For the longest time, it was difficult to put into words why I love Sacramento – why we love Sacramento.
As a community, we are labeled as a backwater, a cow town.
San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. The Hollywood sign embodies Los Angeles. San Jose is Silicon Valley.
But who are we?
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In the absence of obvious answers, we became – in the minds of many outsiders and some locals – the community with no discernible identity. We were the community with an "inferiority complex." In the absence of symbols that proclaim Sacramento's sense of place, we were the place between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.
It's a bum rap.
If there is no iconic symbol for our city, it's because our community is our symbol.
You see it every Second Saturday when thousands of people descend on midtown. You see it every Thanksgiving, when thousands descend on the Sacramento State campus for the annual Run to Feed the Hungry fundraiser.
We are farmers markets. We are River Cats games on hot summer nights. We are the American River bike trail. We are ethnically diverse. We are the people who would not let the Kings leave town.
We don't always agree on how to deal with homelessness, mental health, crime and struggling neighborhoods – but those neighborhoods are filled with people who care.
Our nearby cities – West Sacramento, Roseville, Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, El Dorado Hills – are independent but interconnected.
Unlike other big California cities, we have not yet become the city we are destined to be.
Now is our chance to shape that future – to grow up – by embracing the optimism of Sacramento's younger people.
According to the 2010 census, Sacramento's median age is 34. We have a large percentage of citizens here in their 20s. Already, young people are remaking downtown, midtown and other areas around the region with new businesses, brew pubs and restaurants.
This new generation loves the old Sacramento but has the energy, vitality and optimism to make a new Sacramento that older residents don't have to fear.
I met a few of them last week, after 14,014 people packed Raley Field to watch an exhibition soccer game Thursday night.
What a night it was to see a huge cross section of people – ages and ethnicities – communing together in the Sacramento tradition. Kids from Placer County sat next to kids from Sacramento's inner city. Many languages could be heard in the Raley Field concourses. "Sweet Home Alabama" blared from the loudspeakers while Mexican bands played live music at Raley Field's front gates.
The occasion was the kickoff to an idea: Bring professional soccer to Sacramento.
It's an idea worthy of support because Sacramento is primed for more amenities, but what is truly relevant about the venture is the way it's being presented.
The arrival of Sacramento Republic FC, a team that will begin playing at Hughes Stadium next season, is announced in a video bursting with a spirit that is infectious.
Young, locally based professionals who love Sacramento and will be part of the generation that moves it forward created both the video and the name and branding of the team.
Hopefully, their message will be emblematic of a new civic pride.
You can see the video at www.sacrepublicfc.com/football-club. Directed and shot by Rusty and Dave Prevatt, the two young guys behind midtown-based Franklin Pictures, the video captures Sacramento's beauty, hope and optimism in 2 minutes, 21 seconds. The Tower Bridge, kids playing soccer under freeway overpasses, older, urban guys playing in the tunnels beneath I-5 at Old Sacramento, lush playing fields in Sacramento's suburban neighborhoods, Jesuit High School, downtown parks, the river – it's all there.
The scene of a kid kicking the ball on a farm brings tears to the eyes because of Sacramento's eternal farming roots and its location as a food producer to the world.
Roseville-based AugustineIdeas and the professionals who work there interpreted the name "Sacramento Republic" to embody a diverse community unified by its sense of place – a community stronger than fires, floods or economic calamities.
"What symbolized Sacramento?" said Julie Amos, an executive vice president of the firm. "Nobody could come up with one thing. We realized before we branded the team, we had to brand the city,
"It's about living here. It's about the people."