Bad Romance


It takes a great deal of testicular fortitude to withstand the sway of modern trend cycles. To look peer pressure dead in the eye and simply say “fuck you” is a skill many of us would like to have nestled in our social repertoire but lack. I’m certainly not guiltless in this regard. Somewhere on this continent, there are Pokemon cards laced with my fingerprints, Kango hats with my hair follicles, and…(sigh) beanie babies with my skin cells. And don’t you smh me. When the judgement day cometh, we will all have to atone for our sins, and I’m fully prepared. Sometimes I make a respectable effort to bypass the hype, but I usually cave in, accept defeat and join the crowd, word to my Twitter account, or the fantasy sports craze I’m now largely invested in. When Fantasy Leagues were just blossoming, I was a proud dissenter. Why? you may ask, and my answer would sound pretty lame, like…”I’m a rebel without a cause” so let’s pretend I didn’t say that in the hypothetical situation mentioned above. 2012 marked the beginning of my foray into the fantasy sports world, and I certainly have no regrets because it’s fun as hell to play. Before fantasy basketball, I had not rooted for the San Antonio Spurs in approximately 500 years, but now I’m highly interested just for the prospect of what some Brazillian baller named Tiago will do. Sometimes I do have visions of me, 20 years from now, sitting in my wifebeater-boxers ensemble, with nothing but a bag of Funyans and a bottle of Juaritos, while my pregnant wife yells at me to get up and do something…like shower. But I am so involved with my fantasy game that I completely tune out the babbling, yelling at Robert Griffin IV to stop throwing so many ***damn picks!

Wow. That’s a heavy scene, and where it came from, I know not. Note to self: Take it easy on the deer antler spray. On second thought, I imagine today is a day as good as any other to die hard. There I go again, imagining. Fantasies can be dangerous, especially when there’s serious business to be done. It’s the same sort of trouble I get into when I go to the bank and see a perfect 10 standing behind the counter. As she’s talking, I hear myself thinking “Wow…really? Right here? On the counter? In front of everyone? Just like that? Well…Ok!” when in actuality she is just going over the basic procedures of a money order. I could go on and on for 6 or 7 pages about these sweet dreams and twisted nightmares, all the while plunging further and further into the abyss unless I show exhibit some restraint. Yes, restraint. Restraint is what keeps us in grounded in reality when the going gets too weird. Restraint rewards you with sunlight on the outside once you break through the door back to Earth.

But no such door exists for Notre Dame’s 2012 Hesiman-runner-up, Manti Te’o. I’ll admit, when I first heard about the story I didn’t pay much attention to it. Often ESPN reporters like to do sensationalist stories right before the game, highlighting all the struggles a particular player had to battle through in their lives. It’s progaganda of the good kind, not the Hitler kind. Stories like this allow a minute to realize that the players we scream at through Dos Equis-tainted breath are actually real people. Don’t underestimate the power of sympathy. Jaw-dropping statistics are viable for brownie points when Heisman decisions are being made, but what people really want to hear is about the rags-to-illegally-funded-under-the-table-riches stories about some kid who grew up in the jungle and was raised by a pack of wolves. When the wolves slept, the kid spent his nights throwing large rocks far into the wilderness, improving year by year. By the age of 18, Harold Wolfman commits to Michigan, where he goes on to break records with his passing abilities. A year later, he is hoisting up the Heisman. Someone will write a book about him, entitled Wolfman 2 Heisman, which no doubt will be a New York Times bestseller, and a featured selection for Oprah’s Book Club.

But Te’o’s original story was far less bizarre than the hypothetical one presented above by a writer one deer antler spray over the line. Te’o was informed of the tragic news that his grandma passed away hours before he was set to take on Michigan State later that night. He also learned that his long-time girlfriend had lost her bout with leukimia. Grandma Te’O made her grandson promise that he would not miss a game on her behalf, and his dying girlfriend apparently told him to have the game of his life in honor of her. Sport Illustrated’s Pete Thamel described how Te’o would phone her in her hospital room and stay on the line with her as he slept through the night: “Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice,” Thamel wrote.

Te’o responded to his girlfriend’s request in the form of annihilating play, adding 12 tackles and 2 broke up passes to his stat sheet. Athletes always seem to perform their best when suffering through tragedy. During this past NFL season, Baltimore Ravens Receiver Torrey Smith was informed that his brother had died in a motorcycle accident. Smith elected to play the scheduled game against the Patriots that day, and ended with 6 catches for 127 yards. Similarly, Brett Favre passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns a day after his father passed. But when Te’o suited up for the BCS championship, there was no such glory. Alabama completely rolled tide over the entire Notre Dame team, and especially Te’o. Days after the game, or slaughter, Te’o said that he was informed his girlfriend was not actually dead. Worse yet, he was the victim of some elaborate hoax.

But things unravelled quickly when Deadline conducted a private investigation into the true identity of Te’o’s dead girlfriend. Their findings were shocking to say the least, and they summarized them all in an appropriately titled article: “Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax.” According to Deadspin, “Manti Te’o did lose his grandmother this past fall. Annette Santiago died on Sept. 11, 2012, at the age of 72, according to Social Security Administration records in Nexis. But there is no SSA record there of the death of Lennay Marie Kekua, that day or any other. Her passing, recounted so many times in the national media, produces no obituary or funeral announcement in Nexis, and no mention in the Stanford student newspaper. Nor is there any report of a severe auto accident involving a Lennay Kekua. Background checks turn up nothing. The Stanford registrar’s office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled. There is no record of her birth in the news. Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there’s no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed. The photographs identified as Kekua—in online tributes and on TV news reports—are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua. She is not a Stanford graduate; she has not been in a severe car accident; and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te’o.”

Well chucks. Those are fighting words around some parts. Most likely parts where there is a high NRA influence, like, I don’t know…churches? Forgive me, instead of talking about a topic that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I’m talking about a political issue that makes even less sense. Lo Siento. It turned out that the evidence Deadspin unearthed was only a fraction of the real story, which gets crazier and crazier by the second, making this article a ticking time-bomb of irrelevancy. As soon as I hit the publish button, I’m sure something like “Te’o discovered to actually be rapper 2pac in disguise” will flash across the screen on ESPN’s Bottom Line, solving the Coachella mystery, but opening up a thousand new doors of absurdity. While I’m sure that Te’o is not actually 2pac, the fact that this story is uncovering at a rapid rate is very true indeed.

Immediately following the infamous Deadspin article, the PR people at Notre Dame wisely got to cracking, issuing an official statement: “Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia.” Ah, “ingratiated”, is that what the kids are calling it these days? In my day we would’ve just called it…well…what? And that’s the thing, there really is no real precedent for this brand of wackiness. The most visible incidence of this variety is documented in the fictiona…I mean, documentary-style movie, Catfish, which has spawned a television series on MTV. I freudian slipped on account of that movie being completely false from beginning to end. In Catfish, a man first finds the love of his life online only to discover that she is only a the byproduct of a very problematic mind, to put it in gentle, euphemistic terms.

Te’o’s situation is almost identical to the protagonist in Catfish, which is why many people are having a difficult time believing him. It’s hard to imagine a relationship lasting over a three year period in which both parties fail to ever meet each other. Love at first sight is usually demarked as a feeling of lust, but this line of thinking might need some tweaking, given the alternative.

Middle School conjures up memories of awkward missteps with girls, long bus rides, ridiculous fashion choices, and terrible yearbook photos for me. But this is also the time when I first came aquainted with the internet, and subsequentally, the ways of the internet chatroom. In Middle School, the prospect of meeting many female strangers in one sitting was very appealing, until I quickly realized the fallacy of the whole process. Back then, the general stigma attached to online dating revolved around the scary notion that the stranger messaging you in the wee hours of the night could be plotting to meet you somewhere in some strange, unlighted location, hack you in a bunch of pieces, and chunk your remains in a Long John Silver’s dumpster. Or worse, that the girl in question could really be a 55 year old fat bald guy that works at Long John Silver’s. But the Te’o situation and MTV’s Catfish are highlighting a more pyschologically dangerous scenario: What if the person you have been talking to for years is not even a real person to begin with?

Jesus. I for one can’t really understand the appeal of online dating. There are just too many risk factors involved, and too many people with way too much time on their hands. These people are willing to spend exorbiant amounts of time (like, years) pretending to be someone they are not, ruining your life in the process. What happened to the good ol’ days when people just signed into Facebook or read Entertainment Weekly when they were bored? But I’m not here to pass judgement, and neither should you. Life is short, let people do what they want. And theoretically, how can you say they live their life wrong, when you never fucked with the lights on?

Fuck with the lights, fuck with the with the lights on
Fuck with the lights, fuck with the with the lights on
Fuck with the lights on with the, with the lights on
Fuck with the lights, fuck with the, with the lights on
Fuck with the lights, fuck with the, with the lights on
Fuck with the lights, fuck with the, with the lights on

At some point, a young boy comes to realize that faceless girls (possibly) messaging you at 10 PM asking for your age/sex/location following some enticing greeting like “Hey!!! My Name iz Ashley! Wanna party?” do not have your best interests at heart. Later down the road I learned that social interactions yield far greater results. If you can convince a woman to put away her iPhone for a few moments of face-to-face conversation, and ultimately physical contact, then the possibilities are endless. Of course, your value will never raise above that of the iPhone, but count your blessings nonetheless. There are worse things that could happen…

And speaking of those worse things, Te’o met with ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp to clear up any confusion. That’s when things got really confusing. Te’o was informed via a direct message on Twitter by one Ronaiah Tuiasosopo that his supposed girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed. Apparently, Tuiasosopo along with two other people had orchestrated the whole thing. Te’o stated that he attempted to engage “Kekua” in face to face contact, but everytime their plans were derailed. What started as an innocent friend request led to a host of other problems. “Kekua” would offer him comfort in times of distress, and their relationship blossomed after she informed him of her dad’s passing, and a car accident she was involved with. When Te’o learned that she was diagnosed with Leukimia, the relationship reached even new heights.

Phone conversations between Te’o and “Kekua” were released online recently. In the video, the voice on the other end sounds exactly like a woman, but it is actually Tuiasosopo. Since Te’o was the victim of the biggest hoodwinking in recent history, many questions are being raised about his character. Unfortunately, most of these questions have strong merit. Whether Te’o was actually involved in the incident or not, football prospects are reportedly very wary. How can Te’o rally up a bunch of overpaid, egotistical NFL players to do anything with this in the back of their minds? Can you imagine Terrell Suggs rallying around a guy who had an intense three year relationship with a nonexistant person? The locker room jokes will be endless in droves. Sad realities, but ones that no doubt must be addressed in time.


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