I know sports isn’t exactly priority number one around here, but if there’s one sports story you’ll care about all year it’s this one. It’s got it all: a handsome hero, intrigue,
sword-fighting, ghost girlfriends, skullduggery, the media looking stupid, cover ups, Hawaiian Mormons, which I never knew was a thing until now, and the biggest football player in the sky: Jesus.
A Notre Dame football star was apparently the victim of a Catfish-style hoax, and everyone is freaking out about it. For good reason too, it’s super weird.
Or maybe he isn’t the victim at all? Maybe it was all part of an elaborate plot to engender sympathy and publicity? That’s the debate at the center of the biggest, most curious story in the world of sports and that border place where sports crosses over into popular culture to the degree that, like, you come in from the other room and are all “What’s this sports thing I’m hearing about now?” and then the sports person tells you.
You’ll want to read the original piece on Deadspin, Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax, to get the full, weird, confusing details, but as a quick breakdown, Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o, who was profiled high and low in almost every national publication even remotely concerned about sports, and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy (super good job college football guy #1), continually brought up, or was prompted to talk about, not only his recently deceased grandmother, but also his tragically dead girlfriend. Everyone reported on the existence of this girlfriend, from Sports Illustrated to ESPN, to the New York Times to your dad, sitting there in the chair on Saturday, as per dad, thinking to himself, “What a strong young man to have overcome this adversity in his young life and then go out and record so many tackles on other strong young men, not, however, quite as strong as this particular young, strong man,” thought your dad, dadly.
So far so normal, right? But like many virgins before him, and definitely no one who’s writing this blog post, Te’o's out of state girlfriend was a fabrication. The pictures being used for her online presence prior to her “death” were taken from another, now very upset, realer, more corporeal person. (Pause for joke about Catholic Notre Dame believing in invisible people that don’t exist). It’s probably worth mentioning here that I was involved in something similar to this when someone was using photos of me to Catfish a woman online.
Why though? Who would perpetrate such an in depth scam? And why would so many reputable media outlets swallow the lie? It’s almost like journalism isn’t a real thing.
It may have been a friend of Te’o's pulling one over on him, Deadspin suggests, although they also seem to fall down on the side of the football star being in on it himself.
Notre Dame have rallied behind their guy, sort of, by saying he wasn’t a liar and a fraud, just an idiot.
Here’s Te’os own statement, via ESPN.
“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”
I can’t decide which is worse, lying to the entire country, or being an adult man and thinking you were in love with a woman you’ve never actually met in person for an entire year. If nothing else, he’s right about one thing, this should serve as yet another reminder, as if we needed any more, that anything that seems too good to be true probably is. Also, no one loves you.