Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why the Forbes Rating Shouldn't Bother You

I’ve been known to suggest that the best way to deal with a broken heart is to read the love poetry of the ancients. You will quickly find that your misery is not unique, not new -- in fact, it’s so old and so universal that it’s almost blasé.

And that is surprisingly comforting.

So let’s just say that Cleveland is the most miserable city in America in 2010. So what? We've undergone at least a generation of job and population loss. We’ve got legitimate reasons to be miserable! I imagine that Troy and Carthage could have been voted the most miserable cities of the ancient world after they were sacked. (Hey, at least we’re still here!) The port city of Alexandria was probably pretty miserable after the greatest library in the ancient world was destroyed. Rome? Not so festive after it burned. Medieval Edinburgh was a squalid, disease-ridden place where people attended public executions for fun. New York in the 1970s? Fuhggedaboudit. Are Rome, Edinburgh, and New York popular tourist destinations today? I don’t really need to answer that, do I?

The point is that if you’re looking at things through the long lens of history, one moment in time doesn’t mean much. Triumphs -- and miseries -- come and go.

If that doesn’t convince you, consider this. You know who’s not bothered by the Forbes rating? Dick Feagler. On last Friday’s episode of Feagler and Friends, he and his colleagues laughed it off. Journalist Mike Roberts said we should have a sense of humor about it -- and then he suggested sending Shaquille O'Neal up to Mr. Forbes's office to straighten him out.

Now you might think Feagler is just an old dinosaur, you might not agree with him politically, but you can’t dispute one thing: that Feagler has seen a lot of Cleveland history.

Dick Feagler has seen those tides of misery and triumph ebb and flow, and if he doesn’t think the Forbes rating means we’re going to hell in a handbasket, then we shouldn’t either.


  1. I think the main problem with the Forbes list is that it only ranks cities' negatives, without balancing them against their assets. Cleveland might have as many negatives as Stockton, CA or Flint, MI, but thankfully, we have many more assets than those cities as well. This flawed methodology is also why Forbes ranks great cities like Chicago and NYC in the top 5% of "misery".

  2. I do agree that Cleveland has good cultural assets to fall back on (as I said here), much more so than plenty of other "miserable" places. The "miseries" listed by Forbes, though, are very real for a lot of people. So if you ARE miserable here, you can choose to look at how many other people have been miserable all throughout history, all throughout the world, and during much worse times than this. There's something about that kind of thinking that can really help balance out one's perspective. It's like that old Dr. Seuss book, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?