Friday, January 25, 2013

I WANT TO BELIEVE TE'O, BUT ...

Te'o, right, speaking to Couric.
(Photo: Disney-ABC)
It is easy to believe that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was a victim of "catfishing" after appearing on Katie Couric's talk show Thursday afternoon.  

It is easy to think he was elaborately duped by a person who created a persona that the star football player thought was the love of his life. One, who he believed had passed away of leukemia on Sept. 12.

It's also understandable that he was terrified when he found out he had been hoaxed, mostly because of the image it would have portrayed of him. Many people may have thought, "Wait a minute ... how on Earth did he consider this woman the love of his life when he had never met her before? What a freak! What a joke!"

There is no doubt that Te'o found himself in a no-win situation. If he brought forward the truth, he would have been brutally mocked. If he just went with the original story that his lover had perished of cancer and the truth was discovered, he'd be considered a snake.

Hey, I heard those same voice mails Thursday that he received from the person he thought was his girlfriend. I, too, would have been taken, because it certainly sounded like the voice of a woman's, and not that of Roniah Tuiasosopo's — a male — which has since been reported.

I even think the tears he and his parents shed on Couric's show were sincere.

But just when I catch myself believing his side of the story, feeling those same tears welling in my eyes, that trail of lies he left along the way just keeps reappearing to me. 

It's like the classic case of the boy who cried wolf.

How can we believe anything he says, when everything prior has been untruthful?

There are three variables to the story that just don't add up to me ...

The first is, Te'o has been on record as saying he first met Lennay Kekua (the name of his made-up girlfriend) after their eyes connected following a game at Stanford in 2009. He said they touched hands and exchanged phone numbers. Obviously that meeting was fabricated by Te'o in interviews since Sept. 12.

Secondly — and Couric asked this question on Thursday — why didn't he go visit Kekua in her San Diego hospital room when he was in Los Angeles on layover during his trip back to his home state of Hawaii? He said he didn't want to upset his parents.

However, earlier in the interview with Couric, he said that his parents have always taught him to help others who are in need. Why would he have thought his parents would've been upset with him for being by his girlfriend's side while she battled leukemia? He stumbled answering that question, his eyes quickly moving back-and-forth searching for an answer which never came.

And lastly, why did he tell ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski to absolutely not approach Kekua's family, not even for photos, mementos or anything after he conducted an interview for a feature story in September? Just sounds fishy to me.

Perhaps he knew she didn't exist, or maybe it's because if ESPN were to approach Kekua's family that it would be revealed he had never met her.

Again, it's a no-win situation.

There are things providing strong evidence that holds merit to Te'o claims of innocence, just as there are questions which have been sidestepped or left unanswered that makes me feel he isn't being completely truthful about what ensued all those years and months.

The only fact about all of this is that there is no good ending.

Whether he was duped by an elaborate schemer, or a co-mastermind of a ruse which captivated a nation, Te'o's history of untruthfulness throughout this entire episode has made his claims as a victim of an unbelievable hoax ... well ... unbelievable.