Catfishing Te’o


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Te'o press conference images

Image courtesy of hollywood.com

As a sports fan, I always find sports reporting and media coverage surrounding interesting. Again, the media business is where I’ve chosen to stake my career, so I have learned that I watch and hear things differently than others.

This year’s college football national championship, sadly, will go down as one of the most boring and unexciting games in history. Can’t say I really had a loyalty to either team playing, but myself, like many others seemed to be inspired by Manti Te’o and his story of overcoming tragedy to rise to the top of his game. It’s the kind of story that builds champions and carries teams through good times and bad. Another example was in 2012, Kansas University forward Thomas Robinson rallied to become a top draft pick from the college basketball ranks, after two seasons prior, experiencing the loss of a grandmother, a grandfather, and his very young mother all within a three month span….leaving a young 20-something man the responsibility of raising his then 7-year-old sister. We were all inspired by what he had overcome, and fans were excited to watch Kansas drive to the national championship game, where they would eventually be defeated by a young and powerful Kentucky squad.

Then, as far as Mr. Te’o was concerned….the bottom fell out. After his team was humiliated by the Alabama Crimson Tide, it surfaced that his girlfriend, who many of us as Americans had come to respect after hearing of her tragic loss to leukemia at such a young age, turned out to be a fake. Not only a fake relationship, but an entire hoax involving another man, pretending to be a woman, having an online relationship with Te’o. The photos were real, as was the woman, who has claimed to never know or have any relationship with Te’o personally.

The saga continues, and I must say, I’ve really lost my interest in it. I don’t really care anymore as the excitement has worn off in my book. What I now find most interesting is the media’s response and coverage of this piece…again.

When we were all under the impression that this was a “true” story, we followed Te’o and his journey at Notre Dame….whether we were a fan or not, everyone seemed to have a little extra support for Te’o. What’s interesting to me, is when all of this was true, countless news networks, including ESPN and the like…numerous print publications, like Sports Illustrated, and others, ran stories of Te’o incredible journey to overcome grief and sadness and rise to the top of his game.

Hmm…all this coverage and all these stories about this one young man produce the same results. He was in a relationship with a young woman, who he loved, and helped carry him through trials and tribulations in football, lost her battle with leukemia, and he dedicated the play of his senior campaign in her honor.

Again, I’ve always been loyal to the supporter of my career, the media business, but I’ve also been known to call a spade a spade. How did any of these “journalists” run this multitude of pieces, and not one of them was able to uncover that this woman, as far as Te’o presented her, didn’t exist. No one of these journalists wanted to speak with her family….not one checked medical records to confirm her passing? Not one. They all just took Te’o story as gospel truth, but their article to bed, and moved on.

Where did reliable news coverage go? In the day of this modern technology we live in, isn’t it pretty simple to check the facts? Like me, does anyone else start to wonder what other facts aren’t being checked… this is simply sports. Sports are a pure recreation and enjoyment to the American public… clearly there are bigger issues day in and day out the media is reporting to us. What about the articles and coverage we see of government happenings? Are we getting the true story here, or are we being hoaxed? Who knows anymore, and I don’t want this piece leading to the thought of further governmental conspiracy theories…that isn’t the point. The point is, gone are the days of responsible journalism. It’s a sad day.