My fellow Nebraskans, I’ve got some good news and some, well, unfortunate news. Embarrassing, you might say. And it has nothing to do with football.
This news is based on that source of gospel truth: national rankings.
Within a 24-hour period, two list outfits — WalletHub and Big 7 Travel — ranked us, the stalwart Cornhusker State, No. 9 and No. Dead Last in categories of happiness and sexiness, respectively. Takeaways: We’re happy! Ish. (Ninth place is not first, but out of 50, it’s respectable).
But we’re not sexy! Not in the least! Not even remotely desirable! And way, way, less attractive than Iowa (No. 23 on the sexy-meter but No. 11 on the happy one).
This means we’ve got rock-solid self-esteem: We’re Nebraska and not the least bit attractive to outsiders. But hey, we’re not depressed about it.
We Americans are People of the List. That’s either because of our collective short attention span, or the fact that lists are just fun. Top 10 this. Bottom 10 that. And in the era where we measure worth by likes and clicks, why wouldn’t we pin down exactly where some attribute of ours, derived scientifically or by Internet voodoo, puts us on the map? Data-driven, amirite? Can I get an amen on clickbait?
But more about us. Nebraska is, unofficially, the Good Life State. That is why a No. 9 ranking on a happiness scale developed by WalletHub makes so much sense. Nebraska is not the Great Life State or the Best Life out of 50 States. Good Life means good-enough. Which is Top 10 in my book any day.
We in Nebraska are not the happiest, a distinction that goes to Hawaii because, duh. Unhappiest on the WalletHub scale, released Monday, is West Virginia. “Almost heaven,” sang John Denver about the Mountain State, but no one polled him.
WalletHub says its rankings came from 31 metrics that place value not on sandy beaches or John Denver songs but on actual measures like rates of long-term unemployment (Nebraska, fourth-best), volunteerism (Nebraska, sixth-best) and separation and divorce rate (Nebraska, sixth-best, meaning lowest). Another ranking is how much sleep people get a night.
Football notwithstanding, Nebraskans by and large are getting enough Z’s. Hawaii, on the other hand, recorded the least amount of adequate sleep. But sleeping would be a waste of time in paradise.
We Nebraskans are proud of our good life, and we know it’s not for everyone. But not for anyone seems a little harsh.
“Sorry!” said the press release from a group called Big 7 Travel that put Nebraska in the unenviable ranking of 50th. Out of 50 states.
Fortunately, this sexy ranking is not based on anything concrete (obvs). But it is based on perception (yikes). Big 7 Travel, a subset of Big 7 Media, describes itself on its website as a “mobile-first, millennial audience” kind of outfit that creates “original content” for travel, food and hotels. It conducted this oh-so-scientific ranking by polling some of its 1.5 million audience members.
The timing of this particular ranking should be noted. Members were asked in the unsexy month of December, when Nebraska puts on all its clothes and sits under blankets with no makeup and sneezes.
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It should be noted that Big 7 purposefully left out any definition of “sexy,” letting people draw their own conclusions. Points were not given for having a good personality.
Another flaw? The sexiest award went to ... Illinois. The Land of Lincoln has never been accused of being a hotbed of attraction. It’s just like Nebraska but with a bigger lake, an American Girl doll store and worse weather. OK, Chicago, my kind of town and city of big shoulders. But still. No. 1?
The four Most Sexy runners-up make sense: Colorado (2), Florida (3), California (4) and Hawaii (5). But there are some head-scratchers in the Top 10 like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
The runner-up for Least Sexy State in the Union was Alaska.
When the survey news hit Monday, one World-Herald editor astutely pointed out some psychology: The first (happiness) is based somewhat on how we see ourselves. The second (sexiness) is how others see us.
And again, in fairness to us, this is coming from a group that has a travel category of “Instagrammable Spots.” The message is pretty clear: It’s not WHERE you go that matters; it’s how good your destination looks on social media. And again, in fairness to us, Illinois???
Numbers, whether derived from real science or based on opinion, only tell us so much, of course.
Can you really put a figure on matters of the heart?
Take Nebraska football, which was not a consideration in either the happiness or sexiness measures. For better or for worse.
But ask any die-hard Nebraska fan if that really matters. To those happy, unsexy fans, Nebraska is always perpetually ranked No. 1.
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Rain clouds and a bit of a rainbow roll over the Millard, Nebraska, sky on Aug. 16, 2016.
The sun sets behind a center pivot located north of Red Cloud, Nebraska, on Thursday, July 27, 2006.
Storm clouds hide the sun as it sets over Nebraska's Sand Hills on July 7, 2009, near Thedord, Nebraska.
A summer storm passes north of Rose, Nebraska, on Sunday, June 10, 2007.
A rainbow forms over U.S. Highway 12, just east of Valentine, Nebraska, as storms roll over the area on July 25, 2017.
The sun sets behind an approaching storm as a car heads west on U.S. Highway 34 near Union, Nebraska, on April 24, 2016.
Icicles form on vines in downtown Omaha on Feb. 24, 2017.
Railroad tracks are illuminated by the setting sun on May 3, 2017, east of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
The sun sets behind Chimney Rock on May 3, 2017.
Members of the Boats, Bikes, Boots & Brews group head to shore as the sun sets after an evening out on Lake Zorinsky on April 22, 2015.
Icicles hang from the horse carriage parking sign in the Old Market on Jan. 15, 2017.
Wheat, ready for the combine, is silhouetted by the setting sun as the wheat harvest on the Lagler farm near Grant, Nebraska, was in full swing on July 7, 2005.
A layer of fog covers the Missouri River near the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge on Feb. 5, 2015.
A setting sun creates a pink haze on a windmill and the Sand Hills southwest of Rushville, Nebraska, on Sept. 22, 2007.
Pigeons scatter at sunset as the St. John's steeple is silhouetted against the Woodmen tower in downtown Omaha on Oct. 3, 2014.
The sun bursts behind the clouds over the North Platte River east of Bridgeport, Nebraska, on July 26, 2006.
Steve Jobman, a farmer south of Minatare, Nebraska, cuts alfalfa after sunset on June 2, 2004.
Wheat waves in the wind in a field west of Dalton, Nebraska, on July 18, 2001.
The moon rises over the northern cross of the St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha on Feb. 10, 2017. On this night, there was a full moon, a lunar eclipse and comet 45P passed by the earth.
As the wind speed picks up, a woman holds onto her hood while crossing 16th Street along Dodge Street in Omaha on Feb. 24, 2017.
From left: Melody Borcherding, Kseniya Burgoon and Michael Beltz scoop out a vehicle on Jan. 23, 2018, in Norfolk.
Jeff Bachman harvests soybeans and prepares to transfer them as the sun sets on a field near Ayr, Nebraska, on Oct. 19, 2008.
As the sun sets, sandhill cranes arrive to roost in the Platte River at the Rowe Sanctuary & Iain Nicholson Audubon Center south of Gibbon, Nebraska, on March 12, 2008.
A pair of sandhill cranes pass in front of the moon shortly after sunrise at the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon, Nebraska, on March 13, 2012. Sandhill cranes, which mate for life, can live between 20 and 40 years.
A windmill is dwarfed by storm clouds near Crawford, Nebraska, on May 3, 2017.
An early November storm system rolls through the Great Plains, but Omaha only receives rain, which collected on freshly-fallen leaves on Nov. 11, 2015.
Cattle head up to a well to get a drink at the end of the day near Sparks, Nebraska, on Aug. 21, 2015. Smoke from the wildfires in the western states created a haze.
The moon rises above the corn as farmers harvest the last of their fields in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa on Nov. 5, 2014.
Two riders help round up part of the 750 head of cattle branded at the Lute Family Ranch, located south of Hyannis, Nebraska, on May 12, 2005. Mick Knott, who runs the ranch, owns about half the cattle, and the Lute Foundation owns the rest. The work started about dawn and finished about noon.
The rising sun illuminates a tree and a windmill in a snow-covered field located on U.S. Highway 20 between Rushville and Chadron, Nebraska, on March 1, 2017.
The College Home Run Derby was held at TD Ameritrade Park and was highlighted by The World-Herald's annual Independence Day fireworks display on July 2, 2015.
Fog rises from the Missouri River and covers the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge on Jan. 5, 2010.
The weekend's perfect weather colored the clouds at sunset south of Wymore, Nebraska, on Oct. 23, 2004.
Deer chill out at Chalco Hills Recreation Area on Feb. 22, 2018.
A leaf is covered in a dusting of snow near 138th and Hickory Streets on Dec. 18, 2014, in Millard.
A runner emerges from the edge of the rising sun on Sept. 11, 2015, at Zorinsky Lake Park and Recreation Area in Omaha.
Nearly 45 minutes after sunset, an orange and blue glow is seen setting behind the Omaha skyline flanked between trees in Council Bluffs on Jan. 11, 2018.
Rain drops collect on a flower following early showers on May 10, 2017, in Millard.
The promise of rain is fleeting for the seven windmills on the Watson Ranch north of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, on U.S. 71 on May 16, 2004.
A crescent moon sets behind the UNO bell tower on Nov. 6, 2013.
Ralph Remmert is depicted in the mural "Fertile Ground" near 13th and Mike Fahey Streets in north downtown Omaha on June 19, 2017.
Ralph Kohler, 94, keeps his eyes to the sky for ducks and geese as the sun rises over his hunting pond east of Tekamah, Nebraska, on Nov. 30, 2011. Kohler has been a professional guide for most of his life, and he is preparing for the spring season.
The sun rises over St. Paul Lutheran Church, located three miles north of Republican City, Nebraska, in March of 2004.
Geese are silhouetted in the color and clouds as the sun sets at Zorinsky Lake on Feb. 21, 2016.
The sun rises on Chimney Rock on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, near McGrew, Nebraska.
Cranes walk through the shallow water of the Platte River shortly before sunset near The Crane Trust, which is close to Wood River, Nebraska, on March 13, 2012. The river provides cranes with a safe place from predators for rest at night.
A bespangled vest awaits a rider during Nebraska's Big Rodeo on July 25, 2013, in Burwell, Nebraska.
Horses stand in the snow on Feb. 22, 2018.
Residents of the Nebraska Panhandle enjoyed unseasonably mild temperatures and cloud cover on Aug. 12, 2004.
Members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association hold their hats as 2013 Miss Burwell Rodeo Olivia Hunsperger passes by during the opening ceremonies on July 27, 2013, in Burwell, Nebraska. "This may be a small town, but it's got a big rodeo, and it's got a really big heart," Hunsperger said.
A break in the clouds highlights downtown Omaha as seen from Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs, as severe storms passed through the Omaha Metro area on June 5, 2014.
John Wanief waits for the bus in a shelter at 120th Street and West Center Road as cold rain pours down in Millard on Nov. 11, 2015.