I've spent the past week craning my neck and gaping in can't-even-wrap-my-head-around-this-nonsense amazement at the train wreck that is the Manti Te'o story. I started to write about it a couple times and then stopped because (a) my words were immediately rendered irrelevant by whatever new nonsense was dripping from the wreckage and (b) I don't even know how to sensibly write about something that has at no point been sensible. Basically, there is both nothing to write and everything to write.
I'm gonna start with this: My initial reaction was that there was literally no possible way Te'o wasn't in on the whole thing. More than anything else, it was the unbelievability that anybody could have a four-year relationship-type thing with a person who claims to be in a terrible car accident, go into a coma, be diagnosed with leukemia, undergo extensive treatment and then die without ever seeing said person. And considering that he did claim (in amazingly detailed fashion) to have met her at a Stanford game, vacationed with her in Hawaii, etc., the only possible scenarios were that Te'o was directly involved from the beginning (either for the publicity or for a cover story) or was/is a mind-blowingly naive, ignorant and socially awkward person who's also a liar. The more detail that comes out -- from the documentation of the roses he sent to that house in California to the anecdotal Facebook messages and recollections of lengthy phone calls and whatnot -- the more plausible the latter seems. Whether that's actually better is a matter of opinion.
I mean ... I just ... I don't know, man. Go back and read the second sentence of the previous paragraph. There's naive/ignorant/socially awkward and then there's that.
She was in that hospital for about two months. ... Remember, she got in the accident and she was in a coma. We lost her, actually, twice. She flatlined twice. They revived her twice. It was just a trippy situation. It was a day I was flying home from South Bend to go home for summer break. It was May. Mid-May. That was the day where they said, "Bro, we're going to pull it. We're going to pull the plug." I remember having this feeling like everything is going to be OK. They were telling me, "Say your goodbyes." From April 28 to around mid-May, I was always talking to my girlfriend who was on a machine.Ehh, I'll visit the dying love of my life some other time. NBD. And that black box over her face on Skype is probably just a weird Skype thing because lol technology. Like everything else about this story, his involvement in what he supposedly thought was a serious relationship with somebody his father honestly believed "could be our daughter-in-law" makes no sense whatsoever.
And what makes even less sense is every single thing about Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Every single thing. Why would a "family friend" do that? Why were they tweeting back and forth months and months ago if he weren't a family friend and were just some guy associated with a girlfriend he'd never actually met? Why were they hanging out in Cali after the USC-Notre Dame game, which was right about the time the whole thing started to unravel when the fake Twitter account for U'ilani Kekua (which Te'o was following and tweeting to) was deleted after people started tweeting about it being a fake run by the same person running Lennay's account? Why do these paragraphs exist and make as much sense as anything else?
A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was "80 percent sure" that Manti Te'o was "in on it," and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua's death with publicity in mind. According to the friend, there were numerous photos of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Te'o together on Tuiasosopo's now-deleted Instagram account.I don't know, man.
The sheer quantity of falsehoods about Manti's relationship with Lennay makes that friend, and another relative of Ronaiah's, believe Te'o had to know the truth. Mostly, though, the friend simply couldn't believe that Te'o would be stupid enough — or Ronaiah Tuiasosopo clever enough — to sustain the relationship for nearly a year.
On a related note, I couldn't be any less inclined to believe Notre Dame's story that Te'o was gonna come out with the whole thing the Monday after Deadspin went ham; mmmkay. That story was gonna stay buried until somebody unburied it, as was made evident by Te'o bunkering down for three days after it broke and then saying nothing until an off-camera, after-midnight interview with a lawyer present and with only Jeremy Schaap asking the questions. Spending a week getting your story straight doesn't lend a lot of credence to the story that you were just totally hoaxed by something and did nothing wrong oh except for all the lies yeah those ummm yeah.
And really, considering that (a) Te'o's story at this point is that everything before this point was a lie and (b) Tuiasosopo has disappeared off the face of the Earth except for Te'o claiming he's said various apologetic things, isn't it possible that the above-blockquoted excerpt is entirely accurate and that everything coming out now is being manufactured by lawyers paid to generate face-saving cover stories? That's somewhat of a rhetorical question, I guess, but it's not entirely rhetorical since yes, it is possible. And plausible. The great thing about this story is that you can believe anything and it is as believable as anything else.
From Bill Simmons:
Is this the strangest sports story of all time? Will we ever have a sports story weirder than a star linebacker for the highest profile school in the nation possibly making up an online girlfriend, eventually killing her off, using that as "motivation", then claiming he was a victim of a hoax and either making the whole thing up or really being the victim of a hoax? — Trevin, Fort Worth, TXIndeed. Note to self: DVR Thursday's "Katie" for the first time ever.
SG: The short answer: No. If only because the whole saga was so elaborately convoluted from start to finish that this was either (a) a phenomenal hoax pulled off on someone who was phenomenally naive; (b) a snowball-type story in which Te'o got catfished, found out in the August-September range, then decided to keep embellishing the story and making things worse over just coming clean; (c) the handiwork of one of the greatest pathological liars who ever lived, and someone who was involved in the hoax the whole time; or (d) the workings of a closeted football star who invented a fake girlfriend to throw everyone off the scent, never imagining that his career and team would take off, and that the ensuing level of scrutiny ended up trapping him within this spiderweb of lies that just kept getting worse and worse. Those are the only four acceptable answers. So yes, we might not ever have a stranger sports story than this one.
I could pretty easily write 2,000 more words here, but they'd effectually be the same as what's above and therefore can be aptly summarized by "WTF" and "this is the weirdest story ever." Srsly. This thing is weirder than Tonya Harding and weirder than O.J., because those things (as weird as they were) at least made sense on some level. This thing still makes none and probably won't unless Te'o comes out as being gay (as believable as anything else; see above), in which case the internet would explode again and columnists everywhere would look down their noses at society for requiring a guy to make up a fake girlfriend and kill her off to avoid the stigma and such. Barring that, this will probably remain the weirdest story ever for all of eternity, and that's OK since it's resulted in some entertainment-related brilliance that might never be outshone.
And from Cuppy Cup:
For the win.