No one spins stories better than Notre Dame–especially when the news might put the Irish in an unfavorable position.
Which is why the spin doctors in South Bend and beyond were at Defcon 1 on Wednesday evening when it was revealed that the ND’s All American linebacker Manti Te’o had been the victim of an enormous hoax, involving a girl friend who became a national story this season when she died of leukemia within hours after Teo’s grandmother had also passed away.
Heart breaking, heart-warming as we listened and watched Te’o fight through a personal grief of epic proportions, with his teammates rallying around him in what turned into an unbeaten regular season which sent the Irish to the BCS title game against Alabama in Miami.
Truth was indeed more dramatic than any kind of fiction that could be written in Hollywood or South Bend or South Beach.
The only problem was that part of the story was fiction. The part about the young beautiful girl friend, who Te’o talked to on the phone each night and grieved over?
She didn’t exist as the folks at Deadspin revealed in a fascinating article about a story that will have the Hollywood writers fighting to get the Movie of the Week rights.
It seems the relationship between Te’o and his girl friend took place over the internet and that they never actually met (well how could they since she didn’t exist).
Well actually she did, since Te’o talked to someone all of those times on the phone and had a picture of someone.
We won’t go into all the details of this since that would test even the internet’s capacity for words. But the bottom line was that Te’o learned that this was a hoax shortly after Christmas and then informed ND officials.
The dates are interesting since ND didn’t play its game against Alabama until two weeks later and all during that time frame as the game of the century between Alabama and Notre Dame was building to epic proportions, Te’o was being interviewed and his story of tragedy and triumph was repeated and repeated and repeated.
At a hastily scheduled press conference called by ND officials on Wednesday when the news about Te’o broke, ND Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick defended Te’o, who is still projected as a first round National Football League draft choice this spring.
“Every single thing about this was real to Manti,” said Swarbrick. “There was no suspicion. The grief was real, the affection was real, and that’s the sad nature of this cruel game.”
All of that may indeed be true. This was a hoax of massive proportions and there are indeed many sick perverted minds out there who can pull something of this magnitude.
But throughout the season as the story was told and retold with more and more detail by media outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, there was never a hint by Te’o suggesting that this was a love affair over the internet.
And when Te’o did learn it was a hoax, he kept quiet. So did Notre Dame. Is there anyone out there who is willing to take the odds of either Te’o or ND saying anything about this if Deadspin had not done a great job to uncover it?
This will pass, of course like all flashy stories with a short shelf life with a public which is always hungry for more recent dirt.
Was there even a consideration of coming forward with the news immediately when they learned about it?
Accounablity is a nice buzz word these days among college officials. But not this time. At least not until someone make them accountable for what happened.
No one emerged with clean hands in this one–including the folks under the Golden Dome.
© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.