Inhumane Hoax, Human Reaction

Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick has reason to believe Manti Te'o the victim. The football program's avid fans, its detractors, and the cynics from both camps nationwide will likely never find common ground on what to date is among the most perplexing of tales ever told.

"Do you think we should meet?"

Tom Hanks' character asked that of Meg Ryan's in the late-90s when the film, You've Got Mail introduced online dating to the masses.

15 years later, we've learned the answer to that query, apparently, should always be "Yes."

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's deceased girlfriend Lennay Kekua is fictitious. An internet hoax, of which Te'o is the victim.

This pointless deception that involves no known monetary gain purportedly involves "a remarkable number of characters" according to the university's director of athletics Jack Swarbrick, a man who grew close to Te'o the person during their shared time in South Bend.

What Te'o is forced to answer for because of the elaborate nature of this plot is his ancillary role to it.

At the risk of supposition to be proven false by the time the sun rises and sets today, it seems implausible to me that Te'o is guilty of being anything more than disingenuous. Disingenuous regarding the nature of his "wholly online and telephonic relationship," as Swarbrick noted Wednesday evening.

Because at no point between interview No. 1 and No. 100 on the subject did Te'o indicate he'd never met the deceased Kekua. Somewhere around public interview No. 2 would have been an advisable starting point for such a necessary public revelation, but that's easier for me to type than it was for Te'o to do.

Judging whether Te'o could have rightly deemed a woman he never met as "the love of my life" as he did in an October interview with ESPN isn't for me, you, or your cynical co-worker to decide, though all of the above already have.

None of the above can fully understand, yet all can relate to Te'o's thought process when he decided multiple times to suppress that reality from the masses -- at some point he must have considered its revelation. (Apparently Seinfeld's George Costanza was prescient when he mused, "Its not a lie if you believe it.")

And at some point he could no longer reveal it, at least not without a modicum of embarrassment, without enormous distraction to his football teammates in-season, and without inevitable public repercussion.

At no point was it technically any of our collective business, at least not until the woman who perpetuated the hoax called Te'o approximately three months after purportedly passing.

According to Swarbrick, "On the morning of December 26th, very early morning, Manti called his coaches to inform them that, while he was in attendance at the ESPN awards show in Orlando (December 7), he received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been that he associated with Lennay Kekua. When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead."

Shock, disgust, sadness, embarrassment, humiliation, an emotion, Te'o likely experienced it.

The still-unknown perpetrators' duplicity evolved into cruel, macabre behavior. Its revelation as scam likely planned from its inception. Your penchant for acceptable human behavior won't allow you to understand why any of it occurred.

"In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help that, as this hoax played out in a way that called upon those tendencies of Manti and roped him more and more into the trap," said Swarbrick. "He was not a person who would have a second thought about offering his assistance and help in engaging fully."

"Finally and reflective of that, I want to stress, as someone who has probably been as engaged in this as anyone in the past couple of weeks, that nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota. The same great young man, great student, and great athlete that we have been so proud to have be a member of our family is the same guy tonight, unchanged in any way, except for, as he indicated in a statement in his release, the embarrassment associated with having been a victim in this case."

A public consensus on the paragraph above will never be reached. After four years of interviewing Te'o (second to his head coach Brian Kelly, Te'o is doubtless the person I've most interviewed in my lifetime), I'm certain Te'o had no role in the particular cruel aspects of the hoax. I likewise can't shake my opinion he allowed the nature of his relationship to grow as the now unfortunate interviews on the subject progressed.

Regardless of both, I'm certain I understand why Te'o felt at some point he could no longer reveal he'd never met this woman he'll still never, nor now wants to meet.

Regardless of your view of Te'o, previously or today, you can understand the latter, too.

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