Notre Dame Football
By now everyone has heard about what happened with Manti Te’o and his fake dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.
To hear Te'o tell this story, he was the unwitting victim of a mean-spirited hoax perpetuated by vicious internet trolls intent on ruining lives. He thought he had genuinely met someone who he truly cared for; whoever was operating things on the other end was merely looking to embarrass him.
When the person who he thought he was talking to supposedly died of leukemia, Te’o was heartbroken. His emotions were toyed with. His trust was broken.
He is the injured party.
Of course, that isn’t the only side of this story. Up until this past Tuesday, Te’o permitted the general public to believe that Kekua was a real person who died prior to Notre Dame’s game against Michigan State (in which he put up an extremely memorable performance) despite the fact that he was well aware it was all BS. And he knew it by at least late December. That, coupled with the various recorded inconsistencies in terms of how he previously said they met, the type of contact they had, and so and so forth, has left a lot of people wondering whether he was in on this scam the whole time.
After all, if Te’o wasn’t milking all this for attention and was just the victim of a hoax like he insists, why didn’t he fess up before getting exposed?
Because he wanted to protect Notre Dame. Or something.
As reported by TMZ:
Manti Te'o is telling friends ... he knew the truth about Lennay Kekua in early December ... but continued the lie for 20 days for the sake of his team.
Sources connected to Te'o say ... it's true what ND Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday night, that Manti realized he had been hoaxed on Dec. 6, when he got a phone call from "Lennay" ... months after he thought she was dead.
But sources tell us ... Manti didn't tell his coaches about the hoax until Dec. 26 ... because he thought it would be a huge distraction while the team prepared to face Alabama in the BCS Championship.
During the 20 days, we're told Manti struggled over how to handle the situation ... but eventually felt compelled to come clean to his coaches.
So there you go. The man isn’t just a victim – he is a hero, too. He endured the personal hardship of allowing people to think he had a great season in the midst of unspeakable tragedy for the good of his team.
It was inevitable that we would end up here. The natural stages when it comes to processing this sort of embarrassing ordeal are: denial, excuses, claims of self-sacrifice, and confession. We are on step three of four.
Give it a few days.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on what has happened here. My money is on the fact that Manti Te’o is gay (not that there is anything wrong with that) and that he concocted this entire story to suggest that he is heterosexual.
The theory here of course is that he thought that knowledge of him being homosexual might adversely affect his draft status. My guess is that Te’o's father made up the story about Manti and Lennay Kekua spending time together in Hawaii to help Manti cover up. Hey look, my hypothesis is as plausible as anyone else’s…
Here’s how the topic was covered in Taiwan as the news of Manti Te’o and his imaginary dead fake girlfriend reached his Samoan Homeland.
I just had a reader email me and ask the following… “If it turns out that Manti Te’o is homosexual, do you think he’s the best homosexual inside linebacker of all-time?” You can’t make this stuff up…
Heading into Wednesday evening, the general public’s theories pertaining to Manti Te’o and his fake dead girlfriend all centered around one indisputable fact: there was and is no Lennay Kekua.
Maybe Te’o knew she wasn’t real; maybe he was legitimately duped by someone with a fake identity on the internet. Either way, though, Kekua being a fictional character was an essential piece of this crazy, mildly unbelievable puzzle.
Then Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia came along and messed everything up.
In an interview with ESPN conducted shortly after Deadspin published its story, Mauia insisted that Lennay Kekua was actually a real person who he had met.
"This was before her and Manti," Mauia said Wednesday evening.
"I don't think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was -- I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa."
What was she like? Well…
"She was tall," he said. "Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model ... "
So there you go.
Is this definitive proof that Te’o wasn’t the victim of a hoax like he claimed he was yesterday? Does it mean that Mauia was scammed by someone, too? Does it mean anything at all? Who knows at this point.
When a reporter pointed out that Kekua may not be a real person, Mauia replied: "No, she is real."
Make of that what you will.
When it comes to Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend hoax, the battle lines have been drawn.
The media, most fans and just about everyone who has heard what happened thus far acknowledges that the main character of this unfortunate soap opera was at least partially disingenuous regarding how he met his fake dead girlfriend.
Notre Dame, the institution that helped turn Te’o into a national football hero and the runner-up to this year’s Heisman, thinks (or at least says) he was the unwitting participant of a vicious hoax perpetuated by mean internet folk.
On Wednesday, just hours after Deadspin broke the story regarding precisely how fake Te’o’s fake dead girlfriend was, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick met with reporters to discuss the matter.
By way of The Big Lead:
According to Swarbrick, Te’o is the “single most trusting human being” he has ever met, and will henceforth “never be able to trust in the same way again.” Well, that explains it. Maybe the reason he thought he and his girlfriend met in Palo Alto -- as opposed to on the internet like he said yesterday -- is because he trusted the South Bend Tribune report, quoting his father, that cited this as the case.
(Kudos The Big Lead)
The story of Manti Te’o’s fake dead girlfriend is captivating because it’s such a huge part of how and why the general public recognizes him. Yes, he was a talented Notre Dame linebacker. Sure, he was quite clearly the leader of that team’s defense from the beginning of the year all the way to the dreadful conclusion of the Katherine Webb Bowl.
But the reason folks followed Te’o more than they followed your average ultra-talented NFL prospect (i.e. Jadeveon Clowney) is because of the back story.
He was a guy who overcame the death of his grandmother and girlfriend in a short span of time to lead the Fighting Irish to victory. He was a warrior, mentally and physically. We could sympathize with him and admire his ability to persevere.
That is why Deadspin’s report of Te’o’s dead girlfriend never having been his girlfriend, or dying, or existing in the first place was so shocking. It killed part of the reason why this 21-year-old kid became famous in the first place.
Prior to January 16, Te’o permitted the public to believe that he met his girlfriend in Palo Alto a few years ago. You can quibble with whether or not he lied, per se, but he willfully misled – that's beyond debate. In a statement released yesterday, he admitted that the relationship began online. That directly contradicts the original story Palo Alto story.
The question now is, did he lie (or mislead) because he was embarrassed about where he met the girl, or because he was in on the hoax this whole time?
As noted by Larry Brown Sports, Outsports.com (the web’s foremost authority on the lack of any prominent gay athletes) has wondered if maybe this whole ruse was perpetuated by Te’o as a cover. Per Cyd Zeigler Jr.:
I’ve heard from sports writers, fans of Outsports, leaders in the gay-sports world, and even old high school friends, in the last six hours all wondering, “Is Te’o going to be the first openly gay NFL player?” Read for yourself and come to your own conclusion…
… I can certainly understand why people think this might be pointing to his sexual orientation. There has never been a publicly out NFL player. There has never been a publicly out Div. 1 football player. But we know they’re out there. And if they were out there and wanted to hide their sexual orientation — or a relationship with another man — a fictitious girlfriend is a good way to do it. The fantastic story about car accidents and death by leukemia would just be showing off that stereotypical gay flair for the dramatic.
And then there were these tweets from CBS NFL Insider, Mike Freeman:
Theory about why Manti did what he did has reached NFL team circles and if true absolutely explains his actions.
— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) January 17, 2013
If this theory is true, Manti would end up being one of the most important stories in history.
— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) January 17, 2013
If it were revealed that this entire sordid mess is actually just the byproduct of a gay athlete coping with who is in the saddest way imaginable, that is probably the best possible scenario. That or Te’o actually being dumb enough to fall for this hoax. The worst case scenario, obviously, is that he is just a fame-hungry narcissist who allowed the world to think his fake girlfriend died because he liked the attention.
We'll figure out what's what soon enough.
Manti Te’o became the first college football linebacker in recent memory to have a legitimate shot at winning the Heisman for two reasons. One, he was the star and clear leader of the best non-SEC defense around. Two, he had an inspirational and heart wrenching story that moved everyone and anyone who heard it.
Te’o’s popularity reached its peak this past September when he absolutely destroyed Michigan State in a 20-3 Notre Dame victory. While his stats from that outing (12 tackles, fumble recovery) were impressive, what really captivated people was that he did what he did shortly after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend. Te’o’s ability to persevere and overcome the hardships that came his way turned him into an instant icon.
Unfortunately, it was all built on a lie. According to a stunning Deadspin exposé, while Te’o’s grandmother really did die prior to the Michigan State game, the entire story about him losing his girlfriend was all just an elaborate hoax that the Notre Dame Heisman finalist may or may not have been in on.
Shortly after the Deadspin piece went public, Notre Dame released this hastily prepared statement:
On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te'o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.
University Spokesman | Assistant Vice President
The idea that Te’o was an unwitting victim of a hoax is unlikely, but feasible. What is a bit unclear, though, is why Notre Dame waited until now to make available information they obtained at the end of December.
Mind you, this is a school that has something of a history when it comes to sweeping troubling PR problems under the rug.
Stay tuned, the truth will likely come out over the next few days.
Update: A statement from the man of the hour...
"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.
"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.
"It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.
"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.
"In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.
"Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."
Last Monday, the college football season ended with a statement. That statement was made by Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide as they simply destroyed their previously undefeated opponents. Alabama broke the Notre Dame Fighting Irish down in every facet of the game and the game was over just seconds into the second quarter.
Alabama has now won three of the last four National Championships. In an era where the "cool kids" are running spread offenses and playing around with the read option, the Tide just lines up and puts their best players against yours and wins with a more traditional style of football. The Tide hasn't quite created a dynasty inside the SEC (winning two of the last four SEC titles) but they have created a National dynasty. So where does Nick Saban go from here?
After winning three of four National titles, the road to the National Title looks to get tougher with the addition of a four team playoff. What the four team playoff will do is eliminate teams that don't belong before the National Championship Game. For Alabama, they will continue to reload no matter their losses. This past season they had four first round draft picks but they just reloaded. They lost workhorse Trent Richardson to the NFL and Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon stepped up in his place. Because of the success Alabama has had under Saban, he can walk into just about any living room in Amercia and hand pick the players he wants for his system. Saban has created a machine that will keep running smoothly until he's no longer the captain.
Notre Dame made the National Championship Game because they did what they were supposed to do to play in the game, they beat every team put in front of them. Did they play a stinker of a game or were they simply not as good as their record? The Irish and it's fans have to be scratching their heads. They came into the season thinking their ceiling was around 10-3 and left with just one loss but feeling bummed out. When I looked at the Irish's schedule at the beginning of the season it looked really tough but in the end it ended up not being as challenging as it originally looked (Michigan St, Miami and USC had down years and they caught Stanford before their QB switch) and it helped the Irish go undefeated. Even if the schedule was easier than it was supposed to be and even if they caught a break or two, going undefeated in college football is still a remarkable accomplishment and Brian Kelly has this team ahead of schedule.
This was only Kelly's third season at the helm of the Irish so that's just two full recruiting classes (and one he inherited in December of 2009 and saw to completion) of players that fit his scheme and what he wants to do. Going undefeated in just his third regular season is a huge accomplishment. The fear now is that, as of this article, Kelly is showing a lot of interest in the NFL and it's not just a passing interest. If Kelly stays at Notre Dame, he can rebuild them into a consistent winner and a consistent player in the upper tier of college football. If he leaves, it could be a major blow to the school.
With this win for Alabama, it gives the SEC seven straight BCS National Championships. Every non-SEC school and non-SEC fan already had a big anti-SEC backlash coming into this game and after Alabama's destruction of their opponent I think we will only see more negativity towards the conference. Despite the backlash, I also think that by winning in such a dominant fashion it will be very hard to keep two SEC teams out of the four team playoff next season so the road to the eighth straight National Title might be just a little bit easier next season for the SEC but it might be a bit tougher for the Tide.
Get more college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.
Two storied college football programs. Two rape scandals. Only one national outcry. How do we begin to explain the exponentially different levels of attention paid to crimes of violence and power at Penn State and Notre Dame?
At Penn State, revered assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was raping young boys while being shielded by a conspiracy of silence of those in power at the football powerhouse. At Notre Dame, it's not young boys being raped by an assistant coach. It's women being threatened, assaulted, and raped by players on the school's unbeaten football team. Yet a sports media that's overwhelmingly male and ineffably giddy about Fighting Irish football’s return to prominence has enacted their own conspiracy of silence.
The sports media has chosen not to discuss the fact that this football team has two players on its roster suspected of sexual assault and rape; two players whose crimes have been ignored; two players whose accusers felt harassed and intimidated; two players whose presence on the field Monday night should have been seen as a national disgrace.
The main reason this is taking place is because their accusers are not pressing charges. One cannot, because she is dead. 19-year-old Lizzy Seeberg, a student at neighboring St. Mary's College, took her own life after her claims of being assaulted in a dorm room were met with threats and indifference. The other accuser, despite description of a brutal rape, won't file charges “absolutely 100%” because of what Seeberg experienced.
Lizzy Seeberg was a first semester freshman and from a family of Notre Dame graduates. After an evening where she socialized with members of the football team, Lizzy came forward with accusations of a sexual assault. After writing out a statement and submitting to medical attention, she received texts from another member of the team that read, "Don't do anything you would regret" and “Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea."
To show that she wouldn't rock the boat Lizzy was compelled by her peers to go to the next game, stencil the Notre Dame logos into her face, and cheer her assaulter. As Melinda Henneberger, a Washington Post reporter and Notre Dame alum who has investigated the sexual assaults on campus extensively, wrote, "On Sept. 7, she wrote her therapist, 'I can't get out of this f*!#ing hole I've started to dig. I'm trying to go to sleep because I'm sick with a cold and need to get rest but I can't stop thinking about taking all the pills I can find. I'm ready to check out because this sucks.' She promised [her therapist] she would never follow through. But then, on Sept. 9, she had a panic attack during a mandatory freshman orientation on sexual assault."
That panic attack preceded her suicide. If in life Lizzy Seeberg suffered at the hands of not only players on the team, but the people in power who ignored her pleas, in death these forces have gone further and slandered her to a shocking degree. They have claimed Lizzy was a “troubled girl” who was “all over the boy”, as well as mentally unstable. As Henneberger wrote,“The damage to her memory since then is arguably more of a violation than anything she reported to police -- and all the more shocking because it was not done thoughtlessly, by a kid in a moment he can't take back, but on purpose, by the very adults who heavily market the moral leadership of a Catholic institution. Notre Dame's mission statement could not be clearer: ‘The university is dedicated to the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake.’ But in this case, the university did just the opposite.”
School President Reverend John I. Jenkins has shown no public regard or concern for the fact that his school has become a place where women alumni warn prospective female students that rape has become a part of campus life. Football coach Brian Kelly, to his shame, treated questions about Lizzy's suicide as a joke.
But this conspiracy of silence and slander is bigger than just the school. Deindustrialized South Bend, Indiana is a company town, and the company is Notre Dame football. The football program in 2012 was valued by Forbes as the third "most valuable" in the country, behind far larger state universities in Texas and Michigan. This is just the formal economy. Informally, every hotel, every bar, every kid at the side of the road selling bottled water depends on Notre Dame football. Home games generate $10 million in local spending for a community of just 100,000 people. It is the beating economic heart of South Bend and women have become, in this sclerotic set up, the collateral damage.
But the cone of silence that surrounds a company college football town is not enough to understand why Penn State’s rape scandal was front-page news the second the Sandusky scandal went public and Notre Dame has been largely protected by the press. The only answer that makes sense is that raping women has become "normalized" in our culture while raping little boys has not. The only answer that makes sense is that the rape of a young boy sets all sorts of alarms of horror in the minds of the very male sports media, while the rape of women does not. The only answer that makes sense is that it's been internalized that while boys are helpless in the face of a predator, women are responsible for their assault. The accusers are the accused.
This is not just a Notre Dame issue. At too many universities, too many football players are schooled to see women as the spoils of being a campus God. But it's also an issue beyond the commodification of women on a big football campus. It's the fruit of a culture where politicians can write laws that aim to define the difference between "rape" and "forcible rape" and candidates for senate can speak about pregnancy from rape being either a “gift from God” or biologically impossible in the case of “legitimate rape.” It’s a culture where comedians like Daniel Tosh or Tucker Max can joke about violently raping, as Max puts it, a “gender hardwired for whoredom”. The themes of power, rape, and lack of accountability are just as clear in the case of the Steubenville, Ohio football players not only boasting that they “so raped” an unconscious girl but feeling confident enough to videotape their boasts.
As was recently written on The Nation, "It’s time to acknowledge that the rape epidemic in the United States is not just about the crimes themselves, but our own cultural and political willful ignorance. Rape is as American as apple pie—until we own that, nothing will change."
If the sports media is any indicator, we're nowhere close to owning this reality. Instead, on Monday night, much of the country cheered for the Fighting Irish of old Notre Dame. It was American as apple pie.
Despite crushing and grinding Notre Dame into a fine paste on Monday night, Alabama was not ranked number one in one BCS computer's final poll. The Colley Matrix poll, which is assuredly a paragon of responsible and reasonable mathematical practices, declared Notre Dame to be in its top spot.
While this has no effect on the awarding of the BCS title to Alabama, some Alabama fans want complete and total domination of all polls because AIN'T NOBODY BETTER THAN THAN THE TAHD, PAAAWWWLLL. Plus, a Colley Matrix poll national championship t-shirt would look pretty sharp.
In response to the computer's assault on Alabama's integrity, one Alabama fan has taken matters into his own hands and put the Colley Matrix computer in its place.
RIP, Colley Matrix computer. You were gonna die in a couple of years anyway.
Another college football season, another inconclusive ending. Alabama’s 42-14 beat down of Notre Dame doesn’t even fully represent just how emphatically the Tide took it to the Irish, leaving college football fans with an all-too-familiar bitter taste.
Many pundits and sports reporters are saying that Notre Dame didn’t belong on the same field with Alabama for a championship game. I didn’t get many opportunities to watch either team this past season, and with a long layoff it is easy to imagine that one team could come out unprepared. But based on what I saw Monday night, Notre Dame did not belong on the field with Alabama. The Alabama offensive line was praised endlessly for 6 weeks, and they proceeded to embarrass the Irish defensive line and ask the college football world what they were thinking creating this matchup.
Only that’s the problem. College football isn’t decided on the field like most respectable sports, it is voted on. One may not associate gymnastics and college football at first glance, but I would argue that there is a very unfortunate relation. Gymnasts compete against each other in a sport that isn’t decided on a scoreboard; it is a subjective sport, and judges give the athletes scores based on the quality of the routine they perform.
Football is decided on a scoreboard. One team wins, the other team loses, and there is usually no controversy. There are some plays that are hard to tell what happened, and sometimes a referee makes a call that allows you to question their vision, but football is decided on the field and the result is accepted.
Except in college football. Every college football team is trying to win on Saturdays, but that isn’t their only objective. Like gymnasts, college football teams are constantly in front of a panel of judges. Ending a game with more points than the opponent is only a start; if a team fails to win impressively, it will inevitably affect them in the polls.
Instituting a playoff in two seasons will certainly be a start to fixing this shoddy system. What it won’t do is relieve the system of the all-important polling system that keeps college football all-too-similar to gymnastics. There will be a four-team playoff to determine the champion, and while it is certainly a great step in the right direction, just thinking about it can give someone a headache.
College basketball uses a tournament selection committee to decide who enters the big dance every March. Every year there is controversy, but there are no outcries to replace this system. That is because it tries to get it right, and although there are always teams who feel like they got snubbed, it’s alright because there is enough opportunity. It’s hard to compare a 64-team college basketball playoff to football because of the difference in sports. Basketball can be played several times per week, while football’s once a week schedule limits the number of teams that could be in a playoff.
What’s not hard to do is see that a four-team playoff isn’t going to erase the problems with college football. Real sports are decided on the field, and this improvement won’t erase the fact that every team will still be taking part in a season-long audition. One could make the argument that any playoff tournament requires selection, and that no number of teams could change the disappointment that some are bound to feel. I have heard this argument, and feel that it has a glaring weakness. A four-team playoff means that only four teams participate in the postseason. How can that be considered a real playoff?! The New York Giants won the Super Bowl last season as the fourth seed in their conference. If the NFL had taken only the top four overall teams, the Giants wouldn’t have even gotten a shot.
To shock anyone who is reading this, the college football postseason is—NO!—based purely on money. Every sport is run from a business perspective, but college football takes that to a new level. The regular season ends in early-to-mid November, followed by a layoff. Wait, what? What kind of real sport just stops at the end of the season and waits over six weeks to play a national championship game that isn’t even decided by a playoff? The Bowl system is ingrained in America as a great tradition for college football, and that allows us to overlook that it, well, doesn’t make very much sense.
College football fans have been screaming for a playoff for years, so the powers that be responded. Kind of. We don’t just want a playoff; we want a respectable system that makes a concerted effort to give a fair number of teams a chance at a championship. With the current setup everything will remain the same except that there will be a play-in game for the championship, involving a grand total of four out of 119 Division 1-A football teams. Personally, I’m tired of hearing how the regular season is the postseason. That’s a way to defend something that doesn’t make sense. The four team playoff won’t take the auditioning out of college football, and until we rid our beloved sport of judging it won’t ever reach its full potential.