The Manti Te’o Story Keeps Getting Weirder and Weirder


Just when you think it can’t get any better, Roaniah Tuisosopo, the man who claims to be he sole perpetrator of the Manti Te’o fake girlfriend hoax, appears on TV with Dr. Phil. (The first part of the interview was aired Thursday, the second part runs today at the same time and channel. 3:00 pm CBS)

So we have America’s most notorious hoaxer being interviewed by America’s most famous fake psychologist, Dr. Phil. What revelations emerged from this?

Doc asked, “Are you in love with this person, Te’o?” Roaniah replied, “I cared for this person. I did all I could do for this person.”

When asked how he was feeling since the hoax had been revealed it was confession time and the Dark Knight of the Soul for Tuisosopo: “I’m so lost, I’m just finding me in this whole experience.”

But, as Bill Cosby reminded us, what if you find the real you and the real you is an asshole?

Phil fumbled the ball on the question that Oprah or even Katie Couric would have taken straight into the end zone: “Are you gay?” “When you put it that way, yes…I am confused.”

There was no follow-up from Phil.

Nor was there any research done by the doc or his staff. Roaniah said he had not known Te’o before meeting him before the Notre Dame-Southern Cal in Los Angeles on November 24. Even though the year before, in December 2011, Te’o was one of just ten people who plugged Tuiasosopo’s YouTube video of his song “Ignite” on Twitter

Instead of getting clearer and clearer, this whole story just gets curiouser and curiouser.

So, too, does the press’s increasing insistence on sweeping this whole incident under a Notre Dame rug. Most recently Jonathan Mahler of Bloomberg News blundered into the discussion on January 26.

According to Mahler, this is just one more example of “The horsepuckey generated in South Bend, Indiana.” For instance, the story of the forward pass: “As lore has it, an obscure Fighting Irish team revolutionized college football in 1913 by using the forward pass to beat Army. In reality, as Murray Sperber details in his book Shake Down The Thunder, Notre Dame was already a well-known football school at that point, and the forward pass didn’t catch on till many years later, not even in South Bend.”

Mahler misreads Sperber. If he had read more carefully, or better still if he had read Frank Maggio’s book, Notre Dame and the Game that Changed Football, he would know that indeed the Fighting Irish were known as a good football school before 1913, but it was in 1913 that they came to the real attention of the Eastern media–and hence to the entire nation–when quarterback Gus Dorais connected on nine passes to receiver Knute Rockne to shock a powerhouse Army team 35-13. As Maggio makes clear, Notre Dame did not invent the forward pass or claim to, it was simply the first time the pass received huge publicity in national newspapers.

Apparently it is Notre Dame’s fault that Hollywood mocked up the real life stories of Knute Rockne, George Gipp, and Rudy Ruettiger, as if Hollywood has ever told a story about anyone from Jesus Christ to Abraham Lincoln to JFK without glossing over known facts–and as if audiences didn’t always know that these stories were glamorized.

There’s been a huge streak of lazy journalism in the Manti Te’o story from the get, but the fact that writers from Sports Illustrated to the New York Times bought the fake girlfriend story is the least of it. That writers from many publications are now blaming Notre Dame for buying without vetting what they themselves bought without even a raised eyebrow is more disturbing. And it’s yet even more disturbing that journalists are blaming other journalists for getting fooled by Roaniah Tuisosopo, as if to say “He believed this hokum, but I wouldn’t had I been doing the story.”

The truth is that we all bought into this and would have continued to believe it had it not been for Deadspin. Notre Dame’s “myths” are a collection of pleasant football fairy tales spun out of hard kernels of truth. Some people have been fooled, but no one got hurt. Compared to the gambling scandals at schools such as Kentucky, Boston College and dozen others, compared to the record of lawlessness at Miami, compared to the play-for-play at a score of universities of which SMU is only the most glaring example, compared to the shocking revelations of what happened at Penn State under Joe Paterno, the Manti Te’o story and every so-called Notre Dame myth are scarcely worth yellow flags.


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