Anti-Manti: The Te’o ‘hoax’ story doesn’t add up

There’s this woman I know through twitter. Her twitter name is Stellar. I know what her real first name is, but I don’t know her last name.
From what little interaction I’ve had with her on twitter, I like her. She’s funny and smart. Literate and educated. Seems to have good taste in music and movies and such. If the picture associated with the account is indeed her, she’s cute. She must kind of like me, too, at least a little bit, because she’s occasionally complimentary of me, laughs at my jokes, etc.

Apparently to Manti Te’o, this is enough for me to consider Stellar to be my girlfriend, even though Stellar and I have never actually met in person, and it’s theoretically possible that “she” is really a 48-year-old man.

When Deadspin broke the sharply-reported story yesterday that Te’o’s supposedly dead girlfriend never existed, it was obviously a bombshell, and the story certainly pointed towards Te’o having some sort of involvement.

Hours later, Notre Dame released a bizarre statement defending him while acknowledging a ‘hoax’, and later Te’o released his own statement, painting himself as a humiliated victim.

Based on what has been reported, I don’t believe him for a minute. None of it adds up. He supposedly discovered the hoax on Dec. 6, via a telephone call from the “dead girlfriend”, but two days later, on Dec. 8, he gave an interview in which he said, “I don’t like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend.”

There were all manner of stories that talked about the girlfriend visiting Te’o in Hawaii, in which Te’o thanked fans for the support they’d showed “my family and my girlfriend’s family.”
There was one story in the South Bend paper (since removed from the website) that detailed a face-to-face meeting that obviously never took place.

I suspect that this was a calculated effort to bring Te’o publicity. This story from the other day suggests that Te’o’s family is incredibly sensitive to media coverage, which could logically mean they might also try to manipulate the media to their benefit. I admit that I’m only speculating there, but it’s what I believe.

Te’o was a virtual unknown before this season. But the off-field narrative propelled him into the national spotlight and even the Heisman race (of which, I might add, I was highly critical before I had any reason to suspect Te’o’s backstory was less than authentic).
If the plan was to create sympathy and phony adversity for Manti to “overcome” in order to paint him as more “spiritually strong” or “mentally tough”, and therefore worthy of admiration, it certainly worked. There’s no way Te’o gets so much media attention and/or Heisman buzz without the off-field stuff. Most people who supported his candidacy openly admitted that those factors played into their support of him.

But let’s back up a minute. Even though I don’t believe Te’o’s story, let’s pretend for a minute that he’s telling the truth. That he was duped by an elaborate hoax. I still have a few questions. Here’s the first one, which apparently nobody on Sportscenter felt compelled to ask yesterday:


I don’t care how famous a guy is, wouldn’t the average woman be incredibly creeped out by a guy she’s never met in person calling her “his girlfriend?”
And if this anonymous girlfriend blew off scheduled in-person meetings with the famous boyfriend, as ND’s athletic director suggested, wouldn’t Te’o probably, you know, get a little suspicious? How dumb/naive are we supposed to believe the guy is?

I’ve dated/socialized with dozens of women in my life, but there have been maybe five that I’ve called my girlfriend, and I spent lots and lots of time with them (in person!) and got to know them really, really well before I had the balls to refer to them by the g-word in public. Using Manti Te’o’s definition, I have had literally hundreds of girlfriends in my life.

Again, let’s say Te’o really was duped into believing that a person he “met” online was real, and suffering from leukemia, and an inspiring and thoughtful person. Let’s say he genuinely connected with this person meaningfully and grew to care about “her”.
He’s still a liar.

Read the stories. Re-watch Gene W.’s ESPN story. Yes, he’s careful to never specifically mention spending time in her presence, but to refer to her as “the love of my life” and “the most beautiful person I’ve ever met” is to very much lead the reporter he’s talking to, and in turn the audience, to believe this is a serious relationship, a steady girlfriend. Someone he has been intimate with on some level beyond a phone call or a tweet.
In one story, Manti’s dad said he and his wife were preparing for her to become their daughter-in-law.
And again, at least one story referenced an in-person meeting.
Shouldn’t Te’o have stepped in to correct these inaccuracies in reporting? Didn’t he, at some point, have a responsibility to say, “Hey, I really do care a lot about this person, but I only know her through the internet and phone calls, we’ve never actually met.”

Well, that would’ve put a damper on Te’o’s feel-good story, wouldn’t it? The media wanted to portray Te’o as a hero, a saintly grandson and boyfriend, a warrior who gave his all on the field while hurting so badly on the inside. Te’o’s actions clearly indicate that he was more than willing to go along with that narrative, and keep quiet when parts of the story were highly embellished. Then again, embellishing stories is at the very fabric of Notre Dame football.

At worst, Manti Te’o is a shameless liar, a self-promoting narcissist with a sad level of contempt and scorn for the media and his fans.

At best, he’s an idiot who was more than willing to stretch the truth to the very limits in the name of a good story.