I don't know anything.
Let's say that up front. One more time:
You have probably heard the heartbreaking story about Teo's girlfriend dying of leukemia during his senior season as a Notre Dame linebacker. And you have probably heard that
The question is: Who got duped?
Well, most of the media, for one. This includes
Other media outlets had already written about Te'o's girlfriend dying, and Te'o talked about it ... I mean, we're all supposed to have b.s. detectors in this business, but mine would not have gone off there. Evidently, I'm not alone, because dozens of media outlets mentioned the girlfriend without wondering if she existed. In that situation, a reporter tries to talk to her family, other people who knew her -- you fill in the edges of the story. But if you don't get a hold of those people, would you really think "Hey, this is probably just a hoax, and this girlfriend doesn't exist"? Be honest.
So who else was duped?
As Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday night: "I don't want to confuse this at all. Manti Te'o was the victim of this scam."
Swarbrick says Te'o found out in December that Lennay Kekua was not real. And then ... well, here is a transcript from a Jan. 3 press conference before the national championship game:
What do we make of that? Technically, Te'o did not lie. But he did tell a lie of omission -- somebody asked him about his dead girlfriend, and he declined to tell the truth: That she did not exist.
This was a pattern for Te'o. Everybody assumed he met her in person, and he certainly indicated that he did. Swarbrick says when Te'o said "met" he included online communication. By that standard, most men in this country have spent time alone with Kate Upton.
Te'o appeared to shave the truth, and that, along with Deadspin's implication, has led many people to assume that Te'o was in on the scam.
Meanwhile, Swarbrick continued to paint Te'o as a hero, saying: "I don't think it was an accident, they understood the more trouble she was in -- car accident, dying of leukemia, failing health -- the more engaged he would become."
Swarbrick says Te'o didn't know. But then you wonder: What if Te'o lied to Swarbrick? What if Te'o made the whole thing up from the beginning?
Me, I think Te'o got duped. I think he did what a lot of young men do: He lied a little bit about his woman. In this case, he let people believe he'd met her in person, when in fact, he had just met her online. He didn't realize his lies would get caught in a web of much bigger lies, and that he would spend a day in January, after the season of his life, as a national punchline.
Notre Dame could have helped him by making this public earlier, but again, would you have done that? Notre Dame folks can say they were still gathering facts at the time, but remember this, too: The Fighting Irish were heading to a national championship game for the first time in a generation.
Do you think this story may have been a bit of a distraction? Do you think, if you were in charge at Notre Dame, that you might have held off for a while and just focused on the fact that Alabama was much, much better than you?
So that is what I think happened. I think Te'o got duped by some twisted people. And if I've convinced you, then that's a shame. I tried to tell you: I don't know anything.