Outsider’s Perspective (by Kevin Trudgeon): Say it ain’t so Te’o
Posted: January 18, 2013
In an era of Tiger Woods’ mistresses, PEDs and Jerry Sandusky, I figured there really wasn’t anything that could catch me off guard when it came to the world of sports anymore.
The mythological “athlete” of the past has been replaced with the questionable “athlete” of the present. They make poor decisions (Lance Armstrong), they lie (Lance Armstrong) and they cheat (Lance Armstrong).
Where once they were put up on pedestals and viewed as role models for the rest of us, athletes today are seen through the prism of an ever-skeptical public.
We question their motives and back stories. We wonder aloud whether a new offseason training regimen really was the only thing behind a career year or if the wholesome persona we see on television is in fact real or just an act.
The days of blind trust and acceptance are long gone, replaced by disbelief, distrust and outright cynicism. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us over and over and over again? Not going to happen.
Or so we thought.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I never saw the story about Manti Te’o and his supposed fake girlfriend coming. In fact, aside from the actual Deadspin reporters who worked on the investigative piece that broke the story, I’d venture to guess that hardly anybody did.
That Notre Dame’s Heisman-finalist, future-NFL-first-round-pick, do-no-wrong senior linebacker maybe wasn’t as great as everyone made him out to be was a fair assumption.
Because as we’ve learned time and time again in sports, nobody is perfect.
But that the story about Te’o losing his girlfriend just six hours after his grandmother had passed away in early September, then leading the Fighting Irish onto the field three days later for an emotional win over Michigan State and using her memory to fuel a renaissance of the Notre Dame football program was one big hoax?
Complete shock doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction.
Te’o and Notre Dame quickly issued statements saying that he discovered that his deceased girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, wasn’t real when he received a call from her on Dec. 6 — nearly three months after she supposedly died from leukemia.
Te’o approached the university on Dec. 26 with this information and it quickly launched an investigation into the matter, which allegedly was all going to be revealed to the public before Deadspin broke the story Wednesday.
According to Notre Dame and Te’o, he was the victim of an elaborate plot to hurt and humiliate him publicly by making him believe that he was in an online relationship with a girl he never actually met despite having known her since 2009 and been dating her for the past year.
Dig a little deeper and things start to really get weird.
Te’o’s dad, Brian Te’o, is quoted as saying the two spent time together in Hawaii, a claim that Te’o and Notre Dame say is false.
The pictures of Kekua that every major news organization ran were actually of a woman in Torrance who’s never met Te’o.
An acquaintance of Te’o’s, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, is painted as the mastermind behind the fake Twitter account and public persona of Kekua.
And former Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui’a has come out and said he actually met Kekua in person, an interesting claim considering all other reports point to her not being real.
So what’s the truth?
Is Te’o the most naive person on the planet? Did he really never suspect anything despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary?
Are we going to find out he was in on it all along? That he used Kekua, and her alleged death, for his own personal gain?
Or was it all one big cover-up designed to hide something else?
It feels silly to say considering the circumstances, but at this point nothing would surprise me.
— Kevin Trudgeon is the sports editor at The Winchester Star