Commentary: Manti Te'o duped but not innocentPosted: Updated:
Manti Te'o was "catfished" by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo likely for eventual financial reasons. Te'o corresponded with this girl for years and really believed this girl existed. How can this go on for years? Easily. They were just friends. In the last few months, however, Tuiasosopo knew he really needed to start reeling Te'o in for the cash out. How do you do that? You do that by creating tragedy. Tuisasosopo though, wasn't content with just one tragedy to grip hold of Te'o's heart. He went for four tragedies. He wanted Manti to fall deep.
First, Tuisasopo put this girl in a car crash, then a coma. Not good enough? Then he gave her leukemia? Still not good enough? Nope. Then he killed her. Most of these events happening when Te'o was beginning his senior football season and Tuiaspsopo knew Te'o wouldn't leave South Bend for a girl he never even met. It was perfect.
Somehow in mid-september after Te'o grandmother passed someone, maybe a teammate, tells a reporter that Manti also just lost someone he cares about to leukemia. The story breaks. First, the girl is reported to be a "close friend" but then a couple reports referred to her as his "girlfriend." Here's where Te'o made a crucial mistake and one he'll never live down.
Te'o right there, in mid-September, had ample opportunity when the story of this girl's passing leaked, to say, "Wait, hang on here. I know this girl. I have feelings for this girl but we've never actually met. I just know her through correspondence. It's heartbreaking that she passed and I cared for her but she was never really my girlfriend,"
Te'o never stepped up and set the record straight. Instead, Te'o "went with it" because he liked the attention and liked the story. The dead grandmother should have been enough but it wasn't. Te'o went all-in with the dead girlfriend story.
But now there was a problem, Notre Dame kept winning and Te'o kept dominating. More media. More attention. More questions about the girlfriend that passed. Te'o was all-in. The stories keep coming. What can it hurt, Te'o probably thought. Maybe along the lines of, "I really did care for this girl. She's passed on. What can it hurt to tell people how much I loved and cared for her? I really did."
This all then comes crashing down when it turns out the girl never existed. Is he a victim of a hoax? Yes. But Te'o was disingenuous, misleading the public that this relationship was something more than it actually was and every word he said about this girl, which in some cases can only be described as flowery embellishment ("she's the love of my life"), is now coming back to haunt him.
Te'o is the victim of a cruel joke but also guilty of perpetuating a story that he knew to be a few steps of the right of the truth.