Cavalcade of Whimsy
The Manti Te'o Saga
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The transcript of the Jack Swarbrick press conference on the Manti Te'o controversy
Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … this day certainly wasn't "unremarkable."
"Won't you be my girl, won't you be my girl/Won't you be my, be my, be my girl." ... My pretend college girlfriend was hotter.
"She's dead?! (laughing) Did she put you up to this? That minx. What a lively sense of humor." … (Slow, rhythmic) Clap. Clap. Clap … Clap … Clap … ClapClapClapClapClapClapClapClapClapClap
I don't care whose hoax this is, and I don't care who masterminded it all. The Manti Te'o/Fawn Liebowitz act was an absolutely brilliant piece of performance art. All that's missing is Te'o going on Dave Letterman in full mustache, beard and dark sunglasses to announce that he's retiring from football to focus on his rap career.
"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." ... To rehash a line I've used several times over the last year, as long as the story doesn't involve boys and showers, I'm good. So we all felt awful about a girl who supposedly died of leukemia – whatever. If I'm the idiot for believing someone when they say a loved one passed away from cancer, so be it.
It was a mean trick, but really, Gene Wojciechowski is right – were reporters supposed to go all Donald Trump and demand to see various certificates? In the grand scheme of things, and in the world of ugly sports stories, this is weird, but it really isn't that big a deal.
"I want an insurance policy. I want a piece of the rock. I wanna make sure you're not gonna pull some kind of baloney out of your hat and make a mockery of my administration again. Listen. This is what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna ask Mrs. Hanson and Mr. Hathaway up to the Oval Office before the D.A.R. banquet tomorrow night. I want you there as well, but, Shelly before then, I need you to marry yourself to this guy. I need you to make a public statement that makes his sinking your sinking." ... Well played, Notre Dame, now you're all in.
No matter what happens next, you just know that there's something totally delicious that has yet to come out. There were too many holes and too many inconsistencies in the Q&A session with Jack Swarbrick; it didn't quite seem like everything fit like it was supposed to.
The problem with Notre Dame and Swarbrick taking the hard-line Te'o Is The Victim stance is that Deadspin, whatever you think of it, is lawyered-up big-time and wouldn't have gone with the story unless it was totally vetted. This is too explosive, too crazy and too intricate to not make sure each and every word of the massive piece was right on the money, and while the article doesn't explicitly say that Te'o was in on the hoax, the crescendo comes with the part about Ronaiah Tuisasosopo being quoted that he's "80 percent sure" that Te'o had something to do with this in order to get more publicity. I read the article several times, and while I could be wrong, the implication is that Te'o, at the very least, wasn't totally blind.
Swarbrick tried his best, but he seemed like a guy who was just as dumbfounded as everyone else.
The question was asked about various reports that Te'o and Lennay Kekua had met in Hawaii, but that was quickly brushed aside by saying it was going to be answered when Te'o chose to speak. Swarbrick was extremely firm on the idea that this was only an online relationship, and if that really was the case then Te'o has to explain why so many false parts of the narrative were allowed to be played up. If he really was the victim, he didn't do much to slow the story down.
The bigger problem for Notre Dame is the timeline about when the school knew.
The best question revolved around a CBS Morning Show piece about the "tragedy" – complete with a graphic saying, "Linebacker Carries On In The Face Of Loss" – that aired on January 7th, the day of the BCS championship, but Notre Dame officials are saying they were informed on December 26th. Big-time schools know exactly what's going on with the major national pieces – mostly because they often provide help to the networks - so either this one slipped by the goalie and not everyone got the memo, or something is a little bit off.
And then there's the issue that no one in the charged-up and embarrassed media seems to be buying the idea that Te'o is merely a victim of a "cruel, cruel hoax."
I wouldn't be shocked if Te'o really was messed with, but again, a lot of this just doesn't add up. If nothing else, he certainly pushed the envelope when it came to talking about the made-up tragedies, and at absolute worst, he's a key part of one of the most bizarre stories in college football history.
"Watch your back, Jack. Watch your back." ... Seriously, Jack, considering no one was or is accusing Notre Dame of pumping up a false story, it wouldn't have been so hard to simply say, "this is a strange and bizarre story that caught us totally and completely by surprise, and we've been letting the process play itself out. Manti Te'o has been a wonderful player, student and representative for the University of Notre Dame, but we have no further comment until he chooses to go public with his statements and press conference."
Andre Rison on Line 1. Bernie Kosar on Line 2 ... If Te'o really is the soft and trusting lamb that Swarbrick made him out to be, can we fast-forward ten years to the story about how he blew all his money on some failed restaurant, car dealership or alpaca farm?
Fine, so I can get him up to 40%, but you didn't hear it from me ... Oh, by the way, Manti, I represent Nigeria's recently deposed Minister of Agriculture, who's looking to find a way to hide a budget surplus. He needs to deposit $20 million in a bank account and he'll let you keep 30%. Just e-mail over your latest bank statements, account numbers and passwords and he'll deposit the funds right away.
And if you were, why didn't you bust this out at halftime to save the ratings of a dying game? ... Uh, ESPN. You weren't sitting on this until after the BCS championship, were you?
Yes, I know, I KNOW. I should've voted for Johnny. I was wrong, but I'm the victim ... Would I still have voted for Te'o for the Heisman if this all came out just after the USC game? Yeah, probably. I split hairs by voting for Jarvis Jones for the Butkus, and I certainly would've voted for Johnny Manziel if the voting was done after the bowls, but it's not like Te'o got busted for performance enhancing drugs, got caught in a Reggie Bush situation, or did anything else that changed what he did on the field. I voted for Te'o in sort of a Signature Player way, considering he was the main guy and the leader on the No. 1 team in the country. I'm not sure if any of this controversy changes any of that. I didn't vote for him because of the tragedies, but I do feel duped in voting for a guy who whiffed so many times in the biggest game of his career.
5 years, 3 months, 17 hours, 27 minutes and 48 seconds until Oprah's interview with Usain Bolt … 5 years, 3 months, 17 hours, 27 minutes and 45 seconds, 44, 43, 42 … How ticked off is Oprah that the whole Lance Armstrong story has quickly been brushed aside by the Te'o fiasco? Yeah, yeah, yeah, the guy loaded up to win a bunch of bike races. Everyone with a working brain had that one figured out at the time, and the dopes who didn't know or care are probably better off in their magical happy place. Mine has ponies.
"That's very nice work. Let me ask you something. How do you get them so sma... Hey, there goes Elvis! Yo, King! " ... The Te'o story did a nice job of diverting attention away from Chip Kelly sort of weaseling his way out of Eugene. However, there's no good way for a coach to ever leave a college job for another gig. It's a no-win situation. The coach has to work his tail off recruiting up until the split-second that he accepts the new job, but Oregon will be fine.
And if you reply in the next ten minutes, you'll get an Xbox, too! ... Manti, congratulations! You've won an iPad! It's free! We just need you to cover the shipping and handling. Just type in your credit card and the three digit pin on the back and it'll be sent out immediately!
Sorry if this column sucked, it's not my fault … who the hell watches Catfish?