Thoughts about Manti

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:

  1. Concocted (with or without help) a story about his girlfriend dying on the same day as his grandmother, or
  2. 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
  3. 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.

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17 thoughts on “Thoughts about Manti

  1. I heard something about this, but really don’t know much about it so I don’t know if it was his lie, something someone put him up to, or the media dredging it on….Perhaps it will be much clearer after his interview airs.
    I try not to feed into those types of things, but sometimes we do get caught up in them.

    • Let’s hope the interview clarifies this story, rather than merely spinning it! Whatever happens, it’s certainly been a Public Relations nightmare, for Manti as well as the university. Thanks for your opinion!

  2. Debbie, You bring up some excellent points here. The Internet Age has spawned some strange phenomena, like having a relationship with someone you’ve never met in person. We certainly have experienced that in our social media circles. I’m not sure what to think but I do believe the media can spin in anyway it wants. Hopefully his interview will enlighten us and help him clarify his story. Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

    • Thanks for reading, Kathy. I know not everybody is a Notre Dame fan, but I feel pretty sure most of us have heard bits and pieces of this story and are interested in seeing the facts come out.

  3. I do think the media has taken us for a ride on this one….and my bigger question is why is this kid the top liner in the media when legally it does not seem he has done a thing wrong when two other football players may have been involved in sex that was not consensual. My wording is deliberate–their behavior is “alleged” but thus far the university has not done much to get to the bottom of the issue. There are areas on campus where Freshman girls are warned not to go. I like ND. My grandfather is an alum and maybe because of that I hold ND to a very high standard. .I think this post was illuminating http://rogercanaff.com/site/2011/01/life-sweetness-hope/ and we now the president of ND needs to step forward and do the right thing…tell the truth…set the standard, and take action where it may be necessary less they find themselves in the same boat as Penn state.
    Thanks for offering this up (so to speak) Debbie…Manti brings forward some of the new challenges out there…and how much pressure we put on college athletes.

    • Kb, you’ve brought up some valid points. You’re absolutely correct in saying the university hasn’t done its job in protecting ALL its students ALL the time, or in getting to the bottom of ALL allegations. My third bulleted point above raises the question of whether we live morally and demand those in positions of power to do the same. We can’t just ignore the most vulnerable among us while calling ourselves decent human beings. Your link is outstanding and should be required reading! I wonder how often this sort of thing goes on at other universities, but that doesn’t excuse ND. In fact, I believe ND (because of its reputation) should be held to a higher standard. Thanks for weighing in!

  4. I think we should all treat this as a non-issue – the real issue is the purported rape/suicide. Those are real people and real victims.

    • Thanks, Julianne, I appreciate your thoughts. You’re right, of course. There are much bigger issues that demand proper resolution. Again, I believe it all comes down to morals. We can’t simply sweep things under the rug when they don’t reflect positively upon us. Don’t we believe Confession is good for the soul??

  5. You’re right, Debbie. He’s only 21 and we as a whole, tend to rush to judgement. I blame it on the media. We love to jump on the bandwagon, often at the expense of others. Now, I’m starting to feel sorry for Lance Armstrong. Wait…never mind. That guy was still an arrogant, self-centered liar who ruined the lives of many in his attempt to save himself. It worked for a while, though. Anyway, thanks for helping us see sanity–and the light.

    • Monica, you crack me up — Lance Armstrong was a big boy who should have known better but perpetuated his own myth. For him to think he deserves a second chance is, as you said, arrogant and self-centered. Still, it’s so sad we have to deify human beings just so we can have something to look up to!

  6. Personally, I think the real story is what social media are doing to us as human beings. I know I’m old-fashioned and weird, but I’m sorry – “imaginary girlfriend” still is an oxymoron to me. Of course we have on-line relationships (here I am, posting on your blog!) but really – “sleeping with someone” on the phone. Give me a break. I hope to goodness Manti (and whatever others are involved) invented the whole story, because it’s a whole lot worse if they didn’t.

  7. I’ve heard a little about this from the cave I normally hide out in :) I still don’t understand why we (the public) feel we have a right to others’ private lives. If I’m a football fan, fine. Watch the game, study the stats…do I really need to know about their messed up personal lives? The media makes non-stories front-page news and we keep buying into it. As for this kid, yes, he is young and has probably made mistakes here. I think he shouldn’t have been elevated to a pedestal he didn’t belong on in the first place, but it’s time he be left alone so he can sort out his life privately – like the rest of us ‘normal’ folk do every day.

    • Janna, you’re the voice of sanity! Yes, he’s going to have to sort out his own life, just like everybody else. What’s sad is that he’s having to sort it out in the public eye, much like a politician or entertainer or other professional, when he’s just a kid, far from home and unduly influenced by others. And you’re right that we really don’t need all those personal details an over-zealous media insists on shoving down our throats!

  8. I can’t imagine why, if he helped concoct this story, that he might think no one would find out the truth. And since there’s an entire t.v. series dedicated to the stories of people who have fallen in love online and have come to suspect their loved one isn’t really who they say they are… I am willing to believe Manti could have been a victim. Regardless, in the end, I think it’s a story with a lot of hype and that’s all. Nothing illegal was done. Immoral, maybe but not illegal.

    • Another voice of reason! Thanks, Terri. I haven’t seen that series about the online fall-in-love people, and perhaps Manti hasn’t either. Still, I think he must have had some niggling suspicions that things weren’t as they seemed. I’d certainly hate to have something as private as a broken heart displayed for the entire world to see, though.

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