Tiger, Lance, Manti and the Great American Grovel

Manti Te’o‘s online romance with the imaginatively-named but fatally diseased Lennay Marie Kekua has prematurely shoved poor Lance Armstrong from his rightful place on the homepages of sports sites around the world.

The ex-7-time Tour de France-winner had confessed to Oprah that he had been lying through his teeth all these years only to be denied the spotlight mere hours later by a Heisman runner-up who just led his team to the wrong side of a 42-12 rout in the national championship game by missing a personal-worst 14 tackles.

Armstrong can take solace in the fact that Te’o is taking a page from his book and denying that he had been an active participant in a hoax that saw his imaginary girlfriend killed off by leukemia within hours of his real grandmother and just three days before he led the Fighting Irish to a stunning upset of Michigan State.

Te’o‘s denials are inherently un-credible, of course. Not only did he personally gild the lily by talking about his imaginary initial meeting with the non-existent Kekua after a 2009 football game at Stanford, he also happens to be close to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the young Lancaster man who fabricated Kekua using photos obtained from an innocent high school friend.

The many posted pictures of Te’o with Tuiasosopo suggest they are too close for the hoax to have been one-sided. What’s more, Tuiasosopo didn’t cover his tracks well while perpetrating the hoax, suggesting he’s not smart enough to have kept an unwitting Te’o in the dark for over a year.

The main question on everyone’s mind is why a much-admired linebacker of apparently deep religious conviction sought to plant and nurture a non-existent girlfriend in the world’s imagination.

The weight of popular opinion leans toward Te’o having concocted Kekua to tilt the Heisman Trophy contest in his favor by killing her off at just the right time to generate sympathy. But that scenario would require Te’o to have made the decision to create an imaginary girlfriend a year ago with the expectation of using her at some uncertain future time. It seems implausible to suppose that a busy college football star is capable of devoting that kind of energy on a hoax of such a contingent and dubious value.

It’s equally unlikely that the hoax was perpetrated just because two close friends had extra online time on their hands. That simply isn’t sufficient motivation for Tuiasosopo to go through the trouble of contacting a high school friend out of the blue to ask her to take a photo of herself holding a sign bearing initials calculated to authenticate the existence of a romance between herself and Te’o. Or to fabricate a sister for Kekua to bolster the hoax when it began to unravel after the fake Kekua’s faked death.

Both young men would have had to have had a mutually compelling motivation to perpetrate the hoax and seek to keep it alive so determinedly. Te’o is unlikely to have fabricated all those heartfelt accounts of all-night phone calls with a girlfriend dying in the hospital unless he felt a high degree of necessity.

What necessity could a fabricated girlfriend satisfy, at least to a foolish or desperate mind?

It’s significant that Te’o and Tuiasosopo are known to have met a number of times and had developed a close friendship. It’s also significant that a handsome football star like Te’o with a bright future in the NFL didn’t seem to have been linked publicly to any girlfriend. Especially in a college like Notre Dame in a town like South Bend, Indiana where people talk.

There’s no reason to carry that line of conjecture further. If history is any indication, sports stars caught in lies about their personal lives end up confessing and seeking the world’s forgiveness, rewriting over and over the Great American Grovel. Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods come to mind as having supplied among the more memorable of the past decade. And of course Lance Armstrong was just parting the curtains on his own confess-and-grovel phase when he was so rudely upstaged by Manti Te’o.

Americans are fixated on the foibles of sports stars, especially ones of a purely private nature. Armstrong’s doping, of course, has a public dimension in that he was cheating fellow competitors by seeking an unfair edge. And maybe for that reason, it isn’t as juicy and gripping as Te’o‘s little hoax. The ravenous minds of the world wide web have sniffed out in his denials a personal dimension likely to feed our morbid and insatiable curiosity about the weaknesses of our physically strongest celebrities.



Cleo · Jan 18, 06:18 AM · #

I’m not interested in this story nor in football BUT the fact that an adult concocted an imaginary playmate is AWESOME. I hope this story gets to be really entertaining. It reminds me of something highly amusing in its stupidity but I can’t remember what ….

If someone told me they had an imaginary friend, I would think, “F U” and say to them “why don’t you both have a seat while I go get you both something to drink” and then I would run away. That’s a sure sign of evil pretending to be crazy. I guess this guy was just venal and immature and not homicidal.

Maybe I’m thinking of Criminal Minds – there must have been at least episode with a unsub pretending to see people who weren’t there.

Cleo · Jan 18, 10:00 AM · #

They should hire a prostitute to claim responsibility so he won’t lose his reputation – they can even claim folie a deux.

Larry · Jan 18, 07:09 PM · #

I wonder how many imaginary friends you have Cleo. It’s time for a lonely man like yourself to go out into the real world and meet a nice lady. Then maybe you’d stop posting your toclafane comments on the internet all day long.

Cleo · Jan 19, 04:32 PM · #

God forbid, one day should go by without at least one shoutout to Akihito Morningstar and his skynet of surveillance satellites invading the privacy of not only the famous but the private citizens worldwide.

let’s wikileak him

Larry · Jan 19, 05:17 PM · #

Good news Cleo, Akihito just got assassinated yesterday. No more satellites are in orbit spying on you. The Japanese government is trying to keep it secret but I’m not sure how long they can. You just better pray Princess Masako doesn’t produce a son to take his place.

Cleo · Jan 21, 01:23 PM · #

it’s going to take more than Akihito’s official demise sans wikileak to end the cause of my bruxis – I see Taro Aso is prancing around in the news – the Japanese call him a “blue blood” – of what? murlocs? He looks freakier every day.

Larry · Jan 21, 07:24 PM · #

Cleo, it’s actually you who are freakier everyday. I’m going to Wikileak you as I suspect you’re a member of the Japanese spy agency. You’re a member of the Naicho aren’t you?

Cleo · Feb 4, 11:26 AM · #

because of his funny name and football, I ignored this boring story but I just realized that if he was so deep in the k hole over his correspondent, there is NO WAY he would have mentioned her to the press – because if he had been besotted, the relationship wouldn’t be mentionable to REPORTERS

so whatever this story is about – fer sure, he concocted a weak cancer story to help him get some kind of award and endorsements and his buddy backed him up by claiming to be the culprit

and i think the press is pretending to believe him or at least not really go after him because he is Samoan or Polynesian or whatever and maybe they are an endangered species or something – CLEARLY, he is not in the same league as Dwayne The ROCK Johnson!

Cleo · May 9, 09:51 AM · #

I guess this is definitely shenanigans now that I have watched the Maeve storyline on Criminal Minds – it’s really godawful – two unattractive, pretentious hipster types correspond ad nauseum but never meet i.e. they’re in NO hurry to get together – but it’s true love.

mm hmm

did Criminal Minds base the Maeve storyline because one of the writers is a Manti fan?

Cleo · May 9, 09:52 AM · #

I guess this is definitely shenanigans now that I have watched the Maeve storyline on Criminal Minds – it’s really godawful – two unattractive, pretentious hipster types correspond ad nauseum but never meet i.e. they’re in NO hurry to get together – but it’s true love.

mm hmm

did Criminal Minds create the Maeve storyline because one of the writers is a Manti fan?

but it was AWESOME to see Buffy’s Baby grown up and looking so cute!

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