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Monson: Manti Te'o's story is hard to believe

Published January 17, 2013 9:33 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Somebody once said: "When you stretch the truth, watch out for the snapback."

On Wednesday, back came the snap.

We found out the most inspirational story of the college football season, Manti Te'o's emotional drive forward after his grandmother passed away and, at the same time, his girlfriend died of leukemia, was stretched across an entire nation, straight through our hearts and tear ducts, and now, suddenly, down our digestive tracts and out our hind ends. It turns out that Te'o's girlfriend did not die of leukemia because she did not exist, as explained in a full account by Deadspin.

The whole thing about the love of the Notre Dame linebacker's life, Lennay Kekua, dying in September, begging him on her way out to honor her by bravely playing on, was made up, a piece of fiction, a couple of fistfuls of inspiring B.S.

I don't know about anybody else, but I'll take my inspiration with a couple cubes of truth, thank you. Otherwise, inspiration can take a flying leap.

This was a far cry from truth.

It was a lie.

Another dose of dishonesty in a world that seems full of it. How many Lance Armstrong's and Manti Te'o's are we supposed to absorb every week? Doesn't anybody tell the truth anymore? Grandma used to say, "Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all."

Now, the question has become, "Who did the sinning?"

Te'o issued a statement on Wednesday claiming that he had been the victim of a hoax:

"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."

It's also, at least to me, inconceivable and unbelievable. There's not enough elasticity on the planet to supply such a stretch of the imagination. Who has a blind relationship that supposedly goes on for three years, so intense to make the Te'o family believe that the woman on the other end of it is headed toward marrying Manti, without so much as meeting her in person? It's possible, I suppose, but does that sound probable? Brian Te'o said in an earlier story that his son had, in fact, met Kekua in Hawaii.

"She's the most beautiful person I had ever met," Manti Te'o said in one interview.

Met, meaning online, is the story now.

Later, Te'o went to Notre Dame officials three weeks after he received a call from his dead fake girlfriend's cellphone in early December saying, hold everything, she was alive.

Inconceivable, unbelievable.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick Wednesday night said he does believe Te'o was duped into the absentee relationship with Kekua, and that her death was faked by the hoax's perpetrators. Deadspin's report seemed to indicate that Te'o was in on the fabrication from the beginning. And that is a little easier to believe.

Where's the truth?

Buried somewhere under that heap of lies.

In earlier stories published about Te'o, there were specifics about how the linebacker met Kekua. According to the South Bend Tribune, the two met when Notre Dame played at Stanford in 2009: "Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te'o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes."

After Te'o told Swarbrick his side of the story in late December, he never let on about the sorry episode's untruthfulness through interviews leading up to and after the BCS championship game, even when he was asked about the tragedy, until Wednesday. And while we're on that track, the media does deserve blame here for allowing a piece of fiction to survive as fact for as long as it did, without so much as a phone call to check on the matter.

Turns out, the easiest story to tell is the one we want to believe. And now, nobody knows what to believe or disbelieve, not anymore.

Gordon Monson hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.






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