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Blog: Will Manti Te'o 'hoax' affect his NFL career?

11:00 PM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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Both the cruel and the clever greeted Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o Thursday in the ongoing controversy over "the hoax."

Did Te'o actually believe he had a girlfriend in the first place, notwithstanding that she allegedly died of leukemia before the Notre Dame-Michigan State game? Or was he "catfished'?

Many of us are just learning the term "Catfish," thanks to this controversy.

"Catfish" is the term for someone who uses digital trickery to disguise who they really are. It even spawned an MTV show which, I admit, I have never seen.

While being duped can be embarrassing, it's a lesson to us all to be cautious online and in love because you can't love someone if you don't see them and know who they are in person.

It all started, as we know, with Deadspin.com's revelation Wednesday that Te'o's girlfriend never existed, or existed in a different way from what Te'o allegedly thought.

One of the first cruel jokes that emerged? "Serial liar Lance Armstrong to Manti Te'o: Thanks!"

Which story to believe about Te'o is still unknown. But until Wednesday, Te'o was considered to be all that was right and good about college football.

ESPN said he was "...more than an All-American linebacker from Notre Dame; he was an ideal, a template for integrity, compassion and humility."

Te'o might still be all of those things. We still don't know. What we do know is that Notre Dame is standing behind Te'o.

Te'o issued a statement, saying he was the victim of an elaborate online and telephonic deception. We know that his "girlfriend," and her death from leukemia, were the figments of someone's depraved imagination.

What we don't know is whether Te'o's imagination was involved in the deception.

One of the clever comments?

On Twitter: "SEC: Real football. Real girlfriends." That's an homage to Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his girlfriend Katherine Webb, the "stars" of the TV broadcast of the BCS Championship game where Alabama crushed Notre Dame.

I think a lot of the pain about these revelations are harder on those of us who cheered for the Fighting Irish to beat Alabama. It's like rubbing salt in still-open wounds.

But even McCarron had something nice to say about Te'o.

On Wednesday, he urged people not to rush to judgment of Te'o and the girlfriend he and a school spokesperson now say never existed.

"I think we should give manti sum respect & don't judge bc we don't know what all is going on. It could be deeper than told. Praying for him!"

Now that was pretty classy.

NBC News reported Deadspin, among other outlets, has speculated a family friend in Hawaii may be responsible for the hoax.

It has also been speculated that ESPN learned of the hoax before the BCS Championship game but kept quiet so as not to diminish the spectacle of the game. I don't know about that.

And what did Te'o know and when did he know it?

Oddly, this reminds me of the Watergate hearings, of a quote supplied to then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker by then-legal counsel and future U.S. Senator Fred Thompson. Baker is famous for having asked aloud in one of the hearings, "What did the President know and when did he know it?"

But I digress.

What is of concern as we go forward is this: Te'o's performance in the BCS Championship game was less than spectacular. How will that, coupled with the latest revelation, affect the April NFL draft?

We'll see.

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