What was arguably the biggest story of college football in 2012, has now become the story that never was. A somber tale of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o losing his Grandmother and alleged girlfriend in the span of 6 hours on the same day, had captivated not only the sports nation, but the nation in general. Events took place that softened the hearts of the most hardened, and had people who despise Irish football, rooting for a man who had dealt with two substantial emotional blows, and still found the strength to lead his team on the field in victory. As the story spread, and media outlets picked up on it, it started to gain momentum. So much so, that it thrust Te’o into the national spotlight and he found himself emotionally recanting the story on national television, and allowed the nation to mourn with him.
As the season progressed, the story would be covered in promos for pregame analysis, and post game interviews week after week. While the story became its own entity off the field, Te’o had elevated his play on the field. The combination of the linebacker’s play, and his seemingly unwavering loyalty to his family and team, had launched his name into the Heisman discussion. Neither Te’o or his story would lose steam as the Irish kept winning, and his determination was on display week in and week out, for the nation to see. He became so popular and beloved as a man and as a player, that he would eventually make his way to New York, and find himself as a Heisman finalist, and eventually the runner-up.
Fast forward to January 16th, 2013. A day like any other day, until mid-afternoon when an online publication by the name of “Deadspin” had released a story that was so alarming and unbelievable, that it read more like a story from the satirical site “The Onion”. The article claimed that the story the nation had become so engrossed in with Manti Te’o, was nothing more than an elaborate hoax, and one that Manti himself might have been in on. We are sure you know the story by now, and more details keep pouring in, seemingly on an hourly basis. What makes the story so difficult to accept and understand, is that there no reasoning behind it. If Te’o was truly using this as a tool to garner sympathy and votes for the Heisman race, one figures he could have simply used the death of his grandmother, Annette Santiago, to do so.
Now there are reports that teammates knew that Lennay Kekua wasn’t Manti’s girlfriend as early as the Michigan State game this season. One teammate asking for anonymity, stated “No we all knew he had only seen her once. But when the media was saying how he went through both deaths we knew”. There have also been reports that a family friend of Manti, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, may have been behind all of this, including the fake twitter account of the alleged girlfriend, and her sister. Friends of Tuiasosopo and Manti have gone on record as stating that they are 80% sure that Manti was in on it, and did so seeking publicity. Te’o was expected to do an interview yesterday with ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp, but for reasons unknown, that interview was canceled. There have also been reports of roommates of Manti, being there when he received the call about the “love of his life” passing, and describing a young man in terrible pain, and enduring horrible emotional trauma.
Just when the world was ready to accept that Lennay Kekua never existed, former Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui’a claims to have met the “fictitious” girlfriend before her and Manti were supposedly an item. What this implies is that if Ronaiah Tuiasosopo did truly pull one over on Te’o, he did the same thing to Maui’a, and went as far as to have someone physically faking to be her, and spend time with the then Cardinal fullback. To help validate the meeting(s) Maui’a went on to describe the young lady “”She was tall,” he said. “Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model … ” Maui’a claimed that the two met in 2011 at a charity event, and it was none other than Tuiasosopo that introduced them. Does this also mean that the young woman that Te’o met with and spent time on the field after Notre Dame’s loss in Palo Alto, was also someone who was pretending to be Lennay Kekua?
If you are familiar with social media, then you obviously are aware of the craziness that has surrounded this story on Twitter. People have flocked to the social media format to express their thoughts, share questions, and of course make jokes. Some have been in good nature, while others have not been so kind to any of the parties involved.
“I love Mant’i, I truly do, but this is the “love of your life” and you never met her? That’s kind of crazy just saying.”
“If Manti Te’o is telling the truth, talk now. Delaying looks like he needs time to concoct a story. Truth takes no time”
“Doesn’t sound like a “hoax.” It sounds like a pathological liar got caught in the little world he created”
“Wall Street Journal reporting Manti Te’o already millions of dollars in debt after promising millions to starving Nigerian emailers”
These are just some examples of personal Tweets from people, and there were many, many more that not only crucified Te’o, but Notre Dame also. Speaking of the University, Notre Dame’s Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick held his own press conference, and with a very heavy heart, emotionally stated that Manti Te’o is “the single most trusting individual I have ever met.” And also said that “Every single thing about this was real to Manti,” “There was no suspicion. The grief was real, the affection was real, and that’s the sad nature of this cruel game.” Swarbrick made it abundantly clear that he and the University are fully behind Mr. Te’o. He also claimed that the relationship between Manti and Lennay was “exclusively an online relationship.” Which brought into question again the supposed meeting in Palo Alto between the two.
The next few days will be very interesting for everyone who is following this story. Details are sure to come, some verified, and some not, and it will be up to the individual on what they choose to believe or not. We know this, whatever the outcome winds up being, this is truly a sad story. One that involves deceit, possible conspiracy, and disregard for the fellow being. We truly hope that Irish fans themselves, understand they have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. No matter what the outcome, this story consists of individuals that acted not on the behalf of the University or its football team, but rather on their own. Although media and people not part of Irish nation will surely try to depict Irish fans and their program in a negative way, this incident in no way defines the University of Notre Dame, its football team, or its fans.