I read Deadspin’s Manti Te’o story as soon as the link hit Twitter yesterday. I was done with work, but I couldn’t close my computer. I stared at TweetDeck for the next two hours, waiting for the next joke or snippet of information. I stayed up too late, poking around on Twitter as people pulled at loose threads of information.
And I’ve been just as insatiable about it today. I watched my colleague Dan Rubenstein shoot a piece about it (his second on the subject). I talked to Dana Jacobson about it. And I’ve read EVERYTHING I could possibly click on. Seriously, here’s an incomplete list of things I’ve read about Te’o today:
- Everything the media screwed reporting about Lennay Kekua. [Deadspin]
- Te’o’s teamates having doubts about Kekua’s existence. [Deadspin]
- Ape’s imagined meeting between Jeff Ireland and Te’o. [KSK]
- Leitch’s list of questions that Te’o needs to answer today. [NY Mag]
- Drew’s Te’o Funbag. [Deadspin]
- A reflection on the media that created the Te’o myth. [celebrityhottub]
- Lennay Kekua’s farewell letter to Te’o, as imagined by Kyle Daly. [Progressive Boink]
- A collection of Te’o memes plus some thoughts from Ashley Burns. [With Leather]
- A Fark board with some of the best GIFs and Photoshops in the game. [Tiger Droppings]
- The very best GIF on the matter. [Good Bull Hunting]
- Reasoned speculation about the possibility that Te’o’s gay. [Outsports]
- A Notre Dame student’s take on the matter, complete with campus gossip. [College Spun]
- Jason Kirk musing about why we care about the story. [SB Nation]
That last bullet hangs in the air a little bit: why do we care? I faced that dilemma when my wife came home last night, after I excitedly told her about the hoax.
“I don’t see why it’s a big story,” she said.
“Well, he was a Heisman Trophy finalist for one of college football’s most storied programs during an undefeated season,” I explained.
“He’s dumb and had a fake girlfriend. So what?”
“Well, Deadspin broke the story with in-depth original reporting after mainstream outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated just accepted her death as fact. This is a huge day for online media.”
“So the story is that people didn’t do their jobs?”
I wanted to shout, Damn it, woman! Be excited! Instead I went for the easy hook. “Deadspin seems to think Te’o was in on the hoax, and if that’s the case, creating a fake internet girlfriend would seem to indicate that he’s gay.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so!” She was finally on board.
Since that discussion, I’ve come to believe that Te’o isn’t gay — or at least, I don’t believe anything that isn’t concrete and supported by evidence, which is very little indeed. My wife and I were both right: her skepticism threw a needed dose of realism on the subject, but that perspective doesn’t dampen my desire to see the mysteries solved. There are simply too many facets of the story, too many threads that still need unraveling. Was Te’o in on it? If not, when did he find out? How much bullshit are Te’o and Notre Dame feeding us? How naive can a young Mormon be? How will this affect Te’o’s stock at the NFL Draft? Whose heads will roll in the mainstream media? Could Tim Burke and Jack Dickey, like, win a Pulitzer? When will Te’o face the media? Will Ronaiah Tuiasosopo face the media? When?
And most of all: what is the truth? It’s a simple, honest question — but as we’ve learned, little in the online mediascape is simple or honest.