6:24 PM CST, January 22, 2013
Not that I actually care about the whole Manti Te’o fake girlfriend scandal—I understand it is almost overwhelmingly unimportant outside of a sort of TMZ-morbid curiosity appeal—but c’mon, people: this guy is so full of shit.
I bring this up only because I got some rather aggressive protest mail following Monday’s RedEye column (likely from people who watched “Rudy” too many times in their childhoods) proclaiming Manti’s complete innocence.
Along with this example, the narrative forming in the media is that Te’o was nothing more than a mark, an exploited bystander, a nice Mormon boy who trusted too much.
First of all, people, you understand that after realizing this story would break, Te’o and his agent almost certainly had a PR team on hand to craft a narrative that would minimize the damage and endanger his draft status and earnings potential the least? You get that, right? For however many weeks or months Te’o realized this was going to break he likely had professional marketing gurus aiding him in putting the best spin on this story.
So even if you buy hook, line, and sinker that Te’o had no idea what was going on, the story that remains is still totally preposterous and creepy. Go read the Sports Illustrated interview with him about his dead-of-leukemia love or go watch the dozens of interviews in which he plays his grief to the hilt. At the very least, he was portraying a level of connection with a person he’d never met and using that to his extreme advantage in raising his national profile.
(Oh, and in all these phone conversations over the course of a year, he never once thought to ask this mysterious stranger to Skype with him? It's not like that technology is so new and foreign. She could only speak over the phone, and this never once raised an inkling of suspicion in him? For a year?!)
He claims he “tailored” his story to make it sound as though they’d actually met. By going along with the totally untrue stories—like that they’d met after a football game and spent time in Hawaii, he was not tailoring—he was lying. We call that lying. When you tell your boyfriend you’re at a friend’s place watching a movie, but that friend is a guy, who halfway through the movie you bang--no one would mistake that for “tailoring.” Furthermore, in those interviews Te’o never at any point made it sound as though he’d only met this girl a handful of times. He straight up made it sound like they were soul mates. I’m sorry, but unless you fall in love through the wall of a North Korean prison while serving a life sentence, you have to actually see the person’s lips move before you can claim that kind of unrequited devotion.
(Oh, and your girlfriend got in a car accident and was diagnosed with leukemia and you don’t try to make it out to California to see her? Even in the middle of a D-1 football season you can’t take two days to fly out and meet this person you’re telling every media outlet with a microphone you're in love with? Certainly don’t see how that stretches credulity!)
Again, not that I care. It’s just somewhat bewildering that this entire story is getting recast as Manti the Munificent getting taken advantage of by ne’er-do-well Catfish scammers. At best he was deeply complicit in deluding himself and rode that delusion to the highest threshold of sports interview-show cliché stardom.
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