Sunday morning before Ryan and I left for Cowboys stadium, I made sure I tweeted and Facebooked my usual reminder to make sure everyone tuned in to Football Wives. It was finally time for the season finale, and I knew we'd need big ratings for the network and producers to consider a second season. When I watched the episode that evening, I was devastated. The episode portrayed me as angry and bitter and someone consumed with envy and jealousy. It was upsetting because that certainly wasn't my reality, and after all of the work I've done to promote the show this season, it was hard for me to swallow that I'd been portrayed as the broken, miserable, bad guy (or girl).
Here's my final post-episode blog post. To say that I've learned a valuable reality t.v. lesson is an understatement. I wanted to be a part of the cast because it was finally an opportunity to tell what it's really like to be married to a pro-football player. But instead of focusing on the the reality of our life - making it through the transition, having a child with special needs, having a strong foundation with an appreciation for the important things in life - the drama in my edited reality took center stage.
We've already been told that there probably won't be a reunion show which doesn't surprise me. But I sure hope there is a season two - might give me an opportunity to set the record straight!
Have vs. Have Not
“Football Wives finale Sunday” was a highly-anticipated day in the Neufeld household. In addition to the airing of our final episode, we’d been invited by Amanda Davis to sit in her field-level suite at Cowboys stadium to see our home team take on the rival Washington Redskins. The Cowboys took an early lead but the defense faltered and the Redskins tied it up late in the fourth quarter. Our own David Buehler ended up kicking the game-winning field goal. The stadium erupted with excitement – we were so happy for him and Brittany.
Sunday was also a “first” for Ryan – it was his first time attending an NFL game when he wasn’t suited up on the field playing. I’m sure it was a little emotional for him and I bet he imagined himself on that field in front of 100,000 cheering fans making tackles and catching passes. But after standing for a quarter, Ryan had to sit down because his back started aching. We were reminded of the toll the game he’s played and loved for so many years has taken on him physically – he couldn’t play another season if he wanted to. I think knowing you can’t be on the field playing makes it a little easier to sit back and enjoy the show.
Shortly after kick-off, my cell phone started buzzing with texts, phone calls, Twitter mentions and Facebook messages. This was the first Sunday all season I haven’t caught the early airing of the show, and I’d have to wait all day to see what all the chatter was about. One message on Twitter said, “Just watched. Time to unfollow you. Wow. You can give it but you can’t take it…” “Take what?” I wondered out loud. Another message read, “I’m sorry but you’re a BITCH!! Let people live!!... How the hell you an attorney and mom?” Someone was attacking my credibility and ability to be a good mother based on what they saw on the show? Knowing that the finale featured our cast trip to New York, I thought back to what happened on the trip and while I knew there had been drama, I didn’t think it was all that bad and I wondered what I’d done to become the person people love to hate. A good friend who I love and trust then wrote, “Not liking your portrayal. You and Chanita look bitter. Poor editing.” As much as I’d anticipated the season finale, the comments had me pretty worried.
As I watched the show, I understood why people were saying I was bitter and jealous. If I were watching the episode and didn’t know me, I’d probably be going off as well. Why wouldn’t people think I’m overly consumed with Pilar when EVERY SINGLE SCENE I’m in, I’m talking about her? I’ve always taken responsibility for my behavior on the show (as I think everyone should), and I stand by the fact that what viewers have seen was real and not staged. What I cannot stand is when only part of the story is told. To see a four-day trip wrapped up in so much conflict and drama was disheartening. I certainly didn’t spend my time away from Ryan and the kids focusing on Pilar, though the storytellers sure would like you to think I did.
There are a couple things I noticed while watching the episode – did anyone else notice how busted everyone’s hair looked? We made it to New York just as tropical storm Nicole gripped the city and the humidity was awful. Many women reading this can relate to the havoc humidity can wreak on one’s coif. I think we took the Texas humidity with us to the big city.
Another thing I noticed – viewers don’t get to see how much fun we had in New York because of the drama. We took a private cruise around the city – what an awesome way to take in the sights! We marveled at the skyline, reflected when we closed in on Ground Zero, and saluted when we neared the Statue of Liberty. We had a ball! And the night Chanita, Erin, Brittany, Jay and I went out on the town, we didn’t get in until after 4 a.m.! We danced on couches singing “Come on Eileen” in one club and Diddy’s “Hello, Good Morning” in another. We hit up three different clubs that night and even took pictures in an empty Times Square before heading back to the Paramount where we were staying. I hadn’t had that much fun in years. It truly was a night to remember and Chanita and I talked about how it was one of those “bucket list” outings we’ll remember forever.
Our first night in New York, we ate dinner at The Strand and enjoyed the fabulous views of the Empire State Building from the rooftop. The clouds were rolling in and created an almost-magical backdrop for the evening. I meant what I said to Chanita that night – Pilar wasn’t thinking about us, so we had to make sure we didn’t let her ruin our trip. I was as confused as everyone else watching the episode – how could I go from telling Chanita we needed to move on to talking about Pilar in all the subsequent scenes? Interestingly enough, I think back to New York - Pilar and I were on the same return flight to Dallas after our trip. We stood about a foot apart waiting to board the plane when Pilar told me, “You know I don’t have a problem with you, right?” Could’ve fooled me…
The dinner on our last night in New York was a bummer for all of us. While the Pilar-vs.-everyone dynamic was expected, no one saw the Dawn-Chanita-Melani argument coming. Many people don’t understand why I became so upset with Melani at dinner. Truth is, she’d become a confidante and good friend. I often had long conversations with Melani while we were shooting the show. We’d talk about the “work” aspect of shooting a reality show and the relationships and conflicts that were forming. The week before we left for New York, I’d expressed to Melani my only concern about participating on the show – the fact that it could potentially affect my career as an attorney depending on how it was edited. I wondered if I’d be made to look like I drink excessively since the cameras always seemed to focus on my choice of beverage even though many of the other ladies were having a cocktail as well. I’d used profanity and taken a spin around a stripper pole on the back of a boat – activities that some might think are socially and/or professionally unacceptable – and it was all caught on camera. Melani told me to pray about it and tried to assure me that everything would be okay.
Being our resident peacemaker, Melani was understandably upset about the drama and tension. She expressed that she was tired of people being thrown under the bus for the sake of television. We were walking that fine line between creating an entertaining (i.e. drama-filled) television show while staying true to the women we are. It was hard to accept that the line was being crossed almost daily while we were filming, but my television background helped me understand that folks wouldn’t be tuning into Football Wives to watch us sing “Kumbaya.”
Viewers weren’t privy to these conversations I’d had with Melani so they wouldn’t understand why I was so sensitive to the fact that she’d bring up my career to call me out on my behavior towards Pilar. Melani had just thrown me under the same bus she was tired of everyone being under. I was incredibly hurt – I felt like I’d told someone my most intimate secrets in confidence and that she’d turned around and shouted them from the top of the Empire State Building. I know Melani never would’ve intentionally hurt me, and think she realized a major line had been crossed, which is why she immediately came up to me and apologized. I can appreciate what she was trying to accomplish that night, but I think she was trying to fix something that was beyond repair. It took us a couple of weeks to recover from that night, but we were eventually able to move on.
Another thing I found interesting about the episode – hearing all the name-calling Pilar did when she was around others or in front of the camera. Pilar has gone on and on about how we were always talking behind her back about her. I’m pretty sure I’ve told her directly exactly how I feel. I watched the episode and heard Pilar call us (Chanita and I) swine and “have nots.” Apparently neither of those are as bad as calling someone a “bitch.” She called me a green-eyed monster insinuating, like many have just come out and said over the last couple of months, that I am jealous of her. What bothered me the most is when she portrayed me as someone who is not grateful and thankful for what I’ve been given which can’t be further from the truth. I can say this as loud and as often as possible, but what good will it do if people think the “real” me is what they see in a show as drama-filled as possible edited into 22-minutes a week? Would anyone care if I had been accurately portrayed as someone content with her life?
The “have vs. have not”-theme was engrained in viewers from episode one – it made it easy for people to call Chanita and I jealous and bitter when the issue of money and status, and the alleged lack of it, has been the central theme of our season. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was so bothered by the finale. Then it hit me – I have never felt like a “have not” until I watched the final show. All this time I’ve considered myself a “have.” I have a healthy family, we have a roof over our heads, we have jobs and income. While we aren’t as financially secure as we used to be, we have been given plenty. I have an education and career. Ryan and I were so grateful every time he stepped foot onto an NFL field that we weren’t consumed with superstar status and I’d never contemplated that we weren’t “haves.” All this, and I was portrayed on the show as not being content with my life. To add insult to injury, the one person who actually did focus her attention on status and money during production was portrayed as the victim of relentless, unprovoked bashing and hatred, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. We’d all been told Pilar was the “name” behind our show – were the storytellers protecting the “have” to make sure she wants to come back if there is a season two at the expense of the “have nots?” It sure seemed that way to me.
The season finale lacked closure, but luckily for us, we had plenty in real life. The argument after my vow renewal in the last episode actually took place on the last day of filming. Right after we shot that scene, everyone congregated at Amanda’s house for one last hoorah. Well, almost everyone. Amanda said in New York, “You are who you hang out with.” I think back to the love and camaraderie that filled that room when we wrapped and I figure, I’m in good company.