When the breaking news came yesterday, the most inspirational sports story of the year was revealed to be a lie. Today's news revolves around the question whether Te'o was a mere victim of a hoax or whether he had a hand in the deceit.
In his statement issued Wednesday, Te'o posits that he was indeed a victim.
To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating," 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.
His hometown of Laie believes his story, crediting him to be "open" and "trusting" and described in the L.A. Times by Makala Paakaula, a school administrator, as being "a hero and role model".
Notre Dame correctly described the hoax as a "sad, cruel game" and is continuing their investigation surrounding the scandal.
Sports journalists and the public, though, are skeptical. The Sun-Times' Rick Telander speculates that Te'o was an active agent in the falsehood with his eye on the Heisman. (A strategy that worked to some degree, considering Telander admits that he was swayed to vote for Te'o following hearing of the tragic story.)
However, other issues arise if we operate under the assumption that he was oblivious to his friends' ruse. From a personal and safety standpoint, how could Manti Te'o not have realized that she was a fabrication?
The following beg the previous question:
1. Wouldn't he have corrected the media when they continually wrote that he met her at a Stanford game? In recent interviews, Te'o asserts the relationship was strictly online and over the phone. Surely, the "straight-laced" linebacker would have ensured that all stories about him were as accurate as possible.
2. Presuming he had believed that he "met" her online, being a fairly well-known college football player, wouldn't he have Googled her for safety reasons? Google searches producing nothing more than a Twitter and/or Facebook account should have raised a red flag, especially with today's catfishing and danger involved with online dating.
3. Te'o is believed to have been entrenched in a serious, albeit online, relationship. One that he prioritized enough to stay on the phone with all night and dedicate games to after she "passed away." Upon her death, such a deep relationship would have triggered Te'o to at least want to read an obituary for closure, right? Assuming he did try to find the obit, wouldn't he have contacted the family requesting one? Or even if one can assume he missed all funeral ceremonies due to football commitments the alleged girlfriend would have wanted him to keep, wouldn't he have wanted to visit the gravesite?
Since Deadspin broke the story, questions concerning the details have yet to be satisfactorily explained. For me, it's a bit hard to swallow that Te'o was a victim considering his claimed emotional connection sans action to meet with the family following her then-believed death.