Monday, February 4, 2013


With some notable exceptions we generally won’t jump on a subject until it’s been hashed over and over and all the available information has been revealed.  Then we try and take a mature, deliberate approach looking for other perspectives not already offered – those seemingly closest to the truth.  With everybody opining on the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax and information still being revealed, we should probably just lay low even a while longer and let the rest of the world rush by on this.  But, lots of Friends (and not) have asked our opinion and for what it’s worth – here it is. First, let’s just start by observing that this is still a convoluted mess - a ball of snakes that may ultimately make sense but we are a long way from there at this time.
We’ve read many of the posts and articles ad nauseum on Manti and watched his interview with Katie Couric.  We’ve also evaluated Jeremy Schapp’s ESPN interview with Te’o and gleaned relevant snippets from Dr. Phil McGraw’s interview with “admitted hoaxter” Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.  And even after devouring all this data it certainly appears that there is more to come.  Like many we have talked with, we just have this feeling of negative anticipation - that the next shoe is getting set to drop.  This is an ever developing story that has its mostly lows (no highs) – if it matters or anybody really cares (you should). Well, we do care but only because Te’o made such major spectacle out of the passing of his grandmother (God rest her soul) and the coincidental and equally distressing passing of Lennay Kekua, his soul-mate (on-line) girlfriend of three years due to leukemia. We were inspired by his reaction both off and on the football field though in retrospect he now looks more like a God-invoking Ray Lewis who with his Tammy Faye Baker face paint who recently postured and evangelized himself to a farewell Super Bowl victory.  Can the documentary be far behind?  We say, Remember Atlanta 2000.
Who should really care about this mess is the NFL team (Bills, Saints, Bears, Cowboys?) that may draft Manti Te’o.  First, if he was ever going to be a high draft pick, his lackluster showing in the BCS championship vs. Alabama might hurt him more than (optimistically) his apparent gullibility and naiveté.  And how did Alabama neutralize Te’o?  They ran right at him… How can we forget Alabama running back Ed Lacy running over Te’o?  Some say that at best Te’o would now appear to be a late first round draft pick especially with some NFL types opining that he is small, though while quick – not that fast. Others including ESPN have him rated as high as a fourth pick – that nothing has changed.  We will see… 

Some marketing pros say that Te’o’s brand may have been tainted by this scandal even to the tune of $4M US dollars. Of course, owners like a delusional Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys intent on perpetuating their “growing legacy of mediocrity” seems to thrive on controversy and may just consider a controversial Te’o another marketing tool especially given the injuries to Sean Lee and Demarcus Ware.  Surely jerry wouldn’t do that?  Of course, he would! In the NFL Theater who’s to say that Te’o hasn’t enhanced his marketability?

When the revelation was starting to unfold many jumped to the very plausible conclusion that Te’o fabricated the whole story in order to enhance his Heisman chances. We do know that Teo lied (and admitted doing so, “briefly”) after he “found out the truth.”  Yet, he also admitted lying to his Family about personally meeting the nonexistent Kekua.  How do you lie to your Family? When Katie Couric confronted Te’o with his lies all he could do to justify them was to rhetorically ask Couric what she would have done? Well, she probably would have told the truth though we suspect she wouldn’t have put herself in that situation in the first place.  Thank God the Heisman voters got it right…  

When this whole mess started to break wide open, though well before the admission by Tuiasosopo that he had orchestrated the hoax, a Friend looked at me and stated emphatically, “Te’o is Gay…”  I was floored, nowhere near that conclusion - an option that never even remotely occurred to me.  Now, that possibility is being bandied about and as one journalist says is, “the elephant in the room” and the most probable reason for all this.

So, while Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has admitted he perpetrated the hoax and was Lennay Kekua’s voice, we still think that we only have part of the story.  Dr. Phil’s audio experts state with a certainty that their scientific analysis of Tuiasasopo’s voice and the three voicemails from “Lennay Kekua” supplied by Manti Te’o reflect that they are one and the same person.  However, the New York Post alleges that Ronaiah’s female cousin, Tino Tuiasasopo, was actually the one speaking for hours at a time on the phone with Te’o.  This apparently from one of Tino’s cousins who told The Post, “There is no doubt whatsoever that it’s Tino.” Other audio experts advised ABC’s Good Morning America that it was, “impossible that it was a man on the phone.” That assertion points squarely to the possibility of conspiracy.

So, whose experts do we believe in this ever expanding snake pit?   A surmise – what if we choose to believe the scientific evidence as interpreted by the forensic voice analysts on the Dr. Phil show? Well I listened to the sound track. It was creepy with all the tone, inflections and subtle mannerisms of a female.  I am sure that I would have been fooled…

So, we give Manti the benefit of the doubt - that he did not participate in this hoax, rather was duped for the better part of three years – by his own admission falling in love with someone he had never met or spent any quality time with – just a voice on the other end of his phone.  STRIKE ONE. 

Then after all this drama she dies and despite his declaration of love and importance in his life, he doesn’t even go to her funeral – only sending flowers.  Te’o offered that he had conveniently and confusingly promised Kekua that he would continue to play football even if something happened to her.  STRIKE TWO.  When the hoax was uncovered Te’o stated his sending the flowers was the proof that he had been duped – vindication, all for the price of a few white roses? Note also that Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly posthumously awarded the Michigan-Notre Dame game ball to Lennay Kekua for Te’o to, “Take back to Hawaii.” Can Coach Kelly take the game ball back?

Mormon or not, celibate or not these behaviors all by themselves point to a socially dysfunctional individual who was desperately trying to salvage his credibility in the marketplace we call the human condition and at that time (knowing about the hoax) keep his Heisman chances alive.

Lawyer, sports journalist and editor for, Clay Travis, speaks for many with his observation that, “Either Manti Te'o is gay or he's the dumbest Notre Dame grad of all time.”  We noted that Te’o scored a credible 1540 on his SATs and earned a 3.3 GPA at Notre Dame.  No, he’s not dumb but, is he Gay?

Not that being Gay should matter or is a big deal now, but if we are to believe Chris Culliver, cornerback for the Forty-Niners, many football players don’t want to share the locker room or shower – that last safe bastion of Straight Manhood - with an openly Gay teammate.  While that ill-advised statement quickly prompted understandable condemnation by the Forty-Niners organization and an apology from Culliver, it shouldn’t be a surprise that homophobia exists in professional sports.  Now we feel that Te’o’s sexual orientation is his business though that could be guiding his thought process now that the Heisman is gone.

It would appear that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s admission that he is gay and probably in love with Te'o seals this whole mess.  He says he is confused and has now laid all this at the feet of a family friend who abused him as a child. Gads, blame everybody else but please don’t accept any responsibilities for your own actions. So now Tuiasosopo is, “just searching for his real identity.” His pedophile family friend made him do it…

Whatever Tuiasosopo’s issues, it’s easier to accept that Te’o is just plain screwed up, somewhat naïve (irresponsible) and socially dysfunctional.  It may be a reach for some to offer that Te’o is using this fabricated on-line relationship as a ruse and, “convenient cover” for “his homosexuality”.   When Couric asked Te’o if he was Gay he looked as if he was taking offense responding in macho though obviously nervous fashion, “No, far from it. Farrr from it.”  Some members of Couric’s audience laughed though we think Te’o protesteth verily too much.

All that from someone who was supposedly still grieving over Kekua (the “love of his life”) and with the tears still wet on his face - starts “dating” Alexandra del Pilar from nearby St. Mary’s College?  Even if we believe that Te’o wasn’t participating in the hoax, this reaction shows us an insensitive Te’o with two faces.  So, we see major character issues with this guy that also include lying to his Father/Family who passed those lies on to the media about meeting Kekua and fabricating details of their relationship.  Te’o also lied to his Team, a gullible Media, the Nation and then copping incredulity that he should react any other way.  STRIKE THREE.

If it hadn’t been for Deadspin’s Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey none of this hoax would have been revealed and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get to honestly know Manti Te’o up close and personal. If you want another objective take on this whole story, we encourage you to read Deadspin’s article which has not been refuted by anybody – a testament to their good reporting.  Whether or not we care now, this story matters because it reminds us of critical identity issues on the internet and how they can be easily manipulated. So, be cautious of anybody you don’t know who, uninvited, contacts you on the internet. As for online dating – well, caveat emptor.

From what we have seen so far, we are embarrassed for Notre Dame, their students, faculty and supporters and how badly their administration handled this whole mess. As ESPN opined they responded,“…in a clumsy rush to protect the school and the team's reputation, potentially at the expense of their integrity.”  The Notre Dame administration was seemingly bent more on pursuing their own football mythology and begs the question if they would have similarly responded if it had been any other student. No, we don’t invoke any other local issue though wonder about a double standard here.  

Let’s see, I now know how to pronounce Tuiasosopo’s name.  No, I wouldn’t draft Te’o.  I don’t respect him and couldn’t trust him especially in critical, rubber-hits-the-road, situations. Some have conspicuously and tearfully wondered whether Te’o will “ever trust again” though we doubt if most people care.  We are with Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press who states on the other side of the coin that trusting Te’o now, “requires an act of faith.” We agree and still think that character matters…

And finally, what about the Super Bowl billboard proposed by the animal-rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), long known for its outspoken ad campaigns.  They were going to use the image of Manti Te’o in an ad for vegetarian chicken wings. Then along comes a cease and desist order and the billboard is no longer - just fodder for some forums and this post. The ad title - “Sometimes faking it is better.” Not really….


Ned Buxton

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