NBC News has “9 baffling questions about the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax.” They forgot #10: Why so serious?
Morning drive time radio shows joking about it? That makes sense. Ditto for the Te’oing internet meme. It’s a bizarre story, and the jokes practically write themselves, and it’s funny to talk about. It’s also interesting to follow, as each revelation makes the story that much weirder. But getting to the bottom of what Te’o knew and when shouldn’t win anyone a Pulitzer; it’s definitely not worth a crusade.
It doesn’t matter whether he knew or not. It doesn’t matter when he knew. If Notre Dame has some egg on their face for supporting their player, it will not lead to a lack of enrollment. (It may drive away recruits who fear that, even playing for a national college football powerhouse, they can’t do better than an imaginary girlfriend – but that’s another story.)
Te’o owes no one an explanation, other than the NFL teams which are his prospective future employers assuming he enters the draft as planned. They will be reasonably and rightfully curious about his integrity and mental state. That’s part of the usual pre-draft evaluation, though NFL draft history tells us that the bars for both qualities are not always very high.
On the other hand, a sports reporter who had written some glowing human interest puff piece on the tragedies in Te’o’s life might feel duped when it turned out to be a fake. It made for great copy at the time – surely, ESPN and others enjoyed the ratings/pageviews bump for tugging at the viewers’ heartstrings. If your job was to research, write, and present true stories, wouldn’t you bristle when it was revealed that you didn’t check the facts and you didn’t question conventional wisdom when it sounded a little too perfect?
Despite all the “unanswered questions,” at least we know where the sanctimony comes from.
(Sidebar: For competitive purposes, the NCAA may want to think about the way it crowns its champion. In the week and a half since the nominal championship game, there’s been more talk about the players’ girlfriends than the actual blowout. Good thing there’s a playoff system on the horizon.)