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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Manti Te'o - Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places (Previously posted for ESPN Las Vegas' blog)

(originally posted on January 22, 2013 as my part of the ESPN Las Vegas blog.)

Manti Te'o

The 15 minutes of notice that should have been devoted to the Manti Te'o story has well expired and our collective heads should have already turned to the latest Kardashian pregnancy or sex video tape (or both, in their case.). However, I woke up yesterday to a fine Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday here in Las Vegas only to hear the radio blasting about how Manti has decided (in all his agent's wisdom) to prolong this horribly painful and embarrassing event into, that's right, and even more painful and embarrassing event (I'm sure this is in his agent's mind a great way to "forward Manti's brand." Whatever.)

For those of you just coming in on this story, Manti Te'o claims he was the victim of a catfish scheme. "
Catfish" in this context comes from a 2010 documentary by the same name, which follows a Facebook-induced relationship that turns out to be an elaborate hoax. It's called catfish because one of the characters says when live cod were shipped here from Asia, the cod would be sluggish and this made their meat "mushy." When fishermen put catfish in with the cod, they found it kept them active. The character states that the person behind the hoax is like the catfish, keeping other people active in their lives. (The documentary makers have their own issues with truthfulness which causes one to pause.) After figuring out or being told his online love and her subsequent death were all a hoax, Manti went about lying to cover up the aforementioned painful and embarrassing event.

Firstly, let me say, lying is lying is lying. I'm not a fan of how Manti decided to cover the tracks of this unusual relationship (actually, can we call it unusual in this day and age? My own brother-in-law found true love one state away through the magic of the Internet and it's worked out fine.). I understand Manti was embarrassed during the relationship and lied to make it seem less weird. When he found out it was a hoax, he lied about it some more...because that worked so well the first time. And now, he's struggling a bit with why people won't just simply believe this thing happened to him. Look, maybe Manti missed out on his fair share of Saved by The Bell, but even my 12-year-old understands this was not the smartest thing to do. Unless you're lying to some serial killer in order to save your life, I think Manti helped prove that lying - even when well meaning - really just never, ever works in your favor. (And, yes,
Mr. Armstrong, that was pointed at you...)

The main thing people keep going back and forth on is whether or not it's plausible Manti knew what was going on or was in on it. From what little I've read and heard about this story and from my perspective, it's nobody's business but Manti's. However, he and his ill-advising agent are making it our business by furthering this story that would have been dead this week were it not for the fact Manti's going on TV with Katie Couric. That's crazy. Up until now, Manti might have made it through this life with this story only making a slight imprint on the pages of his life. Now, it'll be branded in there. And I hate to tell you, Manti, but it's not true that any publicity is good publicity, no matter what Chris Brown says.

But back to plausibility... is it plausible? Is it possible to have a long distance relationship with someone you've never met? I think it is, especially now when electronics are the communication norm (my old roommates used to sit in our living room and each other...five feet away.) So, when someone is far away - whether the contact is by Skype, phone, letters, or Morse code - we fill in the blanks of what we cannot see day-to-day in front of us, we fill them with things we would like the other person to be. And we ignore things that should raise red flags. So, absolutely I think it's possible.

In Manti's case, he may have complicated trust issues (and this will not help them any) because of who he is and why women might want to become involved with him. This may lead him to approach a relationship from a different angle. He may have felt this was one of the few ways to ferret out who was real and who wasn't...okay, so that didn't turn out so well. So, yes, I think it's completely plausible that it went down as he said. However, four years...? Four years and you never got tempted to Google her or check her out on I don't know...


Anyway, the more I hear of this story, the more it feels wildly invasive. This should have been a private story. This should have been something Manti Te'o was allowed to deal with in his own space without the whole world peering in and judging. The most the greedy public should have gotten was a cautionary tale, minus the names. Maybe even that was too much.

(original post:

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