I’m going to keep this short and sweet. By now, we all know the story of the Notre Dame linebacker and his fictional girlfriend. the problem is the more we discover, the less we know. As this continues to unfold, as of this writing there are some big questions for which I have yet to hear the answers.
1) Why was there a need for a fictional girlfriend?
Only guys in bad college rock bands get more girls than the star of the football team. Te’o could have been knee-deep in real Irish coeds if he wanted to be, so why was their a need for him to buy into one that existed only in cyber-space?
2) At which point did Te’o become complicit in this hoax?
Make no mistake, he may very well have started out as a victim, but there clearly was a point when Te’o bought into the hoax to the level of helping to perpetrate it. He let his own father believe the girlfriend existed, he told several people he had actually met her, and he mentioned her at the Heisman ceremony two days after it was shown he knew this was all a fraud. In other words, no matter which version of the story you want to buy, there was a point at which Te’o was in on the scam.
3) Is there a reason why this story got out just before Te’o was on the verge of possibly winning the Heisman and/or becoming a multi-millionaire via the NFL Draft?
I completely believe the timing of those events is no accident, but I can’t say why I think that without prematurely revealing my theory as to why this whole sordid affair came to be.
4) Why was Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick so quick to come to Te’o's defense?
I understand that Te’o is the biggest star in South Bend since Tim Brown or Joe Montana, but Swarbrick clearly went “all-in” on this story well before he had to, well before the all the facts of the story were in public view, and well before he was properly prepared to have such a press conference. If you saw it, you know there’s a point at which Swarbrick become the Martin Short character Nathan Thurm, the fidgety, defensive lawyer who is clearly hiding something.
5) The Multi-Million Dollar Question: Why would Manti Te’o have a vested interest in perpetrating this hoax?
There’s no question that at some point, Te’o helped the lifespan of this hoax regardless of how it started. Why would he do that? I can understand the “embarrassment” angle; he just felt it was easier to go along with it rather than to blow the whistle. The only problem with that is that is only “upping the ante,” and it costs you the “victim” status. It begs the question, what made perpetrating a reputation-destroying hoax worthwhile?
At the end of the day, these five questions need to be answered, and until they are, I have my own theory as to why this happened. But before I tell you what that theory is, I want to hear your thoughts on this. Blow up the comments section as to your thoughts on these five questions, and in a few days I will post my theory there. The hint I will give you: My theory is the only thing I could think of that ties all five questions together.