SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There are still a lot more questions than answers in this bizarre story about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. The girlfriend he said inspired him to play his best for Notre Dame never existed. Turned out to be a hoax. She didn’t have leukemia and she didn’t die. Te’o says he was duped into believing of her existence. But was he really?
Some people believe Te’o was in on the conspiracy with perpetrator Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. The two of them exchanged friendly twitter messages last summer. But what was Te’o’s motivation? Did he really need the added publicity of a dying girlfriend to help his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy? There are those at Notre Dame who wondered why a player as popular as Te’o didn’t have a girlfriend at the school. Did he invent a fictitious online girlfriend to persuade others that he isn’t gay?Or was he actually duped into believing the picture of the woman he saw on the internet matched the voice he’d been talking to on the phone? Why did his parents tell a South Bend newspaper reporter they had seen the girl, Lennay Kekua, when she came to Hawaii to visit?
Arizona Cardinals player Reagan Mauia says he has seen Lennay Kekua in person and often talked with her. Mauia has even described how she looked, “She was tall,” he said. “Volleyball-type of physique. She was athletic, tall, beautiful. Long hair. Polynesian. She looked like a model ... “ That’s what Mauia says, but nobody has been able to verify that Kekua ever existed as all. She supposedly died, but there is no death certificate. Te’o said she went to Stanford, but again there is no record of that being true. Nothing seems to add up here.
At this point, nobody really knows exactly what happened besides Manti Te’o. Maybe he’ll tell the complete and honest story when he does his interview with ESPN, but whatever he says at this point may be difficult to believe. Police investigators often use the theory that “the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one.” But there is no simple explanation to this riddle. Unless Te’o really did believe he would improve his chances of winning the Heisman by being associated with a tragic story, and/or he could silence those who thought he was gay with a story about a girlfriend.
Unless Te’o was completely duped, which seems unlikely, there really isn’t a victim in this story. Nobody was injured. Nobody lost their money or their job. It may have just started as online joke between friends aof and grew into an out of control monster of a story they couldn’t contain. Te’o will move on to the NFL, most likely as a first round draft pick. He’ll get his cash. But he’ll also always be remembered for being the centerpiece in one of the most bizarre stories ever told about online romance.