I don’t follow football, but this whole Manti Te’o hoax thing has been fascinating. So many people have been blogging/facebooking it.
Manti Te’o was a star football player at Notre Dame, where he became one of their best players ever as a linebacker. He met an online girlfriend named Lennay Kekua a couple years ago, who was supposedly a student at Stanford. They fell in love, but she was involved in a car accident, and she eventually died of leukemia, just hours after his grandmother died. They never met, although they communicated through social media and (maybe) phone. This was the story communicated to the media.
As it turns out, the girlfriend never existed–she was a hoax. There are pictures of her, but it turns out that they are stolen pictures of a woman who never met or communicated with Manti. Some are accusing Manti of being part of the hoax, while he is saying that he was the victim of the hoax. As facts are unraveling, it looks like Manti told Notre Dame that he was the victim of the hoax in late December, and ESPN actually knew about the hoax before it burst onto the internet. Notre Dame says that it hired private investigators to get to the bottom of the story. The accusations are flying all over the place–some say Manti lied, some say he’s gay, and some say that he invented this story to place higher in considerations for the Heisman Trophy (he was eventually a finalist, but he didn’t win). Manti himself has admitted to lying/embellishing some of the story, but he maintains that he truly believed Lennay Kekua existed.
Since everyone is weighing in on this story, I will too: I believe Manti Te’o. I might eventually be proven wrong, but I’m going to throw a word of support in his direction. I think it’s totally possible for two people to fall in love over the internet who have never met, and I think it’s possible for a person to be so emotionally attached to another person that he doesn’t even ask for the physical part of the relationship. Timothy Egan says that the younger generation tends to emphasize online activity over real-life activity, and he references the millennial courting article that we discussed a few days ago. Honestly, I think it’s possible no matter what generation you belong to. From my days on the other blogs, I know at least two couples who fell in love online, more or less sight unseen, and who made it work. I heard it said that Gustave Flaubert had a “postal” relationship with a woman, and that he preferred it to a physical relationship. It had nothing to do with him being gay or asexual–Flaubert in fact had an active sex life outside of his postal relationship (if that makes sense), but he just preferred the emotion conveyed through writing.
So yes, I believe Manti Te’o. I hope the publicity from this incident doesn’t negatively affect his career as Tiger Woods’s publicity did. As a linebacker, his job relies more on speed, strength, explosiveness, and mass rather than fine hand-eye coordination, so I’m guessing it shouldn’t affect him as much, and I’m wishing him the best.