Say it ain’t so… Te’o. Just when you thought it was safe to believe in a feel-good sports story involving the strength of character in the face of tragedy, you get the Manti Te’o saga that erupted on Wednesday. And I was just starting to get my head around the apostrophe in his last name. (A D’Brickashaw he is not.) Touchdown Jesus may want to lay low until the heat dies down.
A little more than a week has passed since Notre Dame lost out in its bid to become national champion for the first time since 1988. Alabama dashed those hopes, presumably the biggest damage done by a tide since Noah came floating by.
The story of how Notre Dame reached the National Championship Game was largely written on the shoulders of their burly Heisman-candidate linebacker Manti Te’o, who captured the hearts and minds of many with his story of perseverance despite the death of his grandmother and cancer-stricken girlfriend.
His now-alleged girlfriend, a supposedly former Stanford student by the name of Lennay Kekua, made the Te’o story something worthy of a Hollywood script (an appellation since diminished by the “Twilight” series). Never mind that a purely defensive player hasn’t been deemed worthy of the award since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997, Te’o’s (too many apostrophes for one man) prodigious performances earned him national acclaim and bolstered the national titles hope of a woebegone program. The story of his lost love was picked up numerous national media.
While his acuity on the field isn’t to be diminished, the nation has come to know they were duped. No cancer-stricken girlfriend. No lost love. No final words of “I love you.” Nothing. We were painted a picture that was one part Georgia O’Keefe, two parts George O’Leary.
It was misdirection, trickery: a boy-in-the-well story meant to grab attention perhaps for a player who may have been deserving of Heisman accolades but may not have gotten them otherwise. It immediately hearkened back to 1971, when the school convinced Joe Theismann to change the pronunciation of his last name to rhyme with the award, as if his on-the-field prowess were not enough.