(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.