Quite the Te’o! Manti’s Dead Girlfriend Not Dead Nor Real. . .
I really have no idea what to say about the recent events in which a Deadspin.com article revealed that All-American Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend wasn’t really dead, she wasn’t real either. The way the story was told on September 11, 2012 Te’o lost his grandmother, Annette Santiago, and then his girlfriend Lennay Kekua. He was informed of their deaths the following day, learning of his grandmother’s death from his father and about his girlfriend’s from her brother Kainoa. Te’o went out and played just a few hours later while the Irish upset the Michigan State Spartans 20-3 and Manti racked up 12 tackles. As it turns out Annette Santiago did die that day at the age of 72 losing a battle to a long-time illness but Lennay Kekua could not be accounted for.
With a little digging it wasn’t difficult to figure out that other than a couple of social networking usernames there was no documentation of Lennay Kekua. Manti claimed to have met her outside after a football game in Palo Alto and it was believed that she was a Stanford student. Stanford had no records of Kekua being enrolled at any time. Kekua supposedly died from complications related to Leukemia, which she was diagnosed with after suffering multiple injuries in a car accident. It was believe to be a life-saving deadly accident, because although she didn’t come away unscathed it was believed that without it they wouldn’t have had such an early diagnosis of her cancer. That was also a lie too. There are no accounts in any media outlet about any car accident, the hospital she was receiving treatment at has records of a patient with the name Lennay Kekua.
The biggest joke to me is that after the national media was exposed to the story of Lennay Kekua’s death sports journalists from the most reputable media outlets in the world didn’t do their homework. Somehow nobody thought about checking in to this emotional story and if they would have maybe the public would know that there wasn’t a single obituary notice for her death. Manti claims that she wrote him letters during her cancer treatments and that she claimed if anything were to ever happen to her that she would want him to play. Manti did just that and he looked like a hero doing so but how could there not be a single photo of the two of them together? Why would he not go to her funeral? How come there isn’t any video of him weeping over her passing?
None of it makes any sense at all. After her death Te’o claimed that he sent her white roses, but to which funeral parlor did he send them? Te’o also claimed that he would fight through the pain and anguish he was going through and would continue to play despite his emotional state. I think I would be able to play football after losing my invisible friend too. The relationship between Te’o and Kekua dates back to 2009 and there are different sources when both Manti and his father, along with other friends and family members, but that is a lie too. The only pictures of Lennay Kekua are actually of a 22 year old woman from California who has no relation to Te’o, Kekua or any third party that could link the two. ESPN senior columnist Gene Wojciechowski said that he uncovered some red flags about Kekua but claimed he backed off because Te’o told him to. Why the hell is Wojo letting a 20-something year old LB from Notre Dame stop him from doing his job?
There are just so many things that don’t add up. It doesn’t help that the confidant, Ronaiah Tuiasasopo, who helped Deadspin with this story said that he believed 80% that Manti knew about what was going on and did it for the publicity. In the end it was Te’o’s statement late Wednesday night when he admitted to being a “victim” of a cruel hoax. He said that he was a victim of someone’s sick cruel joke and released a statement to the public trying to explain his situation.
To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. . . I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.
He would go on to explain that he made up the meetings with Kekua because he was embarrassed that he had a cyber-girlfriend that he never actually met in real life. Te’o claimed that she was supposed to meet with him multiple times but every single time she stood him up but the relationship continued. Did he not ever think of Skype? What about when he met her outside after a football game in California? What is the real story here? With the way that the situation was handled it is difficult to think that Te’o would know about the hoax and allow Notre Dame and the national media to investigate this and not find out. I know football players aren’t normally considered to be the most intelligent but you couldn’t be smart enough to think of this kind of hoax and then be dumb enough to not know when it’s time to give up.
Could it really be that Manti Te’o was really just embarrassed to admit that he had never met his girlfriend and the stigma of online dating was just too much for him to handle. That’s the way his statement is trying to make you feel as Te’o explained that:
This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.
He grew to care deeply about a woman that he never met for three years, he never grew suspicious about her identity and was complacent with their platonic relationship through Twitter, Instagram and cell phone conversations. It’s like Te’o is a 7th grade boy in the early 1990’s who just got his first chat room girlfriend on one of AOL’s Mormon friendly groups. The difference is that what normally would last a few weeks before the mystery lost its lust, even for a young buck, Te’o extending his chatty giggling relationship for 3 years. If he was embarrassed about having a cyber-girlfriend why not deny having a relationship at all. Instead he gloated about Lennay Kekua, the most beautiful girl he has ever met, but it turns out she could have been a 40 year old man in California who had a teenage daughter who are master catfishermen.
Notre Dame stood behind Manti with statements from both the vice president and athletic director, the latter who broke down in tears when standing up for Te’o. He also had to explain what catfishing is, which is when someone pretends to be someone they’re not using social media networks to create false identities with the goal of pursuing deceptive online romances. The Catholic University hired their own private investigators to look in to this matter after Te’o made a call to his coaches on December 26th. It seems as if the woman portraying Kekua slipped and called Manti while he was at an award ceremony in Orlando, Florida. The number came up on his phone and Te’o knew it to be associated with Kekua. When he found a woman’s voice on the other end who he believed to be Kekua he was shocked to learn that his “girlfriend” wasn’t in fact dead or real.
That means that the University of Notre Dame knew that this story was going to make its way into the public realm but they decided to have their investigation and hold off until a later date. ESPN would also find out about the story but they would hold off on reporting on it as well, which was their undoing as Deadspin beat them to it. Not only did ESPN not report the news they knew weeks ago, but they included a video memorial to Kekua from Te’o during the pregame programming before the BCS Championship game. They were garnishing pity off of a story they knew to be untrue. It does help explain why the linebacker had such a poor showing in the national championship game, that or he was just blown away by superior opponents. Either way the story isn’t close to coming to a close and I am up in the air on whether or not I think he has something to do with the hoax and the subsequent cover-up.
My only explanation would be that due to his strict upbringing in a Mormon household and attending a catholic university Manti created this relationship with this “woman” because he’s not interested in sexual relationships with women. He could get nearly any girl he wanted on campuses across the country, not to mention the hero welcoming he gets back home in Hawaii, but maybe he doesn’t want that attention. The easiest way to fend of girls is by telling them and the national media that you have a strong relationship that can’t be broken. Well you can’t break what isn’t there and the plan seems foolproof until she is for some reason killed off. She was supposed to be in remission after a bone marrow transplant but her sudden death came as a surprise to everyone, especially the people that knew she wasn’t real. Maybe this will be the new football movie and instead of Lars and the Real Girl it will be Manti and the Imaginary One. I am trying to have some compassion but something doesn’t seem right here and the truth will come forward eventually. Until then all we have are the words from those who are involved and Te’o tried to explain himself in the statement he released:
To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. . . I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. . . In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft – Manti Te’o
Of course he is going to want to push this to the side and focus on the NFL Draft but realistically the damage has been done. He will undoubtedly lose endorsement deals and it remains to be seen just how much this story will affect his draft stock. There is nothing in my mind that can help explain this situation but I look forward to finding out the details as they come forward. Instead of the old Fightin’ Irish motto of “Play like a champion today” Barstool sports has a shirt that says it perfectly “Play like your imaginary girlfriend died today!”
This story caught like a wildfire with everyone attempting to get their shot in, including Nate Stender a graduate of Holy Cross and current whore for attention. Stender, according to his facebook account, is in a relationship with Lennay Kekua. Upon further investigation, clicking her name, I found that the profile was created on January 16th 2013 and the two just became exclusive on Facebook which is a big step. Stender is currently living in Los Angeles working as a “visual poet” but this hipster is messing with the wrong story and his ability to latch onto the media coverage of this story may come back to haunt him. Another attention whore is Zachariah Johnson, the writer of Affair of the Wolf the first of multiple books about fictitious character Jim Tankson. Why am I bringing Johnson into this, because it was he who immediately purchased the LennayKekua.com domain name posting a link to the Deadspin story and another to the $1.97 digital download of his book.
Others took the high road cracking jokes on Twitter: @Tommy_In_Bama sent a message pleading for people to make up their own mind and click a link to a picture of Manti Te’o with his girlfriend before she died, the link led to a picture of an empty chair. Sports Illustrated author Phil Taylor @SI_PhilTaylor said that “The family of Lennay Kekua asks that you respect their non-existence at this time” and later stating that he can’t believe Manti didn’t have something to do with it. Then the hashtag #MantiTeoGirlfriendFacts came out and the floodgates opened with gems like “[Lennay Kekua] will admit to not dying of cancer on Oprah later this week” or “Lennay Kekua is the name of Manti Te’o’s right hand” or “the real tragedy is that #Manti was going to take [Kekua] to see the Loch Ness Monster on their honeymoon.” My favorite came from @DrunkToddHaley who claimed that “[Kekua] faked all her orgasms” or later saying that “just like his girlfriend, #MantiTeo jokes will never get old”.