(The Root) — The so-called fairy tale has turned out to be a nightmare. Reality-show stars Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson and Evelyn Lozada's romance has officially come to a screeching halt. [UPDATE: Lozada filed for divorce on Tuesday, claiming her 41-day-old marriage to Johnson is "irretrievably broken," according to reports.] Johnson was arrested over the weekend on a domestic-violence charge after allegedly head-butting Lozada in a car. Apparently, the two were arguing over a receipt for a box of condoms found in the trunk of his car.
Following Johnson's arrest, VH1 pulled their reality show, Ev and Ocho, from the schedule because of the "seriousness" of the incident. And the Miami Dolphins terminated his contract, which could be the final nail in the coffin of a once-promising NFL career.
Johnson's real-life excellence on the football field is now a mere memory, thanks to the bright lights and overexposure of reality television. Some may forget that he is a six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and instead mostly recall his foray into reality television on The Ultimate Catch, Dancing With the Stars, The T. Ocho Show (with fellow NFL troubled player Terrell Owens) and eventually Basketball Wives as the love interest of hot-tempered Lozada. Johnson's willingness to moonlight in that world has cost him the job of a lifetime — the possibility of playing and retiring with the Miami Dolphins, his hometown team.
Johnson's fall from grace reflects the reality of life unscripted. Unlike reality television, where folks fight it out — physically and verbally — with few consequences, real life may not have a security team, gaffers or camera operators on standby to break up altercations. There is no editor to "edit around" a fight scene so you don't violate parole or get charged with domestic violence. If you get in a fight or allegedly attack your wife, there are consequences, some of which are jail time, the loss of a job and the loss of your reputation in the community.
Fans of Basketball Wives know that Johnson and Lozada's "relationship" included constant bickering and struggles over defining their status. At one point, Lozada acquiesced to Johnson's philandering, giving him permission to have sexual relations with other women outside of the marriage and to invite women into the bedroom as long as she approved of his choices.
The marriage was never based on so-called traditional values in the first place, which is why it is perplexing that Lozada would be angry about finding a receipt for condoms in the trunk of their car. Shouldn't she be happy that her husband is using condoms with the women he beds outside of their marriage?
Sadly, Johnson blurred the lines between reality television and real life. The ridiculousness of seeing Lozada and him on HBO's Hard Knocks spoke to just how far Johnson had allowed his reality-television career to overshadow his real job as a professional football player. Despite stating that he lost himself last year, Johnson clearly had forgotten how he earned his bread and butter, traipsing around with his wife and interrupting an important meeting in the process.
When you are talented and lucky enough to have an 11-year, largely blemish-free run in the NFL, that is what should be nurtured and protected, not a reality-show career culminating in a marriage that should really have been just a fling, if we're keeping it real. Lozada is learning a lesson as someone on the other end of an alleged assault. The same woman who chastised her former BFF Jennifer Williams for filing suit against Nia Crooks after Crooks slapped Williams on national television is now pressing charges against her attacker. I guess it's all kicks and giggles when you're the one fighting and jumping on women on TV, but not very funny or easily dismissed when you're on the other end of an alleged violent act in real life.
Reality has bitten both Johnson and Lozada, serving as a cautionary tale. What works on television does not necessarily work in real life, and both are learning this lesson the hard way.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., a media scholar, is digital editor in chief at Grady Newsource and a faculty member of the Cox Institute of Journalism, Innovation, Management & Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is founder and editor in chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter here or here.