I've been trying to wrap my mind around this Manti Te'o mystery for 16 hours since the report by Tim Burke and Jack Dickey was published on Deadspin. Incredibly, that single story has almost 3 million hits in less than a day. It has captured the sports world like no story I can ever remember. It's made Lance Armstrong's groundbreaking interview with Oprah airing tonight a complete afterthought. It made Chip Kelly leaving Oregon for the Philadelphia Eagles seem like it happened a decade ago. Did you even know there was a report yesterday that Tiger Woods wants to get back together with Elin! I know, crazy, right? In the words of the great hockey announcer Bob Cole, everything is happening!
In this day and age though, with a story this big, everyone has to try to grab a piece of the pie. Everyone needs to have a take. Everyone needs to have an opinion. But that's exactly where I struggle, because I have no idea what to believe. I have no idea who to believe. Manti Te'o's girlfriend who tragically lost her life never existed? The one that had her picture on television, the one who Te'o talked about throughout the season? Can we be sure Te'o himself exists? What about Rudy or the Gipper? Is there anything real in the world anymore?
Every time I think I am getting a grasp of this story, I take another turn into an even more bizarre world. Every time I think I'm escaping the wilderness and gaining some insight and clarity, the mystery encaptures me once again. Several Twitter accounts began tweeting last night about the Lennay Kekua hoax and the involvement of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as the person behind her existence and I had flashbacks to Sarah Phillips and Willy Wonka. After sifting through those tweets last night, I began to believe that perhaps Te'o was the victim of an elaborate Catfishing prank that got way out of hand. Perhaps Te'o filled in some of the details to the media about their "relationship" because he was slightly embarrassed about an exclusively online relationship. Perhaps Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick and Te'o are telling the truth.
But then the questions start to arise again. What about the timeline? What about the stories about Te'o meeting Kekua in person at a Stanford game? What about her visits to see Te'o in Hawaii?
As more answers appear to arise, they turn out to be an elaborate mirage as those answers become replaced by more and more questions. At the end of the day, all we are left with is more questions...