By Jeff Girod
Abandon ship! A father is accused of throwing his 7-year-old son overboard during a sightseeing cruise in Newport Harbor. Sloane Briles, 35, of Irvine, was on a 42-foot boat with his girlfriend and two sons from a previous marriage when Briles allegedly told his crying son he needed to “toughen up.” That’s when Briles tossed the boy in the water five feet below, said Charlie Maas, who oversees the tour company.
In his defense, Briles told KTLA-TV Channel 5 that he did nothing wrong and that he and his son “were having fun.” Hey Sloane, I like to have fun, too. But usually when I play games I don’t use my son as the actual Frisbee.
A 911 caller who was also on the boat described Briles as drunk. He was drunk all right — drunk on seeing the sights of Newport Harbor. Am I right, Briles?!
Ever since Briles allegedly went fishing with his kid for bait, the Orange County locals have been working themselves into a feeding frenzy, like a hungry school of bronzed snapper. Let the over-reaction begin! Wrote one commenter on latimes.com: “What a piece of garbage . . . I’d say public caning (30-50 lashes) would be appropriate . . . ” But even a caning isn’t enough for some: “All those in favor of castrating this fool, and insuring he never can breed or be around kids again, raise your hand!”
Look, I’ll be the first guy to say that you shouldn’t throw a perfectly good kid away. But beating Briles to death with a cane and removing his genitals seems a wee bit harsh. Because last I checked, 7-year-olds are still waterproof. And with the amount of video games kids play, any exercise is beneficial. (Do you have any idea how many calories you can burn while not drowning?)
Do I disapprove of what Briles did? Of course. He tried to wash ’n‘ wear his son. But a few points about the incident. It was in a harbor. In Newport. In August. And there’s a big difference between Newport harbor in the summer time and the open sea.
This wasn’t a scene from The Perfect Storm with George Clooney and Marky Mark clinging to the side of a capsized schooner. This was arguably some the richest swath of land, er, water, per capita in the United States. If anything, the kid was more likely to get hit by Mr. and Mrs. Howell in a paddleboat.
And depending on when or where the child was when he splashed down, he probably could have swum to a multi-million dollar oceanfront condo or a five-star seafood restaurant. And steak ’n‘ lobster sounds like a vast improvement over a grease fire dad and a boring ol‘ boat tour.
Plus the child in question is 7 years old, so enough with the argument that he could have drowned. No child in Southern California makes it to his first loose tooth without learning how to swim. You can’t go to a theme park, birthday party or daycare center without tripping over a log ride, Slip ’n Slide or above ground pool. “Hey kids, it’s 95 degrees for the 200th day in a row, what do you want to do? Swimming again? Okay!”
I’m not going to lie to you. There’s a reason I can understand where Sloane Briles is coming from: It’s because I have been drunk on a boat. And at times I have wanted to throw everyone off of that boat. Mix in a screaming girlfriend, fighting kids and a big batch of stupid, and it’s a marvel Briles didn’t try to ram the entire harbor into an exploding iceberg.
Wives, girlfriends and children are some of God’s special people we cherish most. But tell me we all haven’t had at least one fleeting thought: “I wish I could just push their cute, smushy faces into a watery crevasse.”
And I think it’s for this reason why Briles has conjured such a visceral reaction in all of us. Because deep down in places we don’t talk about at regattas, we’re all Sloane Briles. We drink too much, we get in fights and we love to throw things.
Except usually the things we throw aren’t first-graders.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.