E!’s new exposé show features the wives and girlfriends (WAGs) of professional athletes as they give a glimpse into what the “real” life of dating an athlete entails. Even Sports Illustrated has picked up a review, titling it “Another Side Of Sports.” As a current “WAG” to a professional NFL athlete, the show’s promo, message, and trailer completely reiterates wrong stereotypes of what life actually is like for us.
To give you some background, my partner and I have been on the same team for four years. The women who make up the “WAGs” of his team are strong, supportive, and amazing individuals. When I first moved out to our city, I was terrified at the prospect of meeting “NFL Wives,” in part because of the negative connotation shows like this create. Upon meeting the women for the very first time, what you would consider a celebrity WAG greeted me with open arms and an open heart, breaking down any barrier I had originally foreseen.
When people find out what my partner does for a living, I often get the question of “What are the girls like?” My answer is simply that they’re just like any other girl you meet following college. Not everyone is going to be best friends, not because there’s some “hierarchy” as promoted on E!’s new show, or forced drama between women, but because that is the normal progression of personalities and friendships. My friends are not dependent on our dating status nor is it by our partner’s position on the team, but simply on whom I get along with best.
Additionally, these women have degrees, graduate education, and passionate goals. We support each other in our decisions to pursue a career or maintain the household. Women who have chosen to stay home with their families have chosen to do so in the same manner as any other family – in order to support their family, as opposed to the public misconception of freeloading off of the life of their partner. These women are mothers, accountants, housekeepers, chefs, and take on many other roles that I highly respect them for. Women who have chosen to pursue a career work in business firms, hospitals, training facilities, as entrepreneurs and working professionals, and are vastly supported by the people in our community.
The next reaction I often get is that knowing look from people who think they know what this lifestyle and career entails. E! promotes the ‘working WAG’ as models clawing their way to an engagement ring. The tagline even reads, “Who’s on top of the jersey chasing game?” What does this say about not only partners of professional athletes, but women in general? Those who know my partner and our relationship laugh at public’s perception of the WAG status and relationship. We met in college and developed our relationship throughout the past years of dating, as a lot of the couples around us have. The majority of NFL couples we know met in high school or college, before any paycheck, status, or promise of diamonds. Shows like this continue to perpetuate the superficial nature of relationships of professional athletes, missing the point that these are often the exception and not the reality.
The only thing E! seems to get right, or at least acknowledge, is the stress involved in balancing careers, family, and the demands of this profession. While professional athletes are categorized in the entertainment industry, it is still a job, and with any job comes certain stresses and successes. The reason the media fails to understand that the majority of the relationships within this life are just the same as any other profession is that normal is boring, and reality TV preys on disruptive entertainment to draw viewers in. Nobody’s going to want to tune in to an episode of a week of work, watching Netflix on the couch, and a friendly once a week girl’s night out where we get dinner and are home by 10. People want an escape when they tune into television programs such as E!; I just wish it wasn’t at the expense of the public perception of my friends and family.