published Thursday, January 17th, 2013

5-at-10: Manti's mess, Playoff picks and sports lies

Remember Friday's mailbag and buckle up. This stuff's getting deep.

  • photo
    Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o stands on the sidelines during an NCAA against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla. Notre Dame issued a release Wednesday, saying a story about Te'o's girlfriend dying, which he said inspired him to play better as he helped the Fighting Irish get to the BCS title game, turned out to be a hoax apparently perpetrated against the linebacker.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Manti's mess

You certainly know the story by now — All-American linebacker and Heisman runner-up Manti Te'o's reported tale about a Stanford-educated girlfriend who died of leukemia in September was a hoax, and the girl never existed. Our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer wrote about it here.

OK, deep breaths.

The levels of conspiracy and lies and intrigue and deception in this entire tale make anything possible. We do know that there are a slew of journalists who took the words of this story as fact — and if we were on the Notre Dame beat, we probably would have been caught in this catfish net too — and are left looking for truth and for an explanation.

Never mind the fall out for Oprah Winfrey, who is set to air the first part of her interview with Lance Armstrong in which he admits what we all expected him of doing. Lance and PEDs? No thanks, that's like 12 levels of head-scratching lower than Manti's she's-not-dead-because-she's-not-real girlfriend story.

There are only a few real, plausible options here, so let's look at some of the possibilities:

— Manti was a complete victim of an online plot that was so diabolical and mean-spirited it should be a crime. For this to be true, you have to believe that Te'o — a 20-something college football star — would be willing to have a three-year online relationship with someone he never met. He also would have to be a combination of the most gullible person and one of the worst boyfriends ever. This seems like such a stretch that we're not sure we would have even mentioned it before Notre Dame Jack Swarbrick called a news conference (yes, Notre Dame had a news conference about an internet mirage that dated their All-American — read that sentence again) and pushed all of his support chips into the middle of the Te'o support table.

— Manti was a small part of the hoax at first and the small lie grew and grew and grew to the point that he didn't know how to get out of it. The Deadspin article that broke the story wide open says the guy likely behind the lion's share of the online con had met Te'o and at least one unnamed source told Deadspin there was an "80 percent chance" that Te'o was in on it.

— Manti was a knowing participant in this from the start and it became way bigger than anyone ever dreamed.

This is now THE story that is consuming social media and the interwebs.

How it was hatched and who knew what are only parts of the pieces of course. The motive — why do this elaborate ruse — is a monster part of figuring out this story.

Was it part of a sympathy plan to garner Heisman support? That seems supremely unlikely, but when the basis of the story is a girl that's not dead because she was not real, well, unlikely needs to be considered.

Was it a con or an attempt to extort money from Te'o? It doesn't appear so and Swarbrick said Notre Dame's investigators originally looked into that angle and also that no one planned to press charges.

Was it just a gag, a huge stunt to say "Ha, ha, ha, we punked Manti Te'o"? That seems implausible too, but this entire thing is based on fake stories that would have won awards in publications like SI and the New York Times, so implausible is right up our alley.

Was it something that Te'o was apart of, and if so why? To fill a need of sympathy? That seems doubtful since the real death of his grandmother was at the same time as the fake death of his imaginary girlfriend.

Was it an elaborate ruse to provide Te'o with a beard? Maybe he is homosexual (not that there's anything wrong with that) and realized the fall-out of his situation considering he is the face of Notre Dame right now. Maybe he was asexual and wanted to focus on school and football and concocted this story as a cover. Again, seems like a stretch, but a stretch seems solid when walking ina house of mirrors that are cracked with tainted information and lies.

There are no answers other than the story that seemed too good to be true was neither good nor true.

Wow, we long for the days when Lance's lies about PEDs.

———

More Manti

The sadness and the out-of-left-field-ness of this story have also generated a ton of online zingers. (Our favorite so far — "What's the big deal, Eddie Lacey and T.J. Yeldon exposed Te'o as a fraud 10 days ago." Ouch-standing.)

Really, this is sad.

Regardless how this happened or why, we now know it happened.

And it's another time when we're left trying to explain and decipher and figure out the lies and deception around one of the sports stars we believed in. Hey, if your kid was a Notre Dame fan — maybe even had a No. 5 jersey — and saw Te'o's picture over and over again this morning in the newspaper or on TV or the interweb, what do you tell him or her?

Sports are fun and they are fun because of the action and the actors and the acclaim and the access. We want to believe in these people; that the ones that seem special and true and good are those things.

No, they are not role models or heroes, but they can be admired right? We can go beyond respecting their physical gifts and wanting them to be at worst decent and at times admiration-worthy. That's not too much to ask.

But time and time again, it appears that we're left with more questions and the puzzles and pieces of broken tales and cracked character. Maybe Manti is simply a victim in this mess, and not part of this lament, but that seems unlikely right now. But this is just the latest chapter in the series of baseball Hall of Fame debates and Lance and what ever the scandal up next will be.

We as fans and really as people need to believe, and maybe that's on us in some way — but let's hope not because a world without belief, without faith seems desolate and dark.

Plus if we can't believe, then we're not going to be as passionate. And when fans lose passion, teams and sports lose fans. Period.

Maybe that sounds somewhat cynical; or maybe that sounds like a voice of experience.

————

Playoff picks

We're 8-4 against the spread so far in the NFL playoffs. That's acceptable, and it would have been better if not for the Seahawks' backdoor cover last week.

Let's look at this weekend's conference title games:

Atlanta plus-4.5 over San Fran and under 49.5 — We think the 49ers are going to struggle offensively for two reasons: the loud Georgia Dome crowd affects offensive tackles; there's no way Colin Kaepernick operates at that high a level two weeks in a row. If Kaepernick is ready to duplicate his record-setting performance from last week, then why did it take Alex Smith getting injured to insert him in the starting lineup? Atlanta wins outright, let's say 20-17.

Patriots minus-9 over Baltimore and under 51.5 — The weather is going to be a factor — especially strong winds with gusts of more than 20 mph. That will affect field goals; it will affect field position; it will also affect the deep throws that Joe Flacco and the Ravens had much success with against Denver last week. The weather makes the points look especially inviting, but we believe in Tom Brady and his drive to a) get to another Super Bowl and b) end this talk about how Flacco outplayed him in this game last year. Patriots flip the script, 28-9.

————

This and that

— Chip Kelly leaves Oregon and heads to Philadelphia. After all the hubbub from Kelly that he was going to stay with the Ducks, he ups and R-U-N-N-O-F-T to the Eagles. He needs to send Te'o a thank you note; Kelly would have gotten some Saban-level heat if not for Manti's imaginary girlfriend.

— Congrats LeBron on becoming the youngest player with 20,000 career NBA points. We don't believe he'll ever break the scoring record — dude plays too hard and too much with international competitions every four years. Although the way the sports world is being turned on its ear of untruthfulness, we would not be that shocked if LeBron took the microphone and said he was from Mars and he'd be taking his talents to South Venus after he opts out of his contract in 2014.

—This Manti Te'o thing does at least explain how in the world Notre Dame Brian Kelly thought it was a good idea to leave the country during recruiting season, huh?

————

Today's question

Biggest liar and or lies in the history of sports? Have at it.

Where does this Manti rank? Pete Rose is the Nick Saban of the list, right?

This whole thing makes our head hurt.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
orangeguy said...

I get South Bend media letting this slip past the guard, but what about Thamel/SI, CBS, ESPN? How does it get this far?

Biggest liars: Rafael Palmeiro, Clemens, Rose, Alabama football (they claim 15 natl. titles but in reality it's closer to 10), then Manti.

You think Chip Kelly will change the NFL?

January 17, 2013 at 10:28 a.m.
chas9 said...

It's been a bad fortnight for Manti. Now we know he's a flake as well as a chump. Congrats on not shying away from the "beard" theory. It's as plausible as the others, especially for a kid who grew up in a Morman community, now at a Catholic institution.

One year from now is our boy more likely to be an NFL star or a reality TV star?

This very morning, fat Pete Rose was on the Today show with his much, much younger, impossibly beautiful, surgically enhanced "fiance" to promote their upcoming reality show and saying he hopes Lance comes clean with contrition like he has. He says he's doing the show for the children.

Does Manti really even exist at all? Do we really watch reality TV? Is The 5@10 show plausible? Are we all being punked?

My head hurts, too.

January 17, 2013 at 10:28 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Did you notice during the BCS national championship game when Musburger talked about that week for Te'O, he said his grandmother and a friend. Not a girlfriend. A friend.

I just can't get all that worked up about this story. Maybe I'm that jaded. Maybe I see things through Golden Dome-tinted eyes (don't need glasses yet. Yet.). Granted, it's much more important than Rex Ryan's tattoo. But ... ehhh.

January 17, 2013 at 10:33 a.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - as an amateur conspiracy theorist, I believe that Lance saw the future of his reputation declining months ago, and planned and implemented the Te'o girlfriend strategy to deflect attention from his Oprah interview...

January 17, 2013 at 10:33 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang —

Couple of zingers folks have sent our way:

— Manti's status on Facebook has gone from dating to single to... it's complicated.

— If Alabama had a hand in this hoax, then Saban is the greatest tactician of all time.

Orange —

That's a big part of this — the sports writers have some 'splain' to do. No one made much effort to talk to this pretend girl's pretend family obviously. And where were the Cali papers? Allegedly some local girl dies and is the human interest story of the college football season and no one lifts a phone?

We've also heard whispers along the lines of what Clay Travis reported that ESPN has sat on this story. Those seem pretty solid considering for most of the morning the center of ESPN.com has been LeBron scoring his 20,000th point. Hey the 5-at-10 is as big a LeBron fan is there is (we say he'll be the best ever in fact), but to think that is bigger than the Te'o stuff is mind-numbing.

9er —

Every talent evaluator we've heard this morning has said as long as Te'o's imaginary online friends don't cause him to run a 5.0 40, he'll still be a first-rounder.

Spy —

We can see that view. But we're hooked on this story for some reason. Conspiracy maybe.

Sportsfan —

Can you see Lance talking to his Livestrong staff with a Snidely laugh, pulling at his mustache and saying, "It's all coming to together, Muh-ha-ha-ha-ha."

— 5-at-10

— 5-at-10

January 17, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay,

You had me up until..

"Plus if we can't believe, then we're not going to be as passionate. And when fans lose passion, teams and sports lose fans. Period."

If that were the case in a generalized sense, I could go see the Cowboys at mid-field for $50.00 or less. Nope. Still sells out with the cheapest seat in the house costing about 1 XBox (retail). It doesn't matter how badly Romo and Co. make the inside of Cowboys stadium smell like the UTC Arena after the Longhorn Rodeo had been in town. That maybe the sole exception, but my advocate the Devil wanted to submit that in court. ^_~

chase-

Ironically you brought up Pete Rose. That reality show is already airing on TLC. I caught part of it but didn't know what was going on. I see him coaching this Asian kid with the surname "Rose" on the back of his jersey. I was thinking "did Pete Rose Jr. marry an Asian girl or adopt an Asian kid and grandpa is helping his Little League team?" Than I remember what country I live in. ^^() Money = 20 year old hot Asian women. Age=Smage.

January 17, 2013 at 11:27 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Also Jay, I got the concept. However, I'm sure there is more than is being let on. Since I'm only younger than you by about 5-6 years, I can say that in time, the truth on anything will eventually come out.

January 17, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Shoot, I can invent a girlfriend and no one will give a crap. Especially her.

January 17, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.
jgreeson said...

JMC —

The NFL is a bad example. Right now it's bullet proof. And we believe we're about to see the attendance worm turn in a whole lot of other sports.

P.S. — Got the DMNs package today, much appreciated.

Spy —

If you invent a girl on the internet, here's saying she would be mad at you inside a week for not "paying her enough attention."

— 5-at-10

January 17, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.
Livn4life said...

JAY...it seems as simple as this...either Manti(pronounced EYE at the end)was dumb enough to play along with a surreal online relationship which took an ugly turn, thus trapping him into the hype of losing a "girlfriend" and a grandmother(condolences on that part), or he was in on it and just can't bring himself to admit it. Underscored here is the whole social network way out of whack but...most who are victimized by it bring it on themselves by putting stuff on they should never put on. It is sad but in our info.crazed world, that's the way the news goes...and goes...and goes. Now the bigger question is where does Te'o go and how is his future impacted(never mind the NFL)by all of this?

January 17, 2013 at 1:33 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay-

We must have a mind-link or something because I was about to ask you about the DMNs. I did write a few "notes" in references to a couple of the articles (none that can be repeated on here) but you should enjoy all the "inside local scoop" regarding Jerry's World and friends. Also, speaking of "Local Stuff", Galloway and Co. (Dallas' New Coke version of SportTalk), have decided to refer to the new DC as "Ebenezer Kiffin". No comment as of yet from either the Scrooge or Dickens Estates. :P

I see what you are saying regarding the NFL. Probably the same for colleges big six. So point taken.

January 17, 2013 at 1:40 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

jay-

"If you invent a girl on the internet, here's saying she would be mad at you inside a week for not 'paying her enough attention.'".

I seriously was wanting to go there but decided not to given how I'm the one who gets the shock collar regarding the rules and regs on this forum. All I will say is well-played and leave it at that.

January 17, 2013 at 1:49 p.m.
fechancellor said...

Nick Saban, Nick Saban, Nick Saban, oh, how 10 Ring loves this name as either as a coach or as the measure of acme to the Nth degree for any top level comparison. Well, let's get to it anyway...

Not that I'm a fan of comptetive bicycling but, Lance, Lance, Lance!

The Cooperstown controversy over those who maybe? whose stats? to be believed and, who were juiced those; who is to be excluded from the Hall. This also Bud Selig's worst failure as Commissioner for not taking the reins and policing his players as soon as steroid use came to light.

Nick Saban, in Miami, lying like a rug putting on show that his bags were indeed unpacked claiming the wasn't leaving Miami for Bama.

Our last, Otis Sistrunk did not get a degree from the University of Mars. He never even saw the inside of the classroom there.

January 17, 2013 at 1:56 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5,

I am trying not to laugh out loud - one, because it's funny, two, because it's just too true.

January 17, 2013 at 2:13 p.m.
LSUTiger said...

Evidently there were imaginary tailbacks against Alabama that he was diving for when he was whiffing the entire game, or getting ran over. How could you vote for this guy? He couldn't start for 3 or 4 of the top SEC teams yet you vote him as the best college player in the nation. Give me a break, if he did not play for Notre Dame he would never even been under consideration for any awards, little on the Heisman. Just another's reason to hate the Golden Domers and Dr. Lou as well.

January 18, 2013 at 10:43 a.m.
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