Untangling the complex Manti Te’o hoax is like getting gum out of Samoan hair. Not even Olivia Pope would touch this mess. The possibility that a high character, humble and introverted star Notre Dame linebacker could make up a lie about a dead girlfriend that would develop into the first non-sex scandal in U.S. history, is unbelievable.
Te’o, a spiritual man, once told ESPN, ‘Faith is believing in something that you most likely can’t see’. Nobody suspected his seemingly mature frame of mind applied to his love interests. In the aftermath of his revelation, Te’o is either being vilified for his odd idea of a courtship or because many believe he pulled the wool over the nation’s head
As much as we as a society tend to believe in the innocent until proven guilty mantra, Te’o is awaiting his sentence in the court of public opinion despite the hung jury. If Te’o is guilty of using the death of his non-existent girlfriend to gin up publicity for Notre Dame and his senior season, then he’s a publicity genius and a pathological liar. On the other hand, he may be the biggest dope since Snow White lived with the Seven Dwarves. He also may have fooled a private investigation firm as well as current Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.
While observers have often compared Te’o to a young Ray Lewis, nobody expected to him to get embroiled in a controversy that would dwarf Lewis’ murder trial. Unlike Lewis, Te’o is suspected in being complicit in the death of an imaginary woman. Like Lewis, nobody may ever know for sure whether Te’o was duped or Te’o duped America.
Lewis won a Super Bowl the year after his murder charges were downgraded to obstruction of justice. It’s very possible that Te’o’s knowledge of his involvement in a humiliating 21st century catfishing scheme, whether he was complicit or not, was about to go public and it affected his poor BCS Championship Game performance.
However, let’s pretend he wasn’t a Mormon attending Notre Dame, a Catholic University. Let’s say he was an agnostic at LSU. You’d subtract a little benefit of your doubt. After muddling through the facts and conjecture, Te’o’s story has more holes than the Titanic. Te’o claims to have met Lennay Kekua while she was a student at Stanford. From there, the two conducted a long distance relationship via the Internet and phone.
He never visited her after she was diagnosed with leukemia after she was injured in a wreck involving a drunk driver. Once he learned of the love of his life's death he never attempted to use the media or Notre Dame resources to discover where her funeral was being held or where she was buried. He probably never even Googled her.
People that gullible follow cult leaders. They can’t lead NFL defenses.
Individuals have not been fooled like this before. This fad has been documented frequently on MTV’s Catfish and in the 2010 documentary Catfish. Unfortunately, both are staged, allegedly. As ridiculous as it may seem, catfishing is phenomenom that occurs frequently. However, Skyping is just as common. One of the strikes against Te’o is that he never even Skyped her.
Te’o also spoke of his girlfriend’s death two days after he learned she may not be dead after all. Here’s what Te’o told Chris Fowler at ESPN’s Awards Show in Orlando on December 8th.
I think I’ll never forget the time when I found out that, you know, my girlfriend passed away and the first person to run to my aid was my defensive coordinator, Coach [Bob] Diaco, and you know he said something very profound to me, he said ‘this is where your faith is tested.’ Right after that, I ran into the players’ lounge and I got on the phone with my parents – and I opened my eyes and my head coach was sitting right there. And so, you know, there are a hundred-plus people on our team and the defensive coordinator and our head coach took time to just go get one [of those players]. You know I think that was the most meaningful to me.
The inconsistencies begin to pile up like Dwight Howard’s missed free throws and the tide of public opinion has turned against and bowled over Te’o to an extent Eddy Lacy only wishes he could.
According to an anonymous former teammates, Te'o was not a con-conspirator but teammates were under the belief that they had only met once and that as the story grew in proportion, he played along. The teammate also told ESPN that Te'o liked attention so much that he would sometimes point himself out to friends when he was on television.
There are two angles to theories surrounding Te’o’s involvement or lack thereof. Catfishing may also be a new outfit for an old trick. Remember, the Michael Jackson child molestation trial? On Thursday, ESPN's Mike Wilbon, harkened back to an on-air conversation he share with Te'o and noted his childlike sensibilities. Jackson also possessed a child-like view of the world despite his immeasurable talent. Four years after his death, the circumstances surrounding whether he was set up remain murky. Friends of MJ say he was too trusting. Sound familiar?
A year ago at this time, we believed Penn State’s Joe Paterno was a holier than thou, legendary coaching figure, wrongfully terminated by a bloodthirsty Penn State administration. We soon learned that wasn’t the case.
There may also be a 100-yard middle ground in the truth between Te’o as victim and perpetrator. At some point Te’o may also have learned of the hoax and continued the rouse to hide the egg on his face. Desperate times call for deesparate measures.
Two years ago, the most gullible man in Great Britain was transformed into a pathological liar after getting scammed out of £50000. Paterno was initially unaware of Sandusky’s pedophilia but he threw himself into the fray by failing to adequately out Sandusky or at the very least bar him from campus.
Nobody will admit they believe Te’o’s shaky story out of fear of appearing naïve or gullible. Some men are extremely gullible. Some of us buy gas for beautiful women at gas stations, get victimized by cyber criminals and leave our vast fortunes to mistresses 60 years our junior.
Swarbrick called Te’o the single most trusting human being he’d ever met’. However, Te’o will receive a healthy dose of skepticism from the rest of us.