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The weirdness of Manti Te'o

by Nick Trougakos Published: January 17, 2013
Remember that time OSU fans got all worked up because the refs handed Texas a phantom, game-winning touchdown? Remember that time OU pulled a no-show at the Cotton Bowl? Those were probably low points for the collective fan bases. Pretty much all college football teams will come out of a season with at least one lasting negative memory. For Notre Dame, it was the championship game, where they pulled their own no-show against Alabama and the evil overlord Nick Saban.

Until Wednesday.

Now Notre Dame and its fan base can only wish the beat-down they took in Miami was the lowest point of their season. If you haven’t heard about the Manti Te’o fake-girlfriend-hoax story, set aside 20 minutes immediately and go read this story, from Deadspin.

Put simply, I’ve consumed every bit of sports news I could get my hands on since I was reading box scores in the newspaper as a 10-year-old, and this by far has to be the most bizarre sports story I can remember. In a nutshell:

-Te’o, the star linebacker and top NFL prospect,  said that his girlfriend had died, coincidentally on the same day his grandmother died.

-Media around the country reported about the amazing circumstances of Te’o continuing to play and succeed despite his immense grief.

-A rumor circulated that perhaps Te’o's girlfriend wasn’t actually a real person. The Deadspin reporters went to work.

-Deadspin broke its story on Wednesday, declaring that the girlfriend never existed, there certainly was no death and that Te’o was more than likely in on the hoax in an effort to attract publicity.

-Te’o and Notre Dame issued statements saying Te’o is the victim of an elaborate hoax, with Te’o claiming he thought he was in an emotional online relationship and he was taken advantage of.

The story could end there. Everyone agrees a hoax has occurred. The question remains, is Te’o on the take, or is he legitimately a victim? There are compelling arguments on both sides.

My take: I want to say Te’o is guilty as charged. It’s just too bizarre, and there are too many questions, to believe he could have legitimately become the victim of such a hoax. How could he have cared so deeply about someone he had never met in person? What about all the interviews where he talked about meeting her? How do you explain his chummy relationship with the guy reported to be at the center of the hoax?

But one thing lingers.

The apparent motive for taking part in the hoax was to generate publicity. But he absolutely did not need any more publicity then he already had. He was the star of an undefeated Notre Dame football team. That’s going to bring you all the attention you could ask for and more. Plus, his grandmother in real life did die. He already could play the sympathy/playing-through-grief card without having to make up a story about a fake girlfriend dying. So doesn’t it seem a little unnecessary that he would help perpetuate the fake story? Not to mention he should have known that as the star player for an undefeated football Notre Dame football team, everything he did would be subject to scrutiny and attention.

Alas, I can’t fence-sit on this one. I can’t disregard the Deadspin reporting. I’m throwing my hat in the “he’s in on it” ring. As much as it would seem improbable that he was help orchestrate this deal, there’s just too much stuff going on that is way too weird.

Te’o is apparently going to grant a one-time, one-on-one TV interview sometime this week.

Will he stick to his story about being a victim, or set the record straight about what would be one of the craziest hoaxes the sports world has seen?

Daily Pints

-Prairie Artisan Ales is working on a series of collaboration beers with Saint Somewhere Brewing of Tarpon Springs, Fla. I’ll bring you more details on that soon.

-Remember when everyone thought Al Jazeera was a terrorist mouthpiece organization? When did they become a legitimate news source? And how long have they been reporting on beer?

-Boulevard is set to release the 23rd edition of its spring Irish Ale.

-I guess talk about conference realignment will never end.

by Nick Trougakos
Local Editor
Local Editor Nick Trougakos has been with The Oklahoman since 2002. Trougakos covered the military, federal agencies and courts before becoming an editor in 2005. Prior to joining The Oklahoman, Trougakos was a reporter for the Oklahoma City...
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