Roger’s Ramblings

Couch potatoes

I just came across a USA Today article with the headline “Workouts Not as Likely in These US Cities with Few Exercisers.” Well now. I just love these comparison articles that pit one region against another. It was just the reading material I needed as I sat down to eat some fast food. I started reading as I unwrapped my double decker, bacon-laden burger, with lettuce of course (so I was sure to get my recommended daily allowance of something green.)

These articles have a tendency to be downright disrespectful to Southerners. Things like worst places to retire, worst places to raise children, worst places to be imprisoned. The usual stuff we all worry about.

Nothing to worry about with this subject matter. How could there be? I mean here we exercise as a matter of daily life. We till our gardens with nothing but a pick and hoe. We catch fish with our bare hands. We chase deer for miles through the forest before felling one with a clean shot from our flintlock rifles like Hawkeye in the movie Last of the Mohicans. (Okay, I know that story was set in New York state, but it must have been southern New York.)

No, I knew this list would have few southern cities, if any. It would be chock full of northern cities whose inhabitants spend most of their days huddled inside against the cold. Or places like the Northwest where they get about three days of sunlight a year. There would probably be a western city or two where people don’t venture outside because of “the heat.” You know those types. They’re the ones who think the dry heat they endure is bad, then they experience an Alabama summer day and discover that heat ain’t nothing without humidity. Of course, I just knew California would be prominent because… well just because it’s California.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the catalog of cities with the fewest exercisers were mostly southern cities. I almost stopped eating my extra-large helping of French fries. I think I should define what I consider a southern state. It used to be states that had Waffle Houses, but dang if the Georgia company didn’t go and move into places like Illinois, Delaware, and other such states that could never be southern. (Still not a single WH in California, which tells you everything you need to know about that state.) Now my definition is…well, now I just look at a map.

I thumbed through the inventory that went from least-bad couch potato to worst, and to my astonishment, 31 of the first 40 were southern towns. None were from Alabama, so at first, I was relieved. Then a creeping fear came over me. Surely not, I said. I actually said it aloud, causing the guy at the next table to move across the room.

The fear was realized. Decatur occupied the ninth worst. It was slightly better than Florence/Muscle Sholes that came in eighth. Dothan folks lounged on the couch at number five. Anniston/Oxford/Jacksonville (How is that one city?) placed third. But the number one location, the top spot that USA Today claims is where more people flock to in order not to exercise in the whole United States of America, is our own neighboring metropolis of Gadsden. Yes, Gadsden, Ala., is where that national newspaper says you move if you want to watch your arteries harden.

I almost stopped slathering my fries with ketchup. I was flabbergasted. How could they make that proclamation? How could they say, as they did, that 33.4 percent of our neighbors in Etowah County don’t exercise? That’s absurd. They may count the number of public gyms, but they have no idea of the number of treadmills, stationary bikes, and ellipticals in our basements being used as intended instead of a clothes hanger. (I first thought an elliptical was a device used in astronomy, but I’ve been set straight on that.) Using my home as an example, I regularly watch my wife walk on the treadmill. That’s solid proof my house has a hard 50 percent of exercisers, and I’m sure there are a lot of husbands in Gadsden who, like me, take great pride in watching their spouse sweat on their homebound equipment. This list obviously does not take that into account. Look at this slanderous, judgmental inventory of towns and decide for yourself.

I’d write more, but I’m currently training my dog to fetch the TV remote.