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The Manti Te'o story: I want to believe

What's Going Downey

By Tom Downey
On January 28, 2013

I want to believe Manti Te'o.

I want to believe that he was simply the naïve victim of a cruel prank. That he had no idea he was being duped into a relationship with the fictional Lennay Kekua. That he had no idea he was being "catfished."

But I can't.

Like everyone else, I completely fell for the Te'o story. It was a heartbreaking story, but to see the way he played all season with a heavy heart was heartwarming. Te'o's story was yet another example of Notre Dame's mythology. It seemed to rank up there with "Rudy" and "Win one for the Gipper."

I was sold on Te'o. Then Deadspin published its jaw-dropping story and the world found out that Lennay Kekua never existed.

Something about this whole situation still seems just off. At some point, I think Te'o knew that his girlfriend never existed. I don't think he was the mastermind, but at some point he found out. How could he not have?

I want to believe Manti Te'o, but how does he never see his girlfriend, after all she claimed to have gone through. A car crash. A cancer diagnosis. But he never goes to see her? One would think that would be a priority for him.

I want to believe Manti, but he's already lied to the public before, so I have trouble believing him. He lied about meeting her, both after a a game against Stanford and on a trip back home to Hawaii. He then said in his interview with Katie Couric that he found out when everyone else did. Except for the fact he said he found out on Dec. 8 and told Notre Dame on Dec. 26 that he had been the victim of a hoax. He even did two separate interviews in which he spoke of Kekua, after Dec. 8. Of course, Notre Dame and Te'o chose to sit on that information so it didn't affect his Heisman campaign and Notre Dame's National Title chances.

As much as I like Notre Dame athletics, it's not perfect. Its atrocious handlings of the Declan Sullivan tragedy and the alleged sexual assault by a Notre Dame football player show that. Notre Dame may be better than many other programs, but it is like having the highest failing grade in the class.

I want to believe Te'o, but his relationship with the alleged mastermind, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is strange as well. Te'o and Tuiasosopo definitely knew each other, as Te'o wished Tuiasosopo a happy birthday over Twitter in June.

After everything that has happened in the Te'o saga, nothing will surprise me. It is arguably the craziest story of my young life. The only thing that comes to mind that rivals the Te'o story was when two Yankee pitchers literally swapped lives in the 1970s. If it comes out that Te'o concocted the scheme because he is gay and wanted to make it seem like he had a girlfriend, I won't be surprised. He did deny that theory when talking with Couric. If it comes out the Lance Armstrong is the true mastermind and he timed this perfectly to take the spotlight away from his confession, I won't be surprised.

I still think Manti Te'o is a good kid. And I hope that it eventually comes out for certain that Te'o never knew and he was just naïve and foolish. But I can't believe in Te'o.

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