Last week I was at one of Riley’s games, sitting next to Captain Loud. This guy’s frequent phone calls were exactly as top-volume as the rest of him, from his voice to the bedazzled crap on the back pockets of his jeans. (Side note about men’s jeans that feature glittery embellishments on the butt: the only clothing item that gives off a bigger red flag about the wearer’s personality is 1) a MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat, or 2) a pair of those rubbery toe shoes.) He appeared to be suffering from a grave vocal malady that rendered him incapable of speaking below a full-blown bellow, which he exercised nonstop as he simultaneously made phone plans to meet up later to “go over some touch points” and kept the entire gymnasium informed of his every passing thought and opinion about the 6th grade basketball game in play.

I was uncomfortably squashed next to him on the bleacher, which meant that every time he excitedly gestured towards his kid’s team’s hoop his hand would pass within millimeters of the tip of my nose. “GET THAT REBOUND!!” he’d shriek, and here would come his goddamned pointy finger, practically sliding across my face.

There are plenty of well-behaved adults who are there to cheer on their children, but I swear to god every game involves at least one unbelievable douchebag that John and I refer to as Captain Loud. Sometimes Captain Loud is someone’s mom, but usually it’s a dude. He has zero chill. He’s always hip to the conspiracy being carried out by the crooked ref. He has two or three catchphrases he shouts through the game, one of which usually involves the word “aggressive.” (“BE AGGRESSIVE, BOYS!” … followed by “GOOD HUSTLE!” whenever someone gets too aggressive and earns a foul). I am fairly certain his nonalcoholic beverage of choice is Monster Energy.

Middle school sports are proving worse than elementary school when it comes to parent behavior, I’ve now seen several where a particularly vocal dad got ejected from the game by the ref. Certain coaches aren’t much better, yelling and carrying on and dramatically bemoaning the calls while storming up and down the court as if this was March Madness instead of, you know, a bunch of impressionable 12-year-olds.

The one and only thing I like about kid sports is that my kids like playing sports, aside from their enjoyment the entire thing is a giant pain in the ass. The endless ferrying to and from practices, the weekend-devouring games, the continual need for new shoes, the millions of coaches’ emails and Bonzi notifications, those spine-destroying bleachers.

But maybe the worst part is the number of overly-invested, weirdly angry grownups. Next time I should pack a little something extra in my purse, just in case I’m sharing personal space with Captain Loud.


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At one point during our Vegas trip we were loitering near a slot machine for too long and a security guard came and nicely told us we had to move along because kids aren’t allowed in the gaming areas, also on Sunday night Dylan had a dramatic reaction to guzzling about fifteen sodas throughout the day, so we told him if anyone asks how his vacation went he can honestly say “I barfed from drinking too much and got kicked out of a casino.”

Anyway: we had a really, really great time.

Highlights included Dylan riding the New York New York roller coaster with John (I stayed with Riley, who took one look at the track and said “Can I cuss for this one? A small cuss? Because oh helllllllllllll no”); eating a crappy dinner at the Rainforest Cafe where Dylan was legitimately, entertainingly freaked out by the animatronics; how “interesting” became the family code word for Vegas’s more outrageous sights (Riley, as a pigtailed lady wearing a bra, white leather fringe miniskirt, and thigh-high denim boots minced by: “Well, that was interesting”); walking the Strip at night in a sea of neon and putrid cigar smoke while Dylan performed a series of dances to the ever-changing music blasting from casino entrances and daiquiri bars; shouting and pounding the table during the Tournament of Kings show at Excalibur (when the villain appeared and threatened the kingdom, Dylan got carried away and angrily yelled “IN YOUR DREAMS!” then clapped his hands over his mouth); and all of our airport shenanigans (we had an endless layover in Portland and spent most of the time laughing about how Riley had panicked on an escalator and hurled his backpack to the bottom where it got caught up in the tread and spun around in a slow, dejected circle).

We also went on the High Roller ferris wheel, which was absolutely exhilarating. There was an older couple in our car with their adult son, and the dad kept staring intently at his phone as we ascended. I was thinking, really? I mean Facebook is great and all but have you tried looking at this jaw-dropping view? But then I heard the wife say, “Are you okay?” And he was like: “Nope!” When the ride was over, he told John they’d debated for an hour before getting on, and he’d been pants-shittingly terrified the whole time. So perhaps the High Roller isn’t for everyone, but we thought it was pretty great, even though you are trapped in a giant hamster ball for 30 minutes without a bathroom which, as Riley pointed out, instantly makes you highly aware of everything you’ve had to drink, like, ever.

All in all, a fairly perfect little family getaway. Thanks for always being awesome at every stage of my life, Las Vegas.

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