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Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and the Dying Girlfriend Hoax

Johnathan Daniel

This one came out of left field. It’s a sports story for the new world! A world connected (and disconnected in this case) by social media and the internet. It involves one of the most storied academic institutions in the world, one of the country’s best young football players, a dead girlfriend that doesn’t exist and the INTERNET!

Deadspin.com broke the story of Manti Te’o and an apparent internet hoax that he fell victim to in which he was led to believe he was in a relationship with a young woman who was battling leukemia.  A relationship that started on-line and progressed to phone conversations.

Te’o says he was told she died in September, just a few hours after his REAL grandmother passed away.

The story of the All-American linebacker with a broken heart who led his historic Notre Dame football team to their greatest heights in decades was one that probably helped Te’o to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and aided Notre Dame in getting the number one ranking that allowed them to be beat down by Alabama in the BCS National Championship game.

But the story is FAKE!

If you’re having trouble understanding what exactly happened — what is real, what is a lie — you’re not alone. The story is so bizarre, so 21st century, that many of us don’t understand.

What we think we know now is that Te’o's dead girlfriend never existed. That he complained to his school that he was a victim of an internet hoax. And that he, and possibly Notre Dame, continued to lie about the situation even after they had discovered the hoax.

The Athletic Director for Notre Dame says they were informed by Te’o of the possible hoax on December 26th.  But there is video and audio of Te’o responding to questions about his girlfriend’s death after that date as if the whole thing were real and true.

There are many questions stemming form this story that need answering.  Right now, Te’o has no interviews scheduled to answer such questions.

This is a new world we live in.  There are many people now that live more of their lives on-line than they do on Earth.  And this is a new phenomenon that is not unique to Manti Te’o.  There is a segment of the population that intentionally seek out to deceive people on the internet, not just to deceive… but to enter into an emotional relationship with someone on the other side of the computer screen under false pretenses.  There was a movie titled “Catfish” that documented this exact phenomenon.  It happens so much, that “Catfish” was able to become a weekly TV show on MTV.

For more on the Manti Te’o situation, turn on 1130 The Tiger.

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