Cirminiello on Te'o: Curious Indifference
Posted Jan 21, 2013

Rich Cirminiello's thought on the Manti Te'o hoax story

Shock. Curiosity. A little more curiosity. Skepticism. Indifference.

My personal trajectory regarding the Manti Te'o saga of the past week has had about as many swings as the story itself. You're naturally stunned at first when a revelation, such as this one, surfaces, and you find yourself searching for more answers. And then, at some point, you realize that there are far bigger, err, (cat) fish to fry.

I accept the fact that this is a huge headline. Heck, I knew that reality when I got in the car last Thursday morning, and heard Geraldo discussing it. People salivate when the famous folk crash and burn, quite possibly because it makes them feel a little better about their own personal mediocrity. But I've boiled Manti Mania down to two distinct possibilities; the Irish star was either duped by a bunch of cruel cowards, which ought to provide a lot of valuable lessons to the masses at a time that we all lean increasingly harder on non-face-to-face communication. Or he had something to do with a complex hoax designed to generate public sympathy and even more national attention, basically the handiwork of a narcissistic sociopath.

Based on recent evidence and the history of the player in question, I've chosen to believe that Te'o was a victim, an extremely gullible one at that. At worst, I tend to feel he misled interviewers to the extent of his association with Lennay Kekua, possibly to protect his own reputation. I mean, a three-year relationship with a girl you've never met is not the kind of stuff a dude wishes to advertise on a grand scale. Even a player of Te'o's stature would have struggled with that kind of information circulating throughout a locker room.

A high-profile athlete was the subject of a very high-profile scam, one that'll travel alongside him, like a bad odor, for a while. But what was the real damage here, besides what was inflicted on the parties involved? No criminal charges have been filed, no bodies were found and it's looking more and more as if Te'o was guilty of naiveté more than anything else. And forget the notion that Manti's draft stock is going to plummet. For what? Sophomoric dating habits? If he's going south on draft boards, it's because of what happened in Miami on Jan. 7, or what will happen in Indianapolis at the end of February. Not what transpired over the past week or so.

Barring another embarrassing bombshell pertaining to this surreal story, Te'o will be fine, especially now that he has Tom Condon's handlers managing him like a political candidate. The life-cycle for this story won't be as long as it might seem in the moment, providing the All-American with the space he needs to restore his tattered image. The biggest loser, besides the obvious, is the media, which built Manti into this helmeted superhero throughout the season, before tearing him down for what appears to be poor judgment. It was also yet another disappointing reflection of our culture, which has an insatiable appetite for this kind of small-picture drama, yet unleashes a gigantic yawn pertaining to those meatier matters that have far greater impacts on their own families and their own communities.

Let's dig a little deeper and pry for a few more answers. If it turns out that Manti Te'o was guilty of little more than being a dopey kid who exercised some bad decision-making, let's disperse the crowd, move on with our lives and chalk this up to a really, really bizarre exclamation point to the 2012 season. It could have been far worse, though. Imagine the hysteria and media crush that would have ensued had Te'o's humiliation been made public weeks prior to the BCS National Championship Game. Insert sigh of relief here.