The Royal Heffernans

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Manti Te'o: The Last Word

So here we are. After a month of nonstop rumors, falsities and near-constant ridicule of Manti Te'o nationally, the truth is finally out there. No more guessing. We know what happened with Te'o and his supposedly dead girlfriend Lennay Kekua. Both Te'o and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo have given extensive TV interviews, including their families.

So now that we see the extent to which Tuiasosopo went with his hoax, is there any support for Te'o from the media? No. Has anyone who ridiculed him offered an apology? No. There is really only one word that I would consider to describe this situation. Cruel.
  • Cruel what Tuiasosopo did to Te'o.
  • Cruel how the media immediately reported that Te'o faked a dead girlfriend to win the Heisman.
  • Cruel how Te'o was ridiculed for being hoaxed.
As a Notre Dame alum, I have been asked about this so many times, that I have first hand experience in seeing the huge misconceptions that the public has about this story. Without exception, when I explain some of the details to people, they immediately change their minds and show a lot of sympathy toward Te'o. Here are a few of the details that I think the media has decided to ignore: 

Te'o is a devout Mormon.  
So Mormon's have an unusual moral code that very strictly points out the do's and don'ts of dating. It is called For the Strength of Youth and is part of the Law of Chastity. It details celibacy, dating, dress code, dancing, music, language and pretty much everything fun about being young! In essence, Mormon's are allowed to hold hands and lightly kiss before marriage. That's it! In this context, it is not so unusual for a guy to be extremely inexperienced with women, and a long-distance or internet relationship is not so unusual.

This is 2013.
For all the reporters age 30 or greater, it is a whole new world of dating. Facebook, Twitter, texting and online dating are more common than hanging out in bars or at parties to meet girls. Yeah, it seems strange to me too, but that's just the way it is now. The geezers who can't believe Te'o had an online girlfriend who he never met are out of touch with dating in 2013.

Kekua was not a serious girlfriend until April 2012. A total of about 5 months.
Most reports ridicule Te'o for having an online girlfriend that he never met for years. That is blatantly wrong. This was literally a Facebook friend for a couple years. It wasn't until Tuiasosopo invented a car accident in April that Te'o was drawn in. So when was Te'o supposed to meet her while at ND and playing football? She was "in the hospital" from her car accident, then she was "diagnosed with leukemia" and undergoing chemo. Even if she was real, he wouldn't have had a chance to see her - he didn't even get to see his grandmother before she died.

Te'o was far from the lost puppy dog in the relationship.
As evidenced by the voice messages Te'o released, Te'o had plenty of other female friends before and during the intense few months that he had a relationship with "Kekua". On one, Tuiasosopo goes crazy when a girl answered Te'o's phone. There are pics online of a St. Mary's student Te'o was seeing shortly after "Kekua" died. Te'o also tried to break off the online relationship many times, feeling it was strange or not right. In fact, "Kekua's" death was 1 week after Te'o had called things off for good. When Tuiasosopo found out Te'o's grandmother had died, he called as Kekua again that same day. Te'o was angry and hung up on her. That's when and why Tuiasosopo had a family member call Te'o and say Kekua had died. The absolute height of cruelty.

My last word on this: 
Te'o's naivete made him a target, and as a result he was publicly humiliated. The degree to which the public took joy in ridiculing Te'o is completely unfair, especially because almost no one knows (or cares to know) the facts of the story. The laziness that the media displayed in first running with the dead girlfriend story was nothing compared to the laziness displayed in reporting this hoax. Te'o will forever be associated with this hoax, which makes me sad. In my eyes, it doesn't diminish him in any way as one of the greatest Notre Dame players ever.

1 comment:

Colin and Liz said...

He had to go behind the screen to do his Silence of the Lambs impersonation in order to get his voice that high.