My son called me anxious to talk about the hot story of the day. I tell him it had not hit my screen. When it does I tell him I am clueless as to what he is talking about. He chides me for missing a huge story of how Manti Te’o, the linebacker for Notre Dame, lost his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day, but now the story regarding the death of the girlfriend is a hoax. I remind number one son that I am a “between-the-lines” guy when it comes to sports and that the story ran concurrent with the death of an American ambassador in Benghazi. But now I begin to dig in and we all need to be concerned.
With a pair of fresh eyes I research the details. In a nutshell (if you don’t know by now) Manti Te’o became the latest human interest story in sports last September. He tells the press that his grandmother died on September 11, 2012, but caps it off with the death of his 22-year-old girlfriend who had previously come close to dying in an auto accident, but now actually dies from complications of leukemia. Despite his overwhelming grief, he plays the scheduled game against Michigan State which consequently puts Notre Dame on the road to an undefeated season and the national championship game with Te’o sitting at the Heisman ceremony in New York as one of the three finalists. In the interim he was interviewed by numerous press sources about his relationship as the press ate up this heartbreaking story.
On January 16th a news source of which I previously had no knowledge, Deadspin, breaks the story that there never was a girlfriend much less a tragic death. Apparently Te’o told the people at Notre Dame of this December 26th, but they conveniently held off reporting the matter until after the Big Game. Now the media is scrambling to find the truth while Te’o and Notre Dame are stating Te’o was the victim of this hoax.
While reviewing the press stories, one must wonder what has happened to journalism in this country. Obviously, as serious as they try to be, few view sports reporters and news reporters as having the same level of gravitas. The problem is plenty of mainstream news media covered this story. Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN stated he could not find an obituary or any other notice about the death of the girlfriend. He asked and was told (and bought) the story that the family wanted to keep the death private - apparently very private. In fact, there was no record of it.