A Facebook friend recently lamented that with the St. Petersburg Times becoming the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Bay Rays possibly moving to Tampa and the landmark Pier facing a renovation, the city of St. Petersburg risks losing its identity.
It didn't help that Men's Health labeled St. Petersburg as America's saddest city this week, based on the rates of unemployment, suicide and antidepressant use.
Living on the Tampa side of the bay, I can only wonder: How can residents of a city with the coolest downtown in the region worry about losing their civic identity?
Look at all the city offers: a thriving restaurant row on Beach Drive; the spectacular waterfront that plays host to some of the area's best festivals; the reimagined Dalí Museum leading a list of artistic havens; the old-school charm of the Chattaway and El Cap restaurants, just to name a few; and performance venues including Jannus Live, FreeFall, American Stage, [email protected], the Palladium, Nova 535 and a newly renovated Mahaffey Theater.
I easily could go on. With all due respect to my employer, St. Petersburg is so much more than a baseball team, an aging retail outlet or even the name stripped across the top of a newspaper.
Yes, the city, like any, is not without problems, but if the Men's Health editors went beyond the raw data and spent time at the Saturday Morning Market or the Independent, surely they would draw a different conclusion.
Besides, what should really bother us is that the magazine separated St. Petersburg and Tampa, which placed fourth.
We need the nation to see us as one, even if some locals remain annoyed that "Tampa Bay" contains no reference to St. Pete.
When all of us embrace what makes St. Petersburg — and Tampa and Clearwater and even my little Seffner — great and claim it as our own, the provincialism will rightfully fade.
In short, don't hate, appreciate.
That's all I'm saying.