Catfish

(In case you’ve been living in a cave and don’t know who Manti Te’o is, read my prior post from before the revelation that his dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never even existed.) When Deadspin first broke this story, my first thought was that this was a closeted gay strategy to explain why he wasn’t dating girls. But that was before reporters started digging in earnest and information about what happened started trickling out. I had assumed that Manti had not dated during his 3 1/2 years at Notre Dame, but a couple of ND sources with knowledge informed me that was not the case. Also, if this were set up to shield Manti from questions about his sexuality, the mastermind would have been a friend of his and setting all this up for his benefit. But we now know he created the fake Kekua persona previously and tried to play other people with it as well. So I gave up on the gay angle.

Then for a time I leaned toward the socially awkward Mormon angle, and while there might still be a dollop of that in the equation, classmates and teammates report that he was not socially awkward around women.

I never did buy the angle that Manti did this intentionally to boost his chances for the Heisman. that doesn’t make any sense to me; no one expected Notre Dame to do as well as it did, and it wasn’t until long after the supposed death of Kekua that Manti becamse a serious contender for the Heisman. The groundwork he would have had to lay over the previous summer would have been daunting. I just don’t see that happening.

So the above were sort of my initial thoughts as I, like everyone else, was trying to wrap my head around this. I’ve now read the transcript of the 2 1/2 hour ESPN interview, and last night I watched the Katie Couric interview, as well as reading the major news articles as they’ve been coming down the pike. So absent any new revelations, my final take on this whole thing is as follows:

1. Manti is not gay.

2. Manti was not a coconspirator in the hoax; he was a victim of the hoax.

3. Everyone is upset that Manti continued to use the same script after the December 6th call. I’m not. People are projecting back what we know now to that date, as if it should then have been clear to him what had happened. But he didn’t understand what had happened and was as confused as hell. Suppose he did try to tell the press; what exactly would he tell them? You think they’re not going to pepper him with tons of follow up questions he doesn’t know the answer to? To me that was understandable.

4. As I see it, he made two mistakes. One, he lied to his father about actually meeting up with her that one time in Hawaii. He did that because he knew his dad wouldn’t approve of him having such strong feelings for a woman he hadn’t even met yet; if he had been straight with him, his dad probably would have nipped this in the bud at that time.

5. Mistake two was when he got the December 6 call that Lennay was still alive, he kept the info to himself and tried to figure it out on his own. But he simply wasn’t equipped to be able to figure it out. In his interview with Kate Sullivan, she asks him what advice he would have for an athlete coming to ND and trying to juggle athletics and academics, and he talked about time management, and then he said that if you have a problem, just ask somebody, there are all sorts of resources to help if you’ll take the initiative to ask and seek it out. In this case he should have taken his own counsel and sought some help.

6. I got my Sports Illustrated yesterday, and there was an article basically treating Manti and Lance Armstrong as one and the same. And that really pissed me off. Manti is a 21-year old kid who was the victim of a very complicated and vicious catfish hoax, and he made some mistakes trying to deal with it. Armstrong was a monster and a bully who destroyed lives. Just because the stories broke at the same time and involved deception, putting those two in the same box struck me as incredibly lazy journalsim.

7. I’m shocked that there are still people who think Manti was in on the creation of Lennay. Have they not been paying attention to the evidence or are they too stupid to follow it?

8. Manti is going to be fine. He’ll be the butt of a lot of jokes, but once he settles in with a team eventually it will get old. If he can grow a thick skin about it and get used to people busting his balls over it, eventually most people will get tired of it.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    David Haugh had a good article in this morning’s Chicago Tribune, “Time to put Te’o embrarrassment to rest.” I agree with his sentiments..

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/columnists/ct-spt-0125-haugh-manti-teo-chicago–20130125,0,1090901.column

  2. Thanks Kevin. Completely agree and hope he ends up with that thick skin, playing for my Green Bay Packers. Clay could use the help.

  3. European Saint says:

    Good stuff, Kevin. I am also in complete agreement with you. Best of luck to Manti.

  4. Thanks, Kevin.

  5. “I’m shocked that there are still people who think Manti was in on the creation of Lennay. Have they not been paying attention to the evidence or are they too stupid to follow it?”

    This is how I’ve been increasingly feeling lately. The poor guy had to put up with being pranked in a very cruel way, and now he’s being victimized by the public who refuse to believe him. He’s handling it, as he has everything, with a lot of grace because he’s a great guy, but it’s frustrating.

    Tuiasosopo, on the other hand, should be forced to go up against the Notre Dame defense by himself. There’s no excuse for what he did.

  6. +1

  7. This is a most helpful condensed can of Manti; I avoided the ongoing and convoluted saga when I could because it’s so trivial and confusing that I couldn’t begin to sort it out and get some coherence. I’m just going to trust that you’re not catfishing us. I hope Teo will have a great laugh about this in years to come and the d-bag who perpetrated this will have his name equated with Infamous Vicious Pointless Liar in perpetuity.

    Thanks!

  8. I wondered what the story told us about internet dating in the “isolated” LDS YSA world. But I thought this was interesting about the distinct Samoan aspects of the story: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/01/the-samoan-roots-of-the-manti-teo-hoax/272486/

  9. The Atlantic article (in #8) is definitely insightful. You really can’t underestimate the significance of Manti’s Samoan-ness, Hawaiian-ness, and Mormon-ness in whole situation. Those are all cultures built on loyalty, trust, and whole-hearted love. [And isn't that one of the reasons Utah is the nation's scam and fraud capital? We're suckers.]

  10. The swimming pools of money he gets in the NFL will no doubt help him develop a thick skin, or at least provide him the means to purchase one. And if I’m eHarmony, I’ve already written the commercial I’m going to pay him $2M to be in.

  11. I’ve been following the story and I agree with you completely on every point.

  12. Left Field says:

    May I ask what’s the significance of the term “catfish”? I’m guessing it doesn’t have anything to do with Jim Hunter.

  13. it's a series of tubes says:

    May I ask what’s the significance of the term “catfish”? I’m guessing it doesn’t have anything to do with Jim Hunter

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1584016/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

  14. Left Field says:

    By why “catfish” as opposed to say, tuna or sea urchin?

  15. Left Field says:

    By = But

  16. Read the last paragraph under “Plot” in this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catfish_(film)

  17. It sounds like he may have been less active his first couple of years at Notre Dame; I wonder if the transition to church activity also caused him to change his dating habits. A long-distance relationship is certainly safer for limiting physical contact.

    In any case, I really appreciate this post.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    JrL, I had not seen that article. I thought it was terrific and extremely insightful, and it really rings true to me and explains a lot. Highly recommended.

  19. I feel for Manti. I can’t imagine how I would react at the age on Dec. 8th if my whole world was shattered in a horribly embarrassing way on Dec. 6th. The insensitive criticism and worst case assumptions that immediately flooded nearly every media source in the country has been proof of how accurate his concerns were.

  20. Thanks. The insistence to blame the victim drives me crazy. I found that Atlantic article very interesting.

    Have wondered if Tuiasosopo is gay and was attempting to establish a relationship of some kind.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Britt, I’ve wondered the same thing.

  22. Britt – Tuiasosopo started the fake personality in 2009 and made contact with a Hawaiian beauty pageant queen and even was supposed to meet up with her once but showed up as himself instead. So to me it doesn’t sound like he was trying to establish “gay” romantic relationships as his main motive.

  23. I agree with the OP. If anyone had the foresight, ruthlessness, and cajones to pull this off for football related reasons, it would be Nick Saban, not Manti himself. Additionally, if I’m an NFL exec, I’m much more concerned with that image of Te’o being steamrolled by Lacy that’s stuck in my head than this hoax. I wonder how much this all played into his relatively poor showing at the NC? Poor guy – I would have been an emotional wreck. (As opposed to the wrecking ball necessary against the Tide.)

  24. DOLLY WRIGHT says:

    Point number 7 could not be more true. I have read more lazy journalism this past week than I ever want to read again. In some cases, I actually wanted to poke my eyes out. Fortunately there have been good ones. LIke the Atlantic article. And this one. articleshttp://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/8868640/manti-teo-longfellow-deeds-gold-helmet-college-football Ivan Maisel comparing this catfish to Mr. Deeds to Town. I’ll add to that… The Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom com, “You’ve Got Mail” was well accepted as two people actually falling in love with someone they met on line and were clearly in love before they had ever met. Not portrayed as hoax but to the people who are in denial that you can call someone the “love of my life” whom you have not met. It’s not uncommon even in real life. I know people who are in that camp. By now, anyone who really observes life can see where reality is stranger than fiction.

  25. DOLLY WRIGHT says:

    * “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”

  26. Great write up. I still love Manti!

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