The old Cleveland motto splayed across T-shirts in the 1970s and 1980s read, “Cleveland: You’ve Got to Be Tough!” Apparently, you have to be manly, as well. At least, that’s what Bert Sperling, research expert behind the ever-popular “Best Places to Live” studies, says.
Cleveland, along with four other major Ohio cities, made Sperling’s top 50 “Manliest Cities in America” list – born from a study commissioned annually by Mars Chocolate North America, maker of Combos-brand pretzel snacks, to aid a product-driven contest.
Columbus nearly topped the list this year, moving up five spots to No. 2, with Cleveland (No. 15), Cincinnati (No. 20), Toledo (No. 26) and Dayton (No. 34) rounding out the Buckeye State finishers.
All five Ohio cities ranked ahead of Pittsburgh for manliness – the Steel City is ranked No. 37.
Take that, Steelers fans!
Manliness? Do tell…
Clevelanders like Christine Borne Nickras are quick to crack up at the distinction, despite there being some semblance of truth to it.
“This is a city where we put pierogi on grilled cheese sandwiches and stuff them in our faces with abandon,” Nickras says, referring to a menu item that nationally recognized Melt Bar & Grilled restaurants in Lakewood and Cleveland Heights serve.
“There is really not much ladylike about that.”
“I would say that men in Cleveland: A. love sports; B. love beer; C. love being in Cleveland and defend it to the death; and D. love food,” concurs Michelle Weitzel Knapp, who now calls Atlanta, Ga., home. “Does this all constitute ‘manliness?'”
And the winners are?
Sperling has a fairly complex ranking system for the 2010 “Manliest Cities in America” list – one with a number of testosterone-driven categories by which a city’s manliness points are scored.
The number of professional sports teams in a city, consumer behaviors including vehicle purchases, extracurricular activities, concentrations of “manly” stores, male magazine subscriptions (e.g., Maxim and Sports Illustrated), and occupations were among the items analyzed to determine rankings.
Alternately, “emasculating criteria” were also factored in to balance the statistics. Think minivans, cafés, and outlet and apparel shopping, and one might gain a handle on the counterpoint criteria.
It’s a far cry from many “best/worst of” lists that Cleveland has landed on over the years. Forbes magazine’s 2010 “Most Miserable City” index was the most recent, with “high unemployment, high taxes, lousy weather, corruption by public officials and crummy sports teams” used to calculate that ranking.
Cleveland was No. 1 on that list.
We’re No. 15?
Unlike the Forbes ballyhoo, this manlier distinction has been confusingly humorous to current and former Clevelanders.
“Cleveland has nothing, according to Forbes earlier in the year,” jokes North Ridgeville native Jim Rothgery. “If that is the case, you have to be manly to live in Cleveland!”
“(What) constitutes manly?” counters Cleveland native Genna Petrolla, who keeps her pulse on Cleveland at the helm of a local arts blog Messy Magazine. “Lots of dudes grunting and eating meat and watching sports? Gross, gross, gross!”
“I don’t know,” says Rob Humphries of Solon, continuing with a laugh. “A part of me thinks it’s kind of un-manly to get excited about coming in 15th at anything.”
Referring to the long-standing “sports curse” and championship drought suffered by residents, Cleveland expat Phil Shepley sums up the “win” with a line every Clevelander can relate to.
“Any man in Cleveland who hasn’t cried for the past 46 years is a real man,” says the Tampa, Fla., resident. “That being said, (Sperling’s) definition of ‘manly’ seems to be a little, well, off.”