I’ve run into a lot of folks lately who are interested in my take on the Manti Te’o story.
You’ll recall he’s the Notre Dame linebacker and All-American who:
- Concocted (with or without help) a story about his girlfriend dying on the same day as his grandmother, or
- Was the victim of an elaborate scheme (by one or several people for as-yet-known reasons) that convinced him there was such a girlfriend in the first place, or
- Some combination of the above.
The truth is, we don’t know the full story — and might never know it. Suffice it to say, Manti’s “tragedy” spurred the Fighting Irish football team to rack up 12 victories, a perfect season, and earn their first appearance in a National Championship game since 1988.
Manti has chosen to tell his version of the story to Katie Couric on Thursday, so you’ll have to determine for yourselves his credibility. In the meantime, I offer the following thoughts:
- We ALL bought into this story in the first place, encouraged by an over-zealous media (what became of fact-checking??) at a time when we were eager for a feel-good story, a hero. Tired of negative campaign ads, aggravated by politicians interested only in feathering their nests, worried and fearful over worsening economic conditions, we were ripe for such a story.
- This is a college athlete. Sure, he’s been blessed with amazing talent and leadership skills, but he’s a 21-year-old kid, susceptible as all of us were, to flattery, tall tales, pranks, and poor advice from folks he trusts. And he’s grown up in the Internet Age, accustomed to meeting and befriending and trusting strangers online.
- We must do a better job of teaching morals — right from wrong. Every religion in the world follows a moral code, so this isn’t peculiar of Catholicism. But do we really follow a code? Do we breathe it and live it? Do we pass it on to our children? Do we expect our leaders — government and business, in particular — to follow it, and do we hold them accountable when they don’t? Or do we turn a blind eye, then moan about school shootings, aborted babies, jobs going overseas, and other ills of society?
You know, we’re taught that a person is presumed innocent until he’s been proven guilty in a court of law. But how many of us have already indicted, tried, and convicted Manti?
I think we’re angry over this story because we feel duped. Misled. Cheated. Our hero toppled off the pedestal we put him on, proving once again that he, too, is merely human.
But, depending on how this story is spun, he could very well go down in history as another football legend — someone bigger than life.
Time will tell.