The Manti Te’o Star Football Player Fake Dead Girlfriend Story is one of the weirdest stories I’ve ever heard, on more levels than I can possibly identify.
One significant part of the weirdness, for me, is this: how can you have a “girlfriend” who you’ve never really met? I recognize that the internet, cell phones, text messages, tweeting, and social networking sites permit long-distance, virtual relationships. Before you took that significant emotional step and started calling someone a “girlfriend” or “boyfriend,” though, wouldn’t you want to satisfy yourself that the person actually existed? Wouldn’t you want to walk with them, smell their hair, and see how they looked when they laughed or ate their food? Perhaps it’s a generational thing, but I think a lot of the “girlfriend” concept is satisfying yourself that the person in question is someone you like to be around, and not just some disembodied voice you hear on the phone at night or get an “LOL” from in response to a text message.
Another part of the weirdness is trying to figure out the motives of whoever was involved in perpetrating a colossal hoax. Why would anyone put the time and effort into maintaining such a complicated bit of deception? What satisfaction would any stranger get by concocting a phony person, convincing Te’o to fall for the facade, and ultimately making him look like a naive and pathetic Mr. Lonelyheart? Aside from being astonishingly cruel, you’d have to think that anyone involved in implementing such an elaborate, time-consuming scheme needs to get a life of their own. And if Te’o was involved, why did he do it? He had a great career at Notre Dame; why would he feel the need to add a gloss to it by inventing a non-existent girlfriend and then knocking her off?
A final part of the weirdness: why did the sports news media just swallow this story without doing very basic fact-checking — like trying to confirm some of the core elements of the story? It makes you wonder how many of these heartwarming, overcome-all-odds sports stories that we hear are outright fiction.