Bizarre. Weird. Unfathomable. No word fully captures the head-scratching story of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, and the dead girlfriend who never existed.
If I’m somehow breaking this to you–and I’m not sure that’s possible, unless this blog is the first thing you checked upon leaving your cave–Manti Te’o repeatedly told the inspiring story of how his grandmother and girlfriend both died the same week in September. The grandmother is really dead. The girlfriend is not. She was never alive. She’s a hoax. (First reported by Deadspin.)
Notre Dame says Te’o is the victim. He fell in love with Lennay Kekua over the internet, phone calls, and texts. Te’o says he’s embarrassed. Humiliated. I don’t doubt it.
There are many unanswered questions.
Why did Te’o and his family talk of meeting the girlfriend in Hawaii? We know now they didn’t.
How can you fall in love, grieve, and dedicate a football season to someone you’ve never actually seen? That’s just odd.
The “girlfriend” attended Stanford, or so the story goes. No one at that proud university ever thought to find more on a student who died of leukemia while dating one of the nation’s most famous football players? And since there was no real girlfriend, just who was on the other end of all those phone calls?
What are the motives of whoever perpetuated the hoax? Gambling, extortion, and chuckles among the cruel possibilities. Or is Te’o more involved than Notre Dame suggests? Reporters and fans ate the story up. Te’o moved up the Heisman watch list.
Then there’s the media. How did so many reputable members of the fourth estate fail basic fact checking? I don’t know, but I suspect once the fairy tale appeared in Sports Illustrated, others were lazy and just assumed the story true. It’s not a proud day.
Read this example from Pete Thamel’s Sports Illustrated story on Te’o: “Relatives told [Te’o] that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice.” One problem. She didn’t exist. So she definitely wasn’t on her deathbed.
Fatigue for this story will soon set in. Right now, I can’t get enough. It’s fascinating. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen the movie Catfish. (It’s not about fish. It’s about online love, and how it often isn’t what it seems. Worth renting or streaming.)
If anything good came out of the this, it’s that no one cares about Oprah’s interview with Lance tonight. We already have a good idea what questions Oprah will ask, and what answers Lance will provide. If Oprah wants to impress us, sit down with Te’o. Now that, I’d actually watch. If she lands the dead girlfriend, pay-per-view.
Meantime, Notre Dame might like going back to irrelevance in football. January hasn’t been much fun. First, Alabama pantsed the Irish on national TV. Now, Notre Dame’s example of everything right in a student-athlete, had an imaginary relationship with a woman who didn’t exist. At least she didn’t die.
Wow. Just wow.