Manti Everyman

“This is perhaps the goofiest ‘non-sports’ sports story we’ve experienced since Tonya Harding” – Chuck Klosterman

Those who follow sports, especially college football, are already well aware of the breaking Manti Teo story – which I would say qualifies as both bizarre and absurd. Teo (actually, “Te’o” – but I left out the *’* for brevity) apparently had some form or fashion of “relationship” with a totally fictitious person “Lennay Kekua” (she’s Polynesian).  Then, around the time that his grandmother actually dies, Lennay also tragically dies of … complications of lukemia and a horrific car crash. (Note to the younger generation. If you ever need an excuse, a cause of death, a reason for missing the party – PICK ONE AND ONLY ONE – never two. As soon as there are two reasons we know you’re lying.)

Stories are everywhere, so you hardly need my help finding links, but “deadspin” was apparently early to the game (here) and Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman (quoted above) have an interesting exchange here.

I honestly can’t string it all together, though Klosterman notes three possibilities: [1] Teo was duped the whole way, [2] Teo was duped early but kept playing along out of either humiliation or because he liked the attention, or [3] he was  in on it the whole time. Which is it? I don’t know. But my suspicions right now are that Teo is more than a mere victim in all this.

Suppose it was [2] or [3] though, and Teo played the whole thing up for attention (at least one teammate says so anyway). I suppose that makes him very human. We all crave attention. Deep within our hearts we understand that there is the capacity to lie to or otherwise manipulate people if the result will be greater sympathy and compassion in our direction. It happens.

Yes, the hoax speaks to some manner of compulsive lying, some inability to survive in the midst of all the legitimate accolades that come with being a starting linebacker at Notre Dame. Surely most of us would stop well short of that … or at least we like to think we would.

I personally wish Teo well. This is the kind of blowup embarrassing story that changes a young man’s life. The questions will likely not go away. This probably hurts his draft status (what NFL team wants the headache … especially when there are better linebackers out there?). What could have become a promising career could now be a joke, a byword. I hope he can get beyond it – for his sake.

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