I’m the father of three athletic, competitive boys.
And I, myself, am a former athletic, competitive boy.
That means things usually get interesting when the balls get rolled out around here for friendly family competitions.
Miniature golf, table tennis, Monopoly—nobody likes to lose at any of it. Ever.
So, on the competitive scale of Riley Family Events, a backyard game of one-on-one basketball ranks somewhere between a game of H-O-R-S-E and the NBA Finals.
Father: “Oh, come ON!”
Then maybe it’s a 10-minute breakdown of The Personal Foul, including roughly 7 minutes of debate, 2 minutes of dramatizations, and 1 minute of sarcastic feedback.
Bumps, bruises, scratches—even the occasional bloody lip is a badge of honor in these parts. At some point during the game, somebody will probably even have to call for a break in the action and walk around the court to cool off a little.
But we always end the game with a handshake and Bro Hug. After all, we’re Rileys, not Meechums.
Invariably, however, there is continued debate after the game about who fouled whom on that one drive to the bucket with the score tied late in the game. And that debate tends to carry back on up the driveway and into the kitchen.
Son: “Hack you?! Oh. my. GOD!”
My phone rings.
The Caller ID identifies it as my nephew. The one I grew up with. The one who is like a little brother to me. The one who is now 2,500 miles away. And the one who is intimately familiar with the rules of backyard basketball, Whiffle ball, horseshoes, four square, street tennis, Nerf hoops in the basement, wrestling in the living room when the adults have left the house, and one-on-one tackle football in the back yard during absolute downpours.
Yeah, that nephew.
Nephew: “Prison rules?”
We both laugh.
How quickly I’d forgotten.
We chat a bit. He’s looking for a Christmas bike for one of his daughters, remembers I know a guy back home. The call is quick—he’s standing in the store.
After I hang up, I turn toward my son.