Being “second best” is nothing to be ashamed of

I too love ‘second best’ the best

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

If you ever watch Saturday Night Live (or even if you don’t), I’d encourage you to find a recent episode hosted by Chance The Rapper whose introductory song was a tribute to his hometown of Chicago – popularly known as The Second City (second only to New York, where SNL is filmed).

The point of the song was “I love ‘second best’ the best”.  (1*)

As the song ran through the “second best” of soft drinks, search engines, fast food places and much more, I couldn’t help thinking about Tacoma.

Tacoma is many things and has much to offer in every respect from recreation, art and culture and quality schools to desirable and (relatively) affordable housing.

But what haunts Tacoma over, under and around all that is our unrelenting sense of being “second best”.

Most of us in Tacoma love what Seattle has to offer – from unequalled employment opportunities to concerts, conferences and one of a kind events – but for most of us, Tacoma or Pierce County is home.

Even if we could afford to live in Seattle (which, truth be told, few of us could) the nuisance factor is just too high – literally making your way around the streets, even on foot, is precarious and dense with unexpected potential surprises.

Just a few steps from gleaming towers, even within their shadows, you might find a level of human squalor and desperation you might not have imagined possible.

Yes, of course Tacoma and outlying areas of Pierce County have poverty – and ragged and filthy homeless camps, but for the most part our homeless population is made up of locals who, to some degree, still have a residue of family and friends who are willing – maybe even eager – to help them out of the cycle of homelessness, disease, substance abuse and incarceration.

For most of the homeless in Pierce County help is never far away.

For too many of us in Tacoma and around Pierce County, homelessness is only a few paychecks away and, since Tacoma (like Puyallup, Lakewood and many other local towns) is, above all, a small town, it is always a possibility that you might run into someone you used to know under that tarp or holding that sign.

As Chance The Rapper put it, “second best” is not so bad – in fact, on the scale of possibilities, the whole idea of “best” is subjective, if not questionable.

Yes, Seattle is unquestionably the “best” in ways that can be easily quantified like employment, average income and stable, if not ever-expanding, economic potential.

If you are looking for glitz, panache and international name recognition, Seattle is your city.

But if you want connections with people, space for yourself, your family or your dream, Pierce County almost certainly has it waiting for you.

Yes, Seattle has opportunities second to none in the world, but Tacoma/Pierce County has possibilities that Seattle could never dream of – but many of us can – and are anchoring our dreams to solid foundations, and know all too well that we could only do it in a place like this.

Tacoma has pockets of interest for every income, ability and weather. Photo: Morf Morford

Tacoma has pockets of interest for every income, ability and weather. Photo: Morf Morford

The list of businesses and products that began or were first envisioned in Tacoma is long and vast, from Costco to Mars candy to Baskin & Robbins with barely a nod of recognition to their roots in Tacoma.

I even heard that several “A” level actors and celebrities make their homes in and around Tacoma.  (2*)

It makes sense when you think about it.

If you wanted to be left alone, and allow your children to have normal friends and educational experiences – and wanted to live where the paparazzi would never find you – or even look for you – could you think of a better place to live than Tacoma?

After all, any studio is a short flight away, and nothing beats taking a leisurely neighborhood walk with the family or puttering around the yard after a hard day of rehearsals or recording.

Most of us expect celebrities to live in the “best” cites – New York or Los Angeles, for example.

But they know better. Having a stable and safe home life is more important – and being able to take part in those small, neighborly gatherings like block parties – as equals – is more memorable, and certainly more enjoyable than being hounded by photographers.

You can do that in a “second best city”.

Photo: Morf Morford

Photo: Morf Morford

For entrepreneurs, the most important attribute of any community is one that affords the “opportunity to fail”.

Seattle is a wonderful place for that vision that has taken shape and is ready for “prime time”.

If your idea is still taking shape, Tacoma and Pierce County offers room for you to thrash around and learn form your mistakes and polish your vision before you present it to the world.

And yes, when you make it big, you don’t need to thank us, or even acknowledge us.

We will understand. We know that in the eyes of the marketers and those seeking global name recognition, we will always be “second best”.

We are okay with that. It’s who we are.

Go ahead and make your name, make your fortune, change the world, we will always be here.

Some cities are too small, some are too large but some are just right.


(1*)    You can see it here –

(2*)    At least one is a neighbor of mine.


A rap ode to Tacoma

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Chance The Rapper inspired me to set out my own rap about the place I know best – yes, a beginner’s attempt to capture Tacoma in rap….

Tacoma ain’t Seattle,
that’s what I’ve always heard,
don’t want to be a tattle,
but the statement is absurd

It’s Seattle that ain’t Tacoma,
I gotta set it straight,
We both ain’t Arizona
we’re small but we can still be great.

Our view of the mountain is better,
and don’t ask which one’s wetter,
our students study science
way out in Point Defiance

We got a car and glass museum
and people come to see ‘em,
we got a great library
and a park we call “Blueberry”.

The homeless aren’t anonymous
missing a check or two
they could be anyone of us.

And hey Seattle, we kept our dome
and most of us can afford a home,
we got streets named after presidents
and lots of leafy trees
more people want to be residents
and they never want to leave.

No one comes here on their own
fate brings them, brings us all.
Born or brought here,
We make Tacoma home.