By Jason Bryant
I am not a wrestling parent. I’m simply a parent. As I write this, I’m sitting in Terminal T of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m delayed on a flight back home to Minnesota.
Today is Father’s Day. It’s my second one.
Throughout the morning, I’ve been reading social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. I’ve changed my Facebook profile picture to one of the only pictures I have of me and my own father, from my wedding day just over four years ago.
I booked an early flight back to Minnesota to get home to have enough time to spend with my daughter Lucy. She turns two next week. Words can’t truly capture what it means to be a father for many people. There’s some great dads, some good dads, and unfortunately, there’s some not-so-good dads. I never thought about being a dad. Essentially being single for 29 years, the thought of getting married and having children terrified me.
Like a lot of dads, I look at my daughter as she runs around the house, climbs up on the couch, jumps up and down and looks to me, almost seeking my approval for an act that will likely not be fun as she grows. Lucy and my wife Abby are my life.
Five years ago, that wasn’t the case. I was for all intents and purposes, married to wrestling. I traveled the country. I traveled the world. I was covering one of the greatest sports on the planet and for a sports junkie like me, it was a grinding, but fulfilling dream job.
That all changed on June 21, 2012 when my daughter came into this world … just early enough for me to continue my streak of covering the USA Wrestling Junior Nationals. While my daughter would have a pretty lengthy stay in the NICU up in Denver, I joked that the wrestling gods brought Lucy into the world just early enough that my then-14-year streak of going to Fargo would remain interrupted.
Lucy probably won’t be able to play contact sports as she gets older. If all things were normal, I’d still be hesitant about my little girl getting on a wrestling mat. I’m a big proponent of women’s wrestling, but I guess your mindset changes a little bit when it’s your daughter.
I took Lucy to wrestling practice last Tuesday. It wasn’t about her getting on a mat, but I’m playing the role of a stay-at-home dad this summer. I watch Lucy from the morning until my wife gets home from work. I find bits and pieces of time to get some work done in between having tea parties, going to the park, playing on the swings and sliding down the slide with “the goose,” as we call her.
Two years ago, I left USA Wrestling. I honestly thought I was going to retire there. At the time I was hired, I was 30 and had covered hundreds of wrestling tournaments around the globe. From small youth tournaments in my high school gym to the Olympic Games in London. The reason I left wrestling was because I was a father.
The job I had at USA Wrestling was pretty travel heavy. The first year I was married, I saw my wife approximately seven days a month. When we found out Lucy was coming, the gears started to turn in my head. Could I maintain a job that saw me travel nearly 30 weekends a year? Could I be able to provide for my family and be the father I wanted to be if I was gone every weekend for three months like I was prone to do?
So after the Junior World Championships in Thailand, my wife and I decided to move back to Minnesota, where she’s from. I was never much of a homebody growing up. I announced eight sports in high school, worked nights at a newspaper and when I went to college, I started a website, announced wrestling tournaments and tried to focus on my career and hone my skills.
Amazing what a five-pound, three-ounce little girl can do to change your priorities. I don’t regret leaving what was a great job. I mean, it’s one of the few jobs in wrestling that has stability, the ability to travel and cover the best events in the world and be somewhat of a central part of the wrestling media. It fed my career, my ego and in some part, my dream of being a broadcaster.
Now, my dream is to be the best father I can be. So as I’m waiting to get on a flight to spend time with my daughter, I felt compelled to scribble a few notes down on Father’s Day for all the parents out there.
I remember hearing a fan at The Clash this year in Rochester, Minnesota tell another fan, “I’m not a lady, I’m a wrestling mother.” I got quite a chuckle out of that.
Wrestling dads come in all forms. There’s the crazy, borderline psycho people who scream and yell at everyone and everything. There’s the parent-coach who has wrestling as a key bond in their relationship with their child. Then there’s the low-key, reserved parent who goes to watch and lets the coach do the coaching and is supportive.
I’m hoping I don’t border on the psycho side, but we never really know how we’re going to act until that moment comes.
It’s been now a few hours since I started writing. I closed up the computer when I hopped on standby. I typically fly United. Now based back in Minnesota, it looks like Delta is going to be the main option. I’m back home in my office, having just read Lucy a story before she went to bed.
It’s my night time routine. She gets a bath, I read her a story and my wife puts her down to sleep.
I love wrestling. It’s my passion and my favorite sport. It’s almost as cool as being a father.
So to all of those dads out there, here’s to hoping you had a fantastic Father’s Day