Why Do We Want to Keep San Antonio Lame?

San Antonio can be described as the Barney Fife of metropolitan cities; a gun affixed to our hip, but no bullets to load it, easily befriended and outsmarted by our own prisoners who frequently walk out of the jailhouse after stealing the keys from our pockets. The argument is this: We're located in beautiful central Texas, 80 miles from the "Live Music Capital of the World," with a population creeping over 1.5 million, but no valid entertainment options for us Spurs-obsessed San Antonians to enjoy our pedestrian lives with. In many ways we're inextricably linked to Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld, and the River Walk -- forced-fun tourist traps with steep sticker prices. Outsiders can't get over the fact that there aren’t a ton of other things to do in this city. What was once an intelligent response to Austin's "Keep Austin Weird" moniker, "Keep San Antonio Lame," is now fodder for SA skeptics. Are we lame?  

San Antonio Man
Benjamin Davis/Thrillist

Why we should embrace the slogan

It's been said before but San Antonio itself is reflected so well by the Spurs organization -- overlooked and underrated. The Spurs have had Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and David Robinson lead them to championships whereas the city has trotted out modesty, self-deprecating humor, and an appreciation for tradition to help us fly under the radar. We're a mid-sized media market that shuns hipsterism and embraces artists like Flaco Jimenez, Doug Sahm, and George Strait. We idolize a basketball team that for years has been criticized for it's "boring style of play." We're used as leverage in NFL expansion talks and excited about a AAA baseball team relocating to our city.

But all of this would-be critique is exactly what makes us different -- our humility. We embrace our lameness because it prevents San Antonio from becoming the next Austin: a self-aware city in the midst of a hard-to-watch identity crisis. In many ways, our lameness is our eagerness to support local artists, restaurants, and venues. It's also our welcoming culture, and our laid back attitude. Just like Tim Duncan and his relaxed, yet confident demeanor on the court, we know exactly who we are, and 'lameness' is part of the equation.

"I do think [the slogan] still has relevance, both in terms of remembering our history and roots, as well as a reminder that bigger is not always better," says Aaron Forland, creator of the "Keep San Antonio Lame" slogan, "that the personality and quirk inevitably born of a rasquache culture has a lot to do with the enduring charm and deep creative wellspring here; that money/fame/success can create new opportunities but also carry the risk of losing a hard-to-define but vital essence."

Why we should denounce the slogan

If we did we wouldn't have so many mind-numbingly dull conversations with people who dislike our city. Would "Keep San Antonio Really Cool" be better? Or, how about, "Keep San Antonio The Best City In The Whole World?" Maybe then these conversations would finally end. When we wholeheartedly accept an idea that we're "lame" without a thorough understanding of the origins of our slogan, the skeptics win. They're armed with an ill-informed version of our own identity and have used our self deprecating humor against us.

"[The slogan] was always kind of a litmus test in terms of who got it and who didn't," says Forland. "When one releases an idea into the wild, one gives up a certain ability to define and control interpretation, and it was always an idea that worked on multiple levels both straight-faced and ironic, with a level of ambiguity that allowed it to mean different things to different people"

Ultimately the slogan is what we make of it. Some residents will always believe the city lacks viable entertainment options -- will altering the slogan change that? Probably not, but "Keep San Antonio The Best City In The Whole World" has a nice ring to it. Should we get someone in the entertainment industry like Robert Rodriguez or Shawn Michaels to deliver that line in a commercial? Nah, they've got plenty going on as it is.

Are we actually lame?

Depends on who you ask, and what their definition is, but if a city that celebrates its own history, supports its creative community, and embraces modesty is lame, then definitely. San Antonians have always made it a priority to preserve what keeps our city special -- and lameness is part of it all. It's supporting artists, musicians, local businesses, and the venues that back them. If this is lame, the lameness is worth celebrating. If the city is deemed lame by an SA critic and their attack is based on a lack of entertainment options or some other common, overused trope then the answer is probably no. How can a rapidly growing city with a blossoming art scene, and strong local bar and restaurant scenes be labeled lame?

Steps you can take to keep San Antonio lame

According to Forland, keeping San Antonio Lame is about supporting our local businesses, artists, and community. "Continuing education and civic engagement are also big themes that are never far from my mind. Staying well-informed, being able to think critically about the past, present and future of our city, and a willingness to acknowledge and discuss both the good and the bad are, to my mind, the keys to keeping things lame."

So San Antonians, wave your lame flag proudly. Support the San Antonio Missions. Shop at HEB. Love and/or hate the River Walk (just make sure your opinion is strong). Attend City Council meetings. Go Spurs Go. Proudly wear your Tim Duncan jersey. Eat at Datapoint, Paloma Blanca, Taco Cabana, and Bill Miller's. Support local music (D.T. Buffkin, Girl in a Coma, Lonely Horse). Avoid 410 like the plague. Keep making tacos that are better than Austin's. Party on the strip. Take a picture with Spurs Jesus. Collect as many Fiesta pins as humanly possible. Ask for an entire week off for Fiesta… every year.

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Stephen is a Datapoint apologist. Follow him to barbacoa and Big Red joints @stephen__ross.