That sounds suspiciously like something a Cubs fan would say. But we'll take it under advisement.

When it came to enhancing our status in other Men's Health rankings, Marion was slightly more specific. He discouraged trying to better our rank as the sixth-drunkest city; that would involve upping our incidences of drunk-driving and alcohol-poisoning fatalities.

(For what's it's worth, the industry lobbyists at the Beer Institute in Washington, D.C., determined that Missourians consume the 16th-most beer per capita, based on the number of barrels shipped by wholesalers.)

We also asked Marion about "The Worst City for Men" study, in which St. Louis ranked first in 2007 but slipped to eighth in 2009.

It seems the magazine ignored several traditional man-friendly hobbies in which the River City excels (drinking beer, gambling, eating) and looked instead at fitness and crime statistics.

"I think if you asked most people, they'd be more concerned about not getting shot than drinking beer," Marion says. "I think you'd find very few people who'd say a place with the worst violent crime and worst property crime of a hundred cities sounds like a great place to live.

"People might hear their city comes up short in a particular study," he continues. "There are concerns: 'What can we do about it?' We try to give people tools to effect some change on an individual level and a municipal level."

Change. Unreal likes the sound of that. It might even make a good campaign slogan.

Empowered by the pundit's pep talk, we called St. Louis City Hall to get Mayor Francis Slay's take on how we stand.

"A lot of [the rankings] are so silly we don't pay them much mind," Slay spokeswoman Kara Bowlin says. "People in city hall who are really connected to St. Louis, who understand what's going on and are very pro-city, just laugh about them."

Egad!

With apathy like that at the highest level of local government, it's no wonder we're bringing up the rear.

On the plus side, Bowlin notes that the city recently applied to become one of Relocate America's "Top 100 Best Places to Live" and nominated Washington Avenue for the American Planning Association's "Great Places in America 2010." (They're the same people that named the Delmar Loop "One of 10 Great Streets in America.")

As for our paltry standing as the 43rd-best travel destination according to Travel Leaders online, the 38th-best bicycling city according to bicycling.com and Forbes' claim that we're just the fifth-best "Recession-Proof Retirement City," Bowlin says succinctly, "We're kind of desensitized to them, and I'm not really sure how scientific they are."

The mayor's flack notes that Forbes also dubbed St. Louis the seventh-most "Miserable" city in America, a proclamation that was based on, among other criteria, the fact that the Rams have been the worst team in the NFL over the past three seasons.

"A week later they had us ranked as one of best places to buy a house," Bowlin says. "If you wait long enough, these things will kind of debunk themselves."

Unreal waits for no one.


Two rankings in which St. Louis has traditionally dominated: crime and sexually transmitted disease.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the city led the nation two years in a row when it came to gonorrhea and chlamydia infection rates. Baltimore and Richmond, Virginia, overtook us in 2009 in those respective categories. As gung-ho as Unreal is about being No. 1, nobody likes pissing fire. We're just not gonna go there.

As for crime, well, let's just say St. Louis wins the Most Dangerous City in America sweepstakes more often than the Cardinals win the World Series. In the infamous crime rankings published by CQ Press, we took home titles in 2006 and 2007. Alas, we've fallen behind lately, finishing in fourth and second place, respectively, the past two years.

Unreal will not tolerate losing out to the likes of Camden, New Jersey.

On the very day the rankings were released in November 2009, four people were shot in separate incidents in St. Louis, amply demonstrating that our citizens are capable of the levels of dedication and decisive action we'll need to reclaim our rightful spot atop the polls.

Some may argue that it's hardly an honor to be considered the Most Dangerous City in America. Come on! In the era of the Internet, ADD and the 24-hour news cycle, the expression "There's no such thing as bad publicity" has never been truer.

Sure, the headlines may look bad at first glance, but it's all about the spin. A slogan like "St. Louis: Danger Is Our Middle Name" would be a great way to attract adventurous tourists and thrill-seeking young loft dwellers to downtown.

Imagine our shock when Ben Krasney, a spokesman for CQ Press, informed us that very few cities embrace the "Most Dangerous" designation — least of all St. Louis. He recalls how the city even hired the public-relations firm Fleishman-Hillard to discredit the crime rankings in advance of their publication in 2007.

"That took us a little by surprise," Krasney says. "I get a lot of calls, and the question we usually get is: 'How do we improve?'"

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