Home of the Vikings

Going home can sometimes be “interesting,” even when it’s somebody else’s home you’re visiting.

Home of the Vikings

That legacy visit was my treat as I caught an annual dose of Tigard High School boys basketball as the Tigers visited the Forest Grove Vikings last week. While I don’t think history books show Vikings making it to the Pacific Northwest (nor tigers either, but a least the alliterative play off the founding forefather Wilson Tigard in 1852 makes sense), it’s a fun moniker in the land of 9 months of gray, cold and rain.

The game my high school senior year rendition of the Tigers – arguably one of the better teams in decades to never make it to the Oregon high school tournament – played against the Vikings in Forest Grove was a barnburner: a packed house full of  adults and kids, roaring non-stop as two well-schooled teams traded baskets most of the game before we visitors pulled away. The headline from that senior year’s Tigard yearbook, “Senior Cagers Compile Successful Season Mark,” was misleading:


no one on our team thought we’d done well when expectations had been to take a league title and do some hurt in the state tourney.

What was not misleading was to play in venues in suburban Washington County filled with straight, white people, an experience I relive whenever I visit southern Marin County where my son goes to grade school in Corte Madera. The places Tigard played years ago looked a lot like much of southern Marin today – not very ethnically diverse with many moms holding down roles as stay-at-home parents and few people of color.

When the high school’s head librarian, a single white woman, adopted a black child, the news didn’t create just a local buzz, it drew national attention; the story ran as the front page cover story in Life Magazine, the leading narrator of the national mood.

Some things have changed for Tigard. Gyms (sadly) are mostly empty of fans, symptomatic of a much discussed decline of boys basketball in the state.  Tigard High and Washington County in general has fortunately gotten more diverse: Tigard had 2 kids decades ago who were ethnic minorities out of 350 kids in the senior class. It now runs a 38% non-Anglo rate, reflective of a tremendous surge in kids with a variety of ethnic heritages. More women work for pay out of the home rather than stay at home and work for no pay.

An area like southern Marin might take demographic hope; affluent Washington County, where Tigard is located, is your demographic future if not already your present.

What has not changed going home to Oregon in February is the cold and rain. And the visiting boy’s varsity Tigers beat the home team Vikings 75-41.

Some things, after all, may never change.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

Photo: Forest Grove High School gymnasium

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