Thursday, January 17, 2013

UND Hoax Thoughts

If you had asked me who or what was Manti Te'o, on Thursday around mid-day, I'd answer- "He's an over-rated LB who just helped UND get their ass kicked in the BCS championship."

But if you asked me that question about four hours later, I'd have a completely different answer...

If you read the story on, you probably reacted like I did...What the what?!?!?

But the more I read and watched as the evening progressed the more bizarre the story got...details trickled out from different articles, and I found videos, quotes and fragments of this effed-up mosaic that only made me want to find more.  It's 1:33am as I type...and that's not too abnormal for me, but to be up at this hour and feel like it's mid-afternoon is a result of a curiosity-induced adrenaline rush that I've been riding.

This is a weird story...and here are the facts:

-Te'o hails from Laie, HI...a town of just over 6,000 people.
-He verballed to USC in 2009 before changing his choice to UND before signing day.
-Te'o's Samoan heritage and his Mormon faith made him a story at UND.
-He was a 2-time 2nd team All American, one-time AA, and Heisman trophy runner-up this season.

-Following the final game of his Freshman season, he met Lennay Kekua and became friends with her...later he told people she was the "love of his life."
-Multiple outlets reported about Te'o's bravery as decided to play just days after his Grandma died...AND Kekua died of Leukemia.  It was reported that Kekua found out about her illness after a nearly-deadly car accident.
-Te'o stayed in touch with his girlfriend via Twitter, Facebook and cellphone.  He told the media that they'd often stay on the phone until they'd fall asleep.

-UND AD, Jack Swarbrick told the media today that they found out that Kekua wasn't a real person just prior to the BCS game.  She never was Te'o's girlfriend, she didn't get in a car wreck and didn't die of cancer.  Te'o said he was tipped off by a phone call from her the same voice, months after he thought she had died.

But in this interview, Te'o still claimed to have lost his girlfriend to cancer...days after he had already learned she wasn't real (hmmmmmm).

UND investigated the story and found Te'o was a victim of a hoax.

-Swarbrick called Te'o a person cut from a different cloth than most...and said Te'o was an extremely honest person who wore his heart on his sleeve.
-UND's AD also said that Te'o's relationship was SOLELY virtual as they had never met in person...and the stories about them meeting were misunderstandings of the wording Te'o used with his friends and to the media.


Te'o told many that he met Kekua following the loss to Stanford in '09 while on campus...And in this article, Te'o's Dad tells stories of how the couple's first meeting and how they later met in Hawaii multiple times...and that she would soon be their daughter-in-law.

During UND's investigation though, Te'o's story was vastly different from his parent's account or his interviews that followed the tragic week in which Te'o lost his Grandma and the love of his life.


According to UND's account of the story, Manti Te'o had a long-term, serious relationship with a woman that he never really met...and only interacted with via typed word and cell phone calls.

In an age in which nearly every person, especially a college-aged person, has a phone with a camera...these two didn't make video calls.  Skype, Google meeting, facetime and other software is readily available...and free to use...but Te'o decided it was OK to not see her while interacting.

Furthermore, if his formal statements are true, he never felt propelled to go see her after her car accident or as she died...OR during the over 1,000 days that they were in a relationship?  Keep in mind, UND traveled to both Stanford and USC in subsequent years following the commencement of their relationship...but the schedules never lined up, I guess.

Te'o, an emotional, honest man (according to reports), was in a relationship with the "love of his life" but didn't think it was important to meet her...and wasn't driven to want to look into her eyes or even hug her or smell her perfume in person? That behavior is unlike any college-aged heterosexual male I have ever met, or heard of for that matter...I had friends in college who were devout people of faith and claimed to not be sexually active with their girlfriends...but they still really liked holding their hands, hugging and whatever else in person...but not Te'o- the phone and keyboard interaction was satisfactory.

By all counts, UND's Swarbrick is a smart guy...and he told us all last night that he believes unequivocally that Te'o was a victim in an extremely elaborate hoax that was kept secret for over three years. It hurt him so much that he was brought to tears at one point in the presser.  Sad stuff, indeed.

There are a few reports that have come out that say UND teammates thought that Kekua and Te'o's relationship was unusual and a bit questionable...but none of #5's teammates brought it up out of respect to him.

That makes a bit of sense a Senior, I guess...but as a Sophomore or Junior, it makes less sense.

It also seems kinda odd to me that a guy that had a 3.0 GPA, from a school that, I'm told is a pretty good academic institution, could be duped for so long...and so easily.  He came from an educated family too...but they didn't see any red flags, I guess.

Sure, the heart clouds the brain at times; who isn't guilty of being a bit illogical for a spell in romantic situations...but his friends, who go to that same school by the way, didn't see anything noteworthy about the Te'o Kekua relationship...nor did his family.  In fact, according to their interviews, they loved this bilingual and beautiful person they'd never met.

That in itself seems odd.  I come from a pretty traditional, conservative family...and if I ever used the words "love of my life" and my Mom heard them, I'm pretty sure she'd demand to meet this woman...not so, in this case.

If you're still with me, you're clearly a glutton for punishment and can't get enough of this story that is hazier and more befuddling, as you learn more about it.

But the inconsistency that I have the hardest time overlooking is within the anecdotes of Te'o's character. This uber-honest and moral man, at minimum, told quite a few white lies to quite a few people in order to gain their acceptance of the situation.  He told these lil' lies to the media...and as a result, his parents were forced to lie as well...but those lies don't count, according to those who accept Te'o's story.

I guess I'm not as wise as the believers...because I have a really hard time trusting the words of a man that can repetitively lie to those closest to him for years. That, at least to me, simply sounds like a liar...someone who's quite adept at not telling the truth.

At the end of the day, it seems quite fitting that an entity built on myths, half-truths and legends would have something like this happen within its walls; it's almost like the PR machine that is Notre Dame's football program enabled this drama.


Purdue Matt said...

Well said. It's pretty obvious to me that Manti is a pathological liar and was in on the scam. His buddy who he knew and hung out with created this girl. Also, the love of your life dies and you go on with your life without even attempting to follow up with her family?

Kevin said...

Guys, Manti isn't the first person from ND to have a fake girlfriend. Just saying.

U-P Boiler said...

The Notre Dame PR machine will wipe this one clean, because they know that the lemming-like ND fans and the media shills will go along.

Look to the South Bend Tribune to quietly fire the writer who lead the lemmings off the cliff. But I can see organizations like the New York Times dig into this, because they have a reputation for full disclosure when they f*ck up, and boy did they (along with every other medium) f*ck this up.

paulo said...

I highly doubt that Te'o was in on it. In the end, he was the one who brought it to the university in December.

It is indeed a bizarre, shocking story - especially in the way that the media has been hyping the story all year long. You would think that someone in the profession would go beyond stenographing whatever people were saying to dig deeper. Find the background on this supposed woman.

Beyond that, even giving Te'o the benefit of the doubt that he was indeed not in on it (as I am doing), this does not make him look good. This makes him look extremely gullible and irrational on many levels. At first glance, it might be difficult to accept that a 3.0 student could be so naive, but we have to remember that he is still very young. I hope he learns to be a little skeptical in his life when the pros sign him to multimillion dollar contracts. If not, I have some great property in South Florida he might be interested in buying.

COD said...

I just want to make it clear that the girlfriend I talked about in college was totally 100% real. We didn't even have the Internet back then. And really, who the hell would lie about a girlfriend from Zionsville?

Tough choice for Manti. Does he want to be a pathological liar, or the biggest rube in history?

Dave in the basement said...

I really hope one of our LBs steps up there and becomes this over-rated.

boilerdowd said...

Love it, Dave!!

COD, bad news- J Money was actually your girlfriend in college he/she just cleans up real pretty.

Paulo, thanks for your thoughts...Te'o is 21 years old. He had to have a part of him that wanted to know if this beautiful woman on the other end of the line was real...and if he thought she was real, I mean, c'mon, he'd want to give her a hug.

I once drove an hour just to see my girlfriend of 1 year for 3 minutes...and didn't think twice about it.

UND and Jack Swarbrick do whatever is best for UND...pretending to believe the kid to the point of tears makes UND look like a place that's all about its people. When everyone finds out that Te'o was behind it, they can generate some anger of now, throwing their blind support behind him works well.

Matt, there's another video after a game in which Te'o says the support of his girlfriend's family got him through...Ummmmmmmm kay- they support him, love him and stay in touch, but don't want him to be there for her memorial???

Rrrrrrrreally?? Weird family...weird families all around in this one, I guess.

KevinB said...

When I read this story on Deadspin, I thought for sure that the Media would all spin it in Te'o favor. I thought all I would hear would be "People out there are bad, and have a lot of time to try and hose people over...Poor Te'o". I even heard on one local radio show here in Fort Wayne the following "I wonder if this is why he had a bad game in the national championship? I mean, if you just heard the love of your life wasn't real, that would affect your ability to play". I just thought I would hear that garbage all day.
For once I can say that the media is actually looking into this and hopefully Te'o will have to answer these questions. As a guy who writes for offtackleempire said last night "Te'o is either a liar or really dumb, win win for everyone".
Even if he was duped, he sure played it up every chance he got. He always mentioned her, even after he heard it was a scam. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts on this interesting situation.

Boilergal said...

I think its pretty obvious what really happened. Te'o had a relationship with someone he met and met with this person multiple times in Hawaii. This person was in a serious car accident which really shook Te'o. The only problem, this person is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Come on, its obvious. This guy has been to Hawaii, is gifted in music, supposedly created all of these fake accounts of this woman and her sister... probably to cover up the real relationship. Heaven forbid, Te'o the most trusting, loving, honest person ever, betray all of his fans and family by coming out.

J Money said...

That crossed my mind, too, Boilergal.

Headphones_on said...

I have to severely question the intelligence of anyone who doesn't believe that Te'o was 100% in on this from the get go

WinamacBoiler said...

Stupid people are everywhere, so I'll give the kid a pass and say oh honey for the first few months of their relationship. But my train derails when she dies and he never goes to see her. And seriously, given Notre Dame's PR department, they would have flown his ass out there on a private jet just to get pictures of their beautiful linebacker supporting the family of this poor girl. That's when I question not only if he didn't know, but also if Notre Dame didn't know at that point as well.

More pressing even than that; is the possessive of Te'o Te'o's?

Plang said...

You touched on everything I was thinking about this morning, BD. This kid isn't dumb, he had the resources to see her, and it was a long relationship. Besides, being the biggest name on a campus that treats its football players like demigods means he could pretty much get whichever women there he wanted.

But, being surrounded by the Mormon faith now for 12 years, some of his words and actions make more sense to me than they would to people outside of Utah or Hawaii. But still, even the most devout Mormon that adheres to church doctrines and commits absolutely no hanky-panky with their significant other still spends time in person with his or her "love of my life." I agree that face-to-face interaction over the internet would have been the absolute least they would have done in a relationship. Also, good Mormons don’t believe in long, drawn-out dating relationships. If he “loved” her, there would have been a lot of pressure to marry her sooner rather than later. But hey, maybe his family is Mormon-lite and none of what I’m spouting applies to him.

I think it started off innocent enough and then went down the drain after that. Because of all the attention he gets, there is no way he could let anyone know about a fake relationship. I'm not so much worried about him as I am about all the people around him that helped keep this thing going for as long as it did. Sometimes keeping up appearances is more important than the reality around a person. This whole thing is just pathetically sad.

boilerdowd said...

Exactly, caveat though- Swarbrick has said multiple times that Te'o's faith is very important to him...he's not a Christmas/Easter (to use the Catholic adage) church goer, from what I gather.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me for being thick, but where does Reagan Maui'a fit into this? He still claims to have met her. Love a twitter response to Reagan asking how Lennay's cooking was. Brilliant!

MrAnonymous said...

I have a friend (who is physically scarred from a disease) who was scammed by someone who thought it would be funny to play one someone's desperate need to find someone special. So, on the one hand I can see how something like that can be overblown by one man's embarrassment. On the other hand, there are too many inconsistencies, plus, unlike my unfortunate friend, T'eo does not have physical abnormalities and does not seem the type that would need help from the internet to find a girlfriend.

J Money said...

Was your friend duped for 2-3 years?

WinamacBoiler said...

Regardless of how gullible he is, at some point he had to have made a conscious decision to begin lying. Something that is overlooked is the role the media had in this. They were so enamored with the "dead grandmother and dead girlfriend of a beautiful linebacker at a famous school" story that not one single reporter dared to type in this girl's name and city into google and find out what her backstory was. The story was just too good to risk fact checking it. They have now had their initial ineptitude rewarded with an additional story. Brilliant!

WinamacBoiler said...

And don't even get me started on how critical his whole backstory this year was to him being on stage at the Heisman. That's more a sad reflection on the state of the Heisman than on him, but it pisses me off all the same.

Plang said...

WinamacBoiler: you aren't talking about folks like Pat Forde are you? These guys alwasys do their homework, and believe the word of people like Swarbrick.

Kodiak33 said...

This is a mess.

Te'O either hammed it up about the girlfriend (and his family did as well) to the media to drum up attention, or he was a part of the whole thing. Those things are true. The rest is a little murky.

Another flap to the story is that he is now signed to CAA, and has no affiliation as a amateur now. Which means he can be paid for sitdown interviews etc. The major media will now be throwing softball questions at him, because his agents will refuse interviews based on what questions will be asked, like the canceled Jeremy Schaap interview today.

I trust Deadspin will make up the difference as usual.

CalTravelGuy said...

Just wait until TMZ or any media outlet finally finds Ronaiah Tuiasosopo... and they will. THAT is when this story is going to get really interesting. This whole thing is just getting started.

Purdue Matt said...

Anyone who still believes Te'o was duped as a victim is incredibly naive. Te'o is full of shit. It doesn't come close to adding up. Also, Fire Swarbrick!

strawmy57 said...

It was in front of us the WHOLE TIME:

Plang said...

This is now t-shirt worthy:

WinamacBoiler said...

T-Shirts and bobbleheads (well, boxes anyway)... Who would've thought!