Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Question remains: Are Irish eyes lying?
FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o chases the action during the second half of an NCAA college football game against BYU in South Bend, Ind. The wrenching story of Te'o's girlfriend dying of leukemia _ a loss he said inspired him to play his best all the way to the BCS championship _ was dismissed by the school Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, as a hoax perpetrated against the linebacker. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
LITTLE ROCK It is so bizarre it is almost mesmerizing.
Manti Malietau Louis Te’o, who will turn 22 on Jan. 26, is one of the most decorated college football players ever and maybe the biggest sucker since Samson.
There has to be more to this story, but what we know is that Manti Te’o is an Eagle Scout, a devout Mormon, smart enough to play football at academic giant Notre Dame and the star in this drama of a dead girlfriend who wasn’t dead because apparently she didn’t really exist.
There are no records of her being born or dying. Lennay Kekua is a figment of someone’s imagination, someone who may have set out to deliberately deceive and hurt college football’s best linebacker this past season.
Reporters from all over the country stared Te’o in the face and believed him when he talked about the sadness of losing his grandmother and girlfriend within a 48-hour period earlier this season.
They say it was either an act worthy of an Academy Award, or he was sincere in his words and feelings for someone he thought he was communicating with through a car wreck and a losing battle with leukemia.
At this point, it seems to be open for debate whether Te’o was complicit in this horrible joke, and has been since deadspin.com introduced this saga to an unsuspecting nation.
Yet, Notre Dame officials conducted a private investigation after Te’o told them he thought he had been taken for a magic carpet ride. Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick either earned his own Academy Award nomination for his performance in the news conference, or he totally believes it was a hoax and that Te’o was a victim, although some questions were deferred to Te’o, who has said he will tell his side of the story soon.
Their take is the All-America linebacker was fooled by a cruel, calculating person, and that is possible. History is full of guys being duped, and deceit can be a two-way street.
One thing is definite. After what happened at Penn State, there is no way Notre Dame would try a coverup and, no, this isn’t in the same arena as those crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky. Not even close. It may be the only person hurt in this is Te’o.
This alleged Internet romance included long telephone conversations, tweets and the use of other social media outlets, but apparently not Skype.
Which brings up the question: Who was Te’o talking to if Lennay Kekua didn’t exist? And why would his dad say the nonexistent person had visited Hawaii and had seen his son there?
Some are hinting Te’o had an accomplice who was trying to drum up sympathy votes for the Heisman Trophy, which obviously didn’t work.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won that, and since then, he has been counseled about his own adventures on Twitter.
Lance Armstrong would probably like to send Te’o a thank-you note.
Te’o will eventually have to answer some very difficult questions, because some of the stories of his romance with a dead girl who didn’t exist — sounds a little like a Louisiana politician’s love story — simply don’t add up. There may be a good reason, though, and that’s why Te’o needs to speak up and answer all the questions.
Right now, much of the world is hanging on to every word of this story. It was the lead story on British Broadcasting Co. on Thursday morning, and it doesn’t cover sports.
Until Te’o faces the media, this is going to remain a breaking news story.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/18/2013