Manti Te’o: Innocent Catfish Victim or Failed Con Artist? By Kathleen Flood

By Kathleen Flood

I first have to admit something many people currently look down upon and few are willing to say out loud, my name is Kathleen Flood and I am a Notre Dame fan. Secret’s out, but I can explain, I swear. My parents are both Notre Dame graduates. However, they were in attendance during the glory days of Joe Montana and similar football legends. Many of my childhood pictures feature me in a Notre Dame cheer-leading costume or something of the sort. I was brainwashed at an early age, so it really isn’t my fault. In my defense, I opted to go to the wonderful institution that is the University of Georgia instead of the dominating (and really only) feature of South Bend.

Unlike pretty much every family member or Notre Dame fan I have spoken with in the past couple weeks, I am curious as to the real truth about the Manti Te’o girlfriend story that has been crashing Twitter, ESPN, and every news outlet lately. I should also include that, unlike more loyal Notre Dame fans, I will be the first to admit they were well beyond overrated this past season, as was their glory boy Te’o. Notre Dame played almost no significant teams—most games were won by a narrow margin and several others required overtime. Along with most of the nation, I was not surprised by the lack of excitement or the final score of their National Championship game against Alabama. To say the least, I was also unimpressed that my Bulldogs were ranked below the Fightin’ Irish all season.

Manti Te’o is another story in itself. His stats were equally comparable with SEC defensive players such as Jadeveon Clowney (USC) and Jarvis Jones (UGA), and one could even argue said players were superior to Te’o,. The media attention of his grandmother and terminally ill girlfriend dying within hours of each other is what earned him a first class ticket to New York City on December 8, 2012, for the presentation of the Heisman Trophy. His projected NFL draft pick is also a little high in my opinion. Typing “Manti Te’o” in the search box on ESPN.com will also yield an entire twenty pages of results, all the articles ranging in topic matter, and unlike most college football players a Google search returns a variety of detailed articles before his profile on the school’s sports page.

Getting back to the original topic: is Manti Te’o the innocent Mormon family man from Hawaii he was portrayed as for so long, or is he just another corrupt athlete—looking for fame in all the wrong ways—whose lies all caught up to him? Again, this answer would depend largely on who you were to ask, but I’d be willing to bet if a poll were posted on ESPN or another sports website, the majority of the nation would agree with the latter description of Te’o.

I have several questions when it comes to Manti Te’o and the exposed truth that his dead girlfriend is in fact not dead, and also non-existent. How long has he known she wasn’t dead? How long has he known she wasn’t real? Would he have ever admitted to the facts if he hadn’t been busted? Why on earth would the best-known football player at a Division 1 football school need or want to date a girl online? The list goes on and on, but if I were to answer the many questions I have, this blog would go on for way longer than anyone would be willing to read, so I am going to try to stick to the simpler facts that have been presented.

In an article recently published by ESPN, it is confirmed a man was behind “Lennay Kekua” and we know he was responsible for fake photos and social media accounts. The real woman in the pictures has also been identified, and claims to have no knowledge what her pictures were actually being used for. What remains a mystery is why an adult man would spend hours of his time tricking a college football star into an online relationship… (well that is assuming that Te’o really was innocent in all of it). One ESPN writer agreed that he is as innocent and naïve as Notre Dame would like people to think, calling him “Longfellow Deeds in a gold helmet”.

I, however, don’t really buy it. In another ESPN article a former (unidentified) Notre Dame teammate stated that he believed Manti Te’o loved the media attention and that the woman would have never truly been labeled as his girlfriend, as they had only met once in real life.

The morning of December 26, 2012, Te’o received a phone call from the phone number he had previously known as Lennay Kekua’s, verifying that regardless of other mistruths, one thing was certain: his “girlfriend,” supposedly dead from leukemia, was not actually dead. The question raised here is, how could Te’o continue to allow the sports world to play up the sympathy even through the National Championship, knowing that he had lost his grandmother the day of the Michigan State game, but not his girlfriend?

In his statement to the press when asked about his girlfriend just days prior to the game in Miami Te’o said, “This team is very special to me, and the guys on it have always been there for me, through the good times and the bad times. I rarely have a quiet time to myself because I always have somebody calling me, asking, ‘Do you want to go to the movies?’ Coach is always calling me asking me, ‘Are you OK? Do you need anything?’ ”

This is a very general and non-specific response if you ask me. Someone struggling with two significant and difficult losses at such a high-pressure time in his life would surely have a little more to say, or at least mention his deceased loved ones by name.

I’ll leave everyone with this very lengthy interview of Manti Te’o himself, which he specifically requested not to be filmed, and in which he desperately attempts to explain himself at great lengths—accepting no responsibility for the hoax. Again he claims to be nothing more than a victim. I’d also guess he had been well coached and advised what to say or not to say prior to sitting down with Jeremy Schapp.

At the end of the day, no matter how much we love to hear about Cam Newton being a laptop-stealing, bribe-accepting, degenerate of a human being, or Tyrann Methieu doing a stint in rehab instead of returning to Death Valley, the guys are still going to get paid millions. The sad truth is, we will likely never know the real story behind the Te’o hoax and the guy will still be a first round draft pick and go on to make millions in the NFL. This will all just be a funny story once next season’s college football scandal emerges.

 

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