17 January 2013

Was Manti Te'o duped or was he part of the hoax?

Talk about news that came out of nowhere. Deadspin sent ripples throughout the sports world by breaking the story yesterday that Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend, whose passing on the same day as his grandmother became one of the top stories this year in college football and a key piece of the Notre Dame linebacker's Heisman candidacy, was a hoax and never existed. If the story sounds very bizarre, that's because it is (you should have seen me trying to explain it to my sister).

For his part, both Te'o and Notre Dame maintain that Te'o was a victim of the story while Deadspin's report quoted a source that was "80 percent sure" that Te'o was a part of the hoax. Which will turn out to be true?

While I am not 100% certain that Te'o was compliant in the hoax, I do also find it very hard to believe that Te'o was a victim. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said that Te'o's relationship with his "girlfriend" was "exclusively an online relationship." I do not understand how somebody could maintain a relationship for three years with somebody, never meet them in person and be so bothered by her death that it is somewhat comparable to the death of your grandmother. And if he had an exclusively online relationship, the fact that he received a call from her number after she had supposedly died does not jive. So he had her number and at no point talked to her via the phone, which would not mean that the relationship was "exclusively" online. Not to mention that there had been a story detailing at length that they "exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers" when they had met.

The facts in this case do not add up no matter which way you look at it for Te'o to be a victim. It would take an enormous leap of faith to completely believe that he was a victim. The story would just not make any sense at all. Again, I am not ruling out the possibility that Te'o was somehow a victim but I simply cannot envision how that could be the case, similarly to Gregg Doyle of CBS Sports.

But now the question has to be asked, what would be the end-game for Te'o for him to go on with this hoax? The source that said that he or she was 80% certain that Te'o was involved said that there was "publicity in mind," and that aspect does make sense, considering how the story of Te'o playing after his grandmother and "girlfriend" died was a huge reason why his Heisman candidacy took off as that game against Michigan State was considered a "Heisman moment." That same friend also did not believe that Te'o would not be that stupid to continue this relationship "for nearly a year." But this goes to show that there is still more we have to know to definitively say what happened. 

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