Cliffs Notes For Manti Te'o's Untelevised Marathon Conversation With ESPN's Jeremy Schaap
When a public figure does something wrong, whether it's a case of willful misconduct or extreme naiveté, in my eyes that person is defined more by how they react and atone for their misstep than by the misstep itself.
Photo by Shotgun Spratling
I realize in today's social media fueled, 24-hour news cycle, where stories get thrown onto Twitter with nary a parsing of the truth and get subsequently devoured by the masses, snark and sanctimony pitchforks fully drawn, that my view is a bit old school. Giving people a chance to explain themselves or show contrition is very 2008, I know.
Which brings us to former (by about two weeks) Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, and the recent unraveling of the flowery tale of his deceased girlfriend, who as it turns out not only didn't pass away on September 12, but actually never really existed to begin with.
Te'o's contention, via a press release Wednesday night, was that he was the victim of an elaborate "Catfish"-style hoax, duped for the better part of three years into thinking that Lennay Kekua (the name of his alleged girlfriend) was a real person. Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick backed up Te'o's contention in a press conference of his own Wednesday night.
The more information that has come out (including alleged confessions of the mastermind behind the hoax, Roniah Tuiasosopo), the more Te'o's version of the truth seems to stand up (as much as any story can seem plausible in this entire, bizarre saga). However, the surreal nature of this whole story is matched only by the incompetence with which Te'o has handled his business in the aftermath.
First, instead of coming clean at some point and calling a press conference to announce his discoveries (I would have been fine if he did this a day or two after the BCS title game), Te'o let the story fester and eventually Deadspin broke the news, and was able to steer public perception by including an anonymous quote from someone close to the story that they were "80 percent sure" that Te'o was in on the hoax from the beginning.
Then, when the time finally arrived for Te'o to come clean and answer questions (after a quasi-plea to do so from Swarbrick himself), he chose to do it in an off camera interview with a handpicked reporter (in this case, Jeremy Schaap of ESPN).
Te'o's story is one of an innocent victim. His subsequent actions since finding out the purported truth make it seem like he's hiding something. As good as Manti Te'o is at playing inside linebacker, he's clearly got a long way to go in understanding the ways of the world. His falling for the hoax and his explaining it both bear that out.
As for the interview with Schaap, it lasted two and a half hours and, if you have a few vacation days to burn, you can read the transcript. If you're short on time, I've picked out a few of the highlights and pasted them below, along with my commentary: