If the allegations against Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o are true, they're absolutely appalling, outrageous, and he's a truly pathetic man. If his story -- that he's the victim of a huge hoax -- is true, well, then he deserves a big hug.
Here's the deal. According to a report from Deadspin, the Heisman Trophy finalist allegedly concocted a story about a girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, and her subsequent death. The story of her death back in September was all over the news at the time, as people lauded him for being so strong and playing so well through his pain. He said Kekua had been in a car accident and was then diagnosed with leukemia while recovering, which eventually killed her. But still he played on valiantly, earning tears and admiration along the way.
At the time he said she told him to keep playing, to not miss a game if she died. So play on he did, leading his team to the championship game. At a game four days after her death (and that of his grandmother who did really die) he told reporters:
They were with me. So, I couldn't do without them. I couldn't do without the support of my family and my girlfriend's family. I'm so grateful for all the love and support that all the fans, both Michigan State and Notre Dame, and fans around the world for supporting me and my family and my girlfriend's family. I miss them. I miss them. But I know that I'll see them again one day.
But here's the thing -- Kekua never existed. That much we know is true. It was a haox, and Te'o has acknowledged it. Now the big question is who was behind the hoax and how much Te'o knew? Was it all fueled by Te'o to get sympathy? Or was it some cruel-hearted prankster with exceptionally persuasive skills strong enough to make a man fall in love with a woman he never met and continue a relationship with her for more than a year online and over the phone? The former is certainly easier to believe.
But Te'o says he had no clue. In a statement he said:
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.
Is that possible? Really? Deadspin says Kekua's online persona was created by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a friend of Te'o's. So was he tricking his friend, or helping him carry out the hoax? So many questions.
Either way though I find it absolutely unbelievable -- unbelievable that someone could sink that low, or unbelievable that someone could really be that gullible. If I had to bet, though based on the facts we have now, I'd put my money on the former.
Do you think Manti Te'o is telling the truth that he was a victim of a hoax? Or do you think he made the whole thing up?
Image via ABC