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Do You Believe Manti Te’o Was The Victim Of A “Catfish” Hoax?

Submitted by on January 17, 2013 – 12:01 pmNo Comment
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Over the course of my 30 years on this earth, I have seen a number of sports scandals go down. From the infamous O.J. Simpson double murder allegations to the recent situation at Penn State involving Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno, I’ve seen it all. Or, at least, I thought I’d seen it all. That is, until I saw something that I never thought I’d see in my wildest dreams last night. I saw ESPN run a “Breaking News” caption that read, “Manti Te’o's Girlfriend Did Not Exist.”

If you haven’t ben following the Manti Te’o story, here’s a quick summary. Last September, Te’o made headlines after his grandmother and his girlfriend died within a six-hour period. So, during the entire college football season, analysts and commentators often made mention of the tragedy that Te’o endured. His name was even brought up in the race for the 2012 Heisman Trophy, at least partly because he showed a lot of character by bouncing back from adversity and leading the Fighting Irish to an undefeated record during the regular season and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. But, yesterday, Deadspin released an explosive report that suggested that Te’o's tragedy was not what it seemed. In fact, Te’o's “girlfriend” did not actually exist and was a hoax. Despite conflicting reports, Te’o had only maintained an online relationship with the fictional woman and had never actually met her in person.

Obviously, that shocked a lot of people out there and Twitter lit up last night with everyone from celebrities to average Joes wondering whether or not Te’o played a part in the creation of this “girlfriend.” Did he do it to get publicity for himself and to put himself on the national stage? Or, was he the victim of an elaborate hoax like something straight out of a scene from the hit MTV show Catfish? It’s a question that people thought about a lot last night both before and after Notre Dame held a press conference to back Te’o's claim that he was just as surprised as everyone else to find out that his “girlfriend” was made up.

For what it’s worth, I’m siding with Te’o right now and choosing to believe that he did not make up a “girlfriend,” kill her off, and then use her death to generate publicity for himself. Call me naive, but I don’t want to believe that anyone, much less one of the best college football players in the country, would be capable of doing that. But, I also need to hear what Te’o has to say about the entire situation before I draw my final conclusion. There are far too many holes in the story that Deadspin told as well as in the story that Notre Dame tried to spin after the report broke. But, for now, I’m holding out hope that Te’o did not do what so many people out there think he did.

Where do you stand on the issue? Do you think Te’o faked the death of his fictional girlfriend to get sympathy votes from Heisman voters—or do you think he’s the victim in all of this? Let us know.

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