I was not born or raised in the D.C. area but all of my children were, and so I felt it was my solemn duty as a Good Sports Dad to take them downtown for the Capitals’ Stanley Cup parade, the first major title parade to take place here in nearly three decades. This was a celebration that was unprecedented in scope locally: hundreds of thousands of Caps fans—some longtime fans, others not so much—converging upon the National Mall for the culminating, emotional release of God knows how many hours of waiting and heartache. This parade also happened to be preceded by one of the greatest team bar crawls in modern history. And so this was a truly, truly extraordinary moment to be a part of…
…if you did not have children with you.
Because, as a neutral observer, let me just give you my formal review of taking your kids to one of these parades: it sucks! Why the fuck would do that to yourself? What are you, a moron? Don’t ever willingly drag your kids into the middle of this goddamn shitshow! All you’re doing is signing up for PAIN.
In theory, the championship parade is a family-friendly affair. It takes place during the day. It’s a rare and legitimate excuse to allow your kids to play hooky for the day. And other families also attend. I can’t believe I thought that last item was a selling point and not a drawback. Other families are fucking terrible! Why would I EVER want to be anywhere near them? I do not, and yet I didn’t realize that until we were packed onto a Metro train and it was far too late to do anything about it.
It’s not as if I wasn’t otherwise well-prepared. As a dad, the entirety of my labor during any excursion with my children involves food and water and bathrooms. Food and water and bathrooms. Food and water and bathrooms. If we are in a crowd and a child suddenly needs any one of those three things—and if I do not have it readily available—we are fucked. And so I did my due diligence and took my boys to eat, piss, and hydrate before wading into the growing mass. I even asked them if they had to shit.
“No,” they said.
“Are you SURE? Because there’s NO pooping after this! This is your best chance for poop action!”
“What happens at this parade?” they asked.
“Well the athletes go by and they show the trophy and everyone cheers. Also there are drunken speeches.”
“Oh.” They did not sound convinced this would be all that cool, but they still wanted to miss a day of school anyway. So we headed toward the National Mall only to realize we had made a critical error in our choice of Metro stop and could not access the Mall itself. Instead, we were stuck on the North side of Constitution Avenue, which had the advantage of being right along the parade route but had the implicit disadvantage of being a gigantic funnel to nowhere. This was as good as we were going to get, and so we had to accept our fate.
Did I mention kids are short? Because they’re short. My boys are 9 and 6 and both just a shade over four feet tall. This is not the optimal height for an event featuring 80 million people all standing on equal ground. At one point, we were standing on a tulip bed (trampling it, really), seeing if we could get a seat on a railing above. We could not. There was a slight opening behind a bunch of prickly hedges that fans were pouring into, and we briefly considered following everyone until one other lady was like UH UH I AIN’T GOIN’ IN NO BUSHES. Hard to argue.
Instead, I took my boys over to a collection of police barricades that had been lashed together. I let them stand on top of the barricades, because their view was much more important than their safety. Other kids did likewise, and then a bunch of teens (I could tell they were teens because they were juuling!) and some full-grown adults ALSO did likewise. So I’m standing there against the barricades, making sure this impromptu viewing platform doesn’t split and send one of my kids down, as if sending them into the open jaws of a fucking bear trap.
Meanwhile, the parade moseyed its way down the street, still not coming into view. I reassured my boys it would be any second now, but this was a LIE. They stood there on those hot metal rails forever, waiting for that shit. And when the parade finally did come, it was an endless, tortoise-slow procession of buses showcasing people none of us could recognize. It was only after the parade began that I realized pretty much every hockey player looks like T.J. Oshie, which makes spotting the real deal rather difficult. I had also forgotten that, when a team wins a title, they invite roughly four billion other people to be in the parade: friends, family, sponsors, personal steroid dealers, and such and such. At one point, Jose Andres came by on a bus, which was neat. Then again, WHERE’S THE GODDAMN CUP?!
Because the Cup was the star here today. It is the inanimate carbon rod of sports, and I rightfully assumed that it, along with newly minted god Alex Ovechkin, would be on the very last bus in the procession. I must have watched two dozens buses go by, hoping THIS would be the final one, the one that would give us that treasured look at the shiny, shiny Cup in all its glory.
But it never happened. My kids were flagging in the mild heat, their little feet growing tired standing on something that was not designed to be stood upon. I tried stalling with water and granola bars that I had on me, but that only worked for so long. One of the rowdy teens nudged in front of my kid and I nearly went Full Dad to be like “Excuse me, my son can’t see!” But that wasn’t necessary because the boys were already begging to go home anyway. They didn’t care if Batman himself was gonna come rolling down the street in two minutes. They wanted to get out of there. So we did. We did not see the Cup. We did not see Oshie crushing beers through his jersey. We did not see Ovechkin go Full Borat, as shown here:
This is entirely on me. As championship parades go, this one was well-organized, and everyone was extremely happy and friendly. They even handed out free placards, which was way cool except that I don’t like carrying things. I could see today being an absolute blast if you were seven feet tall and drunk and didn’t have to look after very small, needy people. I know it would have been cool because I was downtown when the Caps clinched and that was a blast. I was also alone. This was not a coincidence. And I bet it would have been deeply AWESOME to go with my bros, just bro-ing it up like fucking champs!
But that’s not what I did. Instead, I succumbed to the delusional, insurance-commercial vision of a father and his boys sharing a priceless, unforgettable moment of championship glory together. After all, who knows when I would get to drag my half-willing children into a sea of people with no toilets within eyeshot ever again? PRECIOUS. I am a moron and I should have known better. They could have gone to school today and I could have watched this shit on TV and had a taco. Instead, I played myself like a chump. Never take your kid to a parade. It’s so obvious. Christ.
Oh, and congrats to the Capitals.