, than the rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles, that only San Franciscans seem to know about.

March 5, 2013 | 5:54 PM

You have a good point, but I think there’s a difference. When San Francisco disses Los Angeles it’s out of an honest feeling of superiority. San Franciscans think they’ve seen the world and LA just doesn’t measure up. New Yorkers feel this way about everywhere else including San Francisco, which many there consider to be a lovely provincial city, but not to be compared to the cultural capital that is New York! There’s also the degree of preoccupation which in the SF-LA comparison is low in my opinion compared to Sacramento’s constant efforts to pump itself up when it’s not otherwise busy bemoaning its shortcomings.

March 5, 2013 | 7:08 PM

I particularly liked this quote, from Lewis Lapham:

“I had been employed on the paper [the San Francisco Examiner] for two years when , on a Saturday morning in December of 1959, I reported for work to find the editors talking to one another in the hushed and self-important way that usually means that at least fifty people have been killed. I assumed that a ship had sunk or that a building had collapsed. The editors were not in the habit of taking me in their confidence, and I didn’t expect to learn the terms of the calamity until I had a chance to read the AP wire. Much to my surprise, the city editor motioned impatiently in my direction, indicating that I should join the circle of people standing around his desk and turning slowly through the pages of the pictorial supplement that the paper was obliged to publish the next day. Aghast at what they saw, unable to stifle small cries of anguished disbelief, they were examining twelve pages of text and photographs arranged under the heading LOS ANGELES–THE ATHENS OF THE WEST. To readers unfamiliar with the ethos of San Francisco, I’m not sure I can convey the full and terrible effect of this headline. Not only was it wrong, it was monstrous heresy. The residents of San Francisco dote on a romantic image of the city and they imagine themselves living at a height of civilization accessible only to Erasmus or a nineteenth-century British peer. They flatter themselves on their sophistication, their exquisite sensibility, their devotion to the arts. Los Angeles represents the antithesis of these graces; it is the land of the Philistines, lying somewhere to the south in the midst of housing developments that stand as the embodiment of ugliness, vulgarity and corruption of the spirit.

Pity, then, the poor editors in San Francisco. In those days there was also a Los Angeles Examiner, and the same printing plant supplied supplements to both papers. The text and photographs intended for a Los Angeles audience had been printed in the Sunday pictorial bearing the imprint of the San Francisco Examiner. It was impossible to correct the mistake and so the editors in San Francisco had no choice but to publish and give credence to despised anathema.”

March 5, 2013 | 8:18 PM

and now everyone goes out and buys an issue of this month’s Sac Mag. Thanks for the press. ;) Brilliant ploy, in my humble opinion… got you talking, now didn’t it? That’s the editorial world for you.

March 6, 2013 | 8:26 AM

Maybe works better as click-bait and not “magazine sales bait”. Flashy and controversial headlines work better when the barrier to entry is low. I have a subscription to SacMag, given as a housewarming gift a couple years ago. No real problem with it, but I’m not really the target audience. Sactown, of course, has much more to offer the average SacPress reader, in my estimation.

March 6, 2013 | 8:30 AM

I will wait for the issue with the Sacramento vs. Minneapolis comparison. Seems like a relatively humble yet dynamic midwestern city might be a better aspiration for Sacramento than SF.

March 6, 2013 | 10:09 AM

Well played, sir!

Article Author
March 6, 2013 | 12:14 PM

As those types of comparisons go, Chuck Thompson once said that “Austin would be called Sacramento if it weren’t surrounded by Texas”. Which is supposed to be a sort of sleight to Austin, but works as a backhanded compliment to Sacramento. If what he said is true, then by the transitive property of location comparison, the following is also true: “Sacramento would be called Austin, except that it’s NOT surround by Texas”.

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