I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and boy do I have a doozie for you.
A story straight out of a Lifetime movie script. A real life story which is certainly stranger than fiction, except it is fiction. In part.
Notre Dame star linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o has been embroiled in a web of deceit that may never be completely unraveled . By now I’m sure you’ve heard the basic story. A moving story about Te’o's girlfriend who died of leukemia penned in the pages of Sports Illustrated and embellished in an ESPN Gameday piece and a story in a South Bend newspaper which offers the backstory to how they met and how the relationship developed. Of course, it has all been exposed as a great big hoax in a story published on Wednesday on Deadspin.com.
There was no girlfriend. She did not exist. Pictures of her on facebook were “borrowed” by a friend or acquaintance of Te’o from another’s facebook account and used to create this fictitional Stanford college student who originally befriended the superstar and later entered into a ‘relationship” with him. Of course, I use the term “relationship” very loosely. How much of a relationship can you actually have with a person you have never actually seen or met in person? The holes in the story by all involved are deep and wide. Cavernous, if you will.
The question is how could a famous superstar of the level of a Heisman Trophy candidate be duped at this level? How did an institution as well known as Notre Dame be pulled into a hoax of this magnitude? Why did traditional sports media outlets not do their homework and end up producing puff pieces which we now know were complete fabrications? If Te’o is indeed innocent and a victim of a cruel hoax then where did the info for the stories especially the newspaper article which provided the backstory for the relationship come from? Surely he went along with the ruse or at the very least provided knowingly untruthful information. Even his parents were quoted in the article giving knowingly untruthful information about the supposed relationship that was not.
The story itself offers more questions than answers. Who would perpetrate such a hoax and why? What could possibly be in it for them? If Te’o is indeed an instigator and not an innocent victim, it begs the question of why? What would he stand to gain? While the story is heartwarming and fascinating, it was not necessary in any way to his increase his award probabilities. He would be no worse off by not telling the story than by telling the story, true or otherwise.
Notre Dame athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, held a press conference to detail a timeline of when Te’o first became aware that the woman he referred to as his girlfriend was an elaborate hoax, when and how he contacted Notre Dame officials, and what the plan of action has been since that point forward. It becomes almost Watergate-esque with the inevitable who knew what and when? Why was this just coming to light now over a month and a half after Te’o and Notre Dame were supposedly contacted about the ruse?
And just when you thought if couldn’t get any deeper, Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia claims to have known the alleged “fake” and dead girlfriend “pretty well”. Here’s an excerpt from the ESPN article.
“This was before her and Manti,’ Mauia said. “I don’t think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was — I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa.”
Mauia said Tuiasosopo — whom Mauia believes is Kekua’s cousin — introduced the two. After the initial meeting, Mauia said he met her at an “after-party” for all of the athletes involved in the camp.
“She was tall,” he said. “Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model … ”
He said it is his understanding that Kekua’s mother is operating her Twitter account. He said he’d never met her mother. When told by a reporter that she apparently might not have existed, Mauia said: “No, she is real.”
So there you have it. The girl that doesn’t exist, who has no death certificate on record, and no record of anyone by that name listed as having been enrolled at Stanford, is “real”. The ridiculous just became bizarre.
So here we are, a Heisman Trophy finalist and one of the most prestigious football schools in America embroiled in a “truth is stranger than fiction” tale which is utterly embarrassing at best and may eventually end up costing Te’o money and Notre Dame officials their job.
I, The Monday Morning Quarterback, for one, am not buying the “victim” status that Te’o and Notre Dame have concocted. Even if he was duped by elaborate hoaxsters, he still put out knowingly false information for which he received much recognition, admiration, and quite possibly award votes. That, in and of itself, in my mind makes him victimless. If you and you’re buddy hold somebody up and then he holds you up, are you a victim? NO! It’s called Karma.
Notre Dame, who has pretty much covered up the hoax since being informed, allegedly back in late December is not victimless either. Lately, Notre Dame has been involved in way more controversial topics than they care to be and this is just simply the cherry on the whipped cream on the icing on the cake.
The traditional sports media who love to rib bloggers as hack journalist wannabes failed to corroborate any of the heartwarming tales that were told and left themselves open to being scooped by investigative reporting bloggers. Kind of ironic isn’t it?
So as the story gets deeper and deeper the questions merely multiply and the full truth may never be revealed. The Monday Morning Quarterback feels that lies have been propagated throughout this morality play and continue to be repeated by the major actors in this event in order deflect blame and commence damage control.
I’m inclined to believe that the only victims here are the truth and the sporting public who put faith in athletes, institutions, and media members trusting that the information that they allow in their living rooms is accurate and above board. If, in some way, it is discovered that Te’o willingly participated in a hoax, The Monday Morning Quarterback believes that perhaps there should be a recall on the many awards that he received this season as they were won partly on the basis of falsified information. Most awards have a good citizenship requirement and currently Te’o's “good name” has taken a significant hit as has the reputation of the Notre Dame athletic department and the many media members who allowed themselves to be duped without ever reaching for corroborating evidence or information.
Just when you thought Notre Dame and Te’o couldn’t get any lower than the embarrasment of being run over by the freight train with the big A on it, they managed to do it. Boy did they ever.
I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback, what say you?