And You Thought Notre Dame’s #1 Ranking Was a Fraud!

Naughty, naughty — apparently the most egregious sports overhype since Charlie Weis turns out to have a deceased girlfriend from Canada. I guess that ends the suspense over who the Jets will be making their #1 pick this year!

Weigel:  “My girlfriend was so devastated at the Manti Te’o news I had to pick her up from work, at the Jukt Micronics office.”

…Well, now we know what Stephen Glass is up to; his explanations have, however, become less plausible.

…Chait: “The story is utterly shocking, unless you’re familiar with the history of the mythology of Notre Dame football.”

(Erik:) Dave Zirin: “The only conclusion one can draw is that he was either the victim of an insanely elaborate grift whose ingenuity would humble David Mamet, or something stinks in South Bend.”

117 comments on this post.
  1. tonycpsu:

    That Te’o, boy, he sure has the intangibles.

  2. Andy:

    More like No Dame amirite fellas

  3. calling all toasters:

    Kekua, 22 years old, had been in a serious car accident in California, and then had been diagnosed with leukemia.

    What, no ninja attack?

  4. sharculese:

    Lennay Kekua died for somebody’s sins but not mine.

  5. sharculese:

    Actually, i dunno, long-form trolling the entire sports-media complex is a thing I want to find funny, but I’m having trouble getting past the whole invasion of privacy angle w/r/t “Reba.”

  6. Scott Lemieux:

    Lennay Kekua died for somebody’s sins but not mine.


  7. TT:

    Will Notre Dame football ever get cut any slack? Getting student videographers killed, brazenly suppressing the pleas for justice of sexually assaulted girls who then commit suicide, having Nick Saban breezily expose the fraudulence of its #1 ranking, and now being complicit in an elaborate Internet hoax. Will it ever end for the Domers?

    It’s a dangerous and ungodly world out there.

  8. rm:

    It has all the ingredients of a wacky buddy comedy. High school football buddies create Canadian girlfriend, then one becomes famous and they have to keep up the pretense and arrange a fake death story. There was a MASH episode like that.

    Stuff like that doesn’t turn out to be so amusing in real life. At least, since she’s not real, she can’t ever receive a storm of threatening texts telling her not to mess with Notre Dame Football by telling the truth about rape.

  9. rea:

    Maybe I’m too trusting, but the man says he was the victim of a hoax, and I don’t see much evidence to the contrary.

  10. Richard:

    Except he supposedly met her several times. So the hoax steers had a girl who looked like the picture arrange to meet Manti and woo him? This thing doesn’t make any sense to me

  11. Scott Lemieux:

    Yeah, I agree with Richard — the main problem with his story is that it’s ludicrously implausible.

  12. xxy:

    Te’o's family told ESPN that Te’o and Kekua had a “ritual of falling asleep on the phone together”. I’d be willing to bet that not only was Manti Te’o in on it but his family as well.

  13. Decrease Mather:

    This isn’t definitive, but:

    But a friend of Tuiasosopo, a high school classmate of Kekua, told Deadspin he was “80 percent sure” that Te’o participated and did so with publicity in mind.

  14. Darkrose:

    The girl who is actually in the picture had no idea, and is appearently kind of creeped out.

    This is wacky.

  15. osceola:

    A more plausible scenario: Closeted gay man invents a long-distance “girlfriend” who just happens to die before anyone can meet her.

  16. bk:

    I wonder what Joe THEESMAN has to say about this.

  17. Richard:

    Unless Manti made up the part about meeting her because he didn’t want to admit falling in love with someone over the Internet and by phone. If that’s the case, he’s both victim and fraudster. But even for this scenario, you would need someone to play the part of the dying girl on the phone for hours of conversations. Pretty unlikely In my opinion

  18. Kadzimiel:

    What, were they curled up next to little Manti along with his comfort blanket?

    “Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight pig flying past the moon. Goodnight Manti, and the white noise from the phone…”

  19. Kadzimiel:

    Just wait for Peter King’s sage ruminations in Ten Things I Think I Was Thinking And Where The Hell Is My Butternut And Guava Latte?

  20. BW:

    Minus the dying, this is exactly what my pathological liar roommate did freshman year of college. The full saga is too long to tell here but the shape of it was:

    -Roommate invents hot high school senior chick he met online; never introduces her to us or shows us any pictures
    -A few weeks after disappearing on a trip for a few days
    (supposedly to seduce high school senior chick), roommate starts telling tale about the high-school-age male “cousin” his parents have saddled him with as said cousin visits our college;
    -A few weeks later, roommate introduces us to said cousin; cousin stays in roommate’s room two solid weeks

  21. Bill:

    Bro didn’t go to his fake girlfriend’s funeral? Shenanigans.

  22. jeer9:

    Why do we never get an answer
    When we’re knocking at the door?
    Because the truth is hard to swallow
    That’s what the war of love is for.

    It’s not the way that you say it
    When you do those things to me.
    It’s more the way that you mean it
    When you tell me what will be.

    And when you stop and think about it
    You won’t believe it’s true.
    That all the love you’ve been giving
    Has all been meant for you.

    I’m looking for someone to change my life.
    I’m looking for a miracle in my life.
    And if you could see what it’s done to me
    To lose the the love I knew
    You’d safely lead me through.

    Between the silence of the mountains
    And the crashing of the sea
    There lies a land I once lived in
    And she’s waiting there for me.

    But in the grey of the morning
    My mind becomes confused
    Between the dead and the sleeping
    And the road that I must choose.

  23. Rob:

    Who did Charles Pierce pay off to get this and the Brooks’ syllabus in the same week?

  24. allium:

    ♫ Her name is Alberta, she lives in Vancouver…♫

  25. CaptBackslap:

    I assume you’re already aware of the weekly takedown of PK over at Kissing Suzy Kolber; if not, you certainly should be.

  26. commie atheist:

    You are indeed cheated and deceived by falsehood, and that is what all like you deserve.

    From The Keys, pg. 345 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 40

  27. Kadzimiel:

    I am aware of the relevant internet traditions.

  28. rea:

    Oh, man–those lyrics make me feel 16 again …

  29. Thers:

    Annnnd Erick the Son of Erick chimes in to ruin everyone’s fun. His comical take, I shit thee not:

    “Told my wife I needed to smack her to make sure she’s real. She said if I did all my questions about life and death would be answered.”

    Again, I shit thee not.

  30. Scott P.:

    And then a spaceman came!

  31. Kadzimiel:

    I think H.P Lovecraft summed the whole story of When Manti Met Lennay up pretty well:

    “That is not dead which can eternal lie. Yet with strange aeons even death may die.”

  32. CaptBackslap:

    You know, we’re laughing now, but we’ll feel pretty silly when it turns out we’re all just figments of Manti Te’o's fecund imagination.

    [exhales, puts down bong]

  33. Erik Loomis:

    Those right-wingers are such nice people.

  34. Richard:

    Manti has released a statement:

    “This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

    “To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

    “It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

    “I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

    “In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.

    “Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

    Of course, this statement is totally at odds with the reports that he met her in person several times. Since I wasn’t following the story at all earlier this year, I dont know if Manti was making those statements or if they were press reports or whatever. I’m willing to give the kid the benefit of the doubt but there is obviously going to be more on this

  35. J.W. Hamner:

    How is that any less plausible than a famous college football player conspiring with several others to invent a fake dead girlfriend to buttress his Heisman stock?

  36. Richard:

    See below. Manti now says he only met her over the internet and on the phone and was tricked. I’m leaning to the view that Manti was in on the hoax but we’ll know more later. Hard to believe that he participated in the hoax to buttress his Heisman chances – not sure that a Heisman was ever awarded to someone because of his sob story (but since I dont follow college football that closely, I cant even be sure of that)

  37. Pinko Punko:

    I think by far the worst part is watching the embarrassed media trip over themselves to f*ck his brainhole (leaving off whether he deserves it). The self-serious handwringing we are going to see out of these clowns will make their inability to vote for the baseball HOF look like child’s play.

    Anyhow, there is nothing good out of this at all.


    1) Hoax victim compounded by lies after personal discovery of it- so death was the way out

    2) Gay compounded by hoax/lies- again it had to have spiraled of control.

    3) Straight hoax- ce nest pa probable.

    4) Hoax perpetrator

    I don’t really want to be reading about this for a couple of weeks.

    Lance Armstrong appreciates it I am sure, and Oprah is going to try for a weekly gig I guess.

    It just isn’t good. I can’t say that I can feel happiness that someone did something dumb and will be made to pay by an even dumber establishment, but serious kudos to Deadspin for wondering why nothing made sense.

  38. rickhavoc:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but the guy is a football player.

  39. MikeJake:

    I’m trying to remember a creepier, more bizarre lie than this, and I’m drawing a blank.

  40. mark f:

    The cake.

  41. mark f:

    Not to steal Weigel’s reference, but if you watched the BCS title game you’re not surprised Te’o would be Jukt out of his pants.

  42. Robert Farley:


  43. Robert Farley:

    Many of us still mourn Captain Tuttle.

    Never forget.

  44. elm:

    The cake is not a lie.

  45. elm:

    The thing I don’t get about this (OK, one of the many things I don’t get about this) is that apparently no one in the press, not even one of the tabloids, thought to do a background check on this woman to see if there was any dirt on her. I would have thought that was standard operating procedure from the press as a soon as a new name pops up. Because it’s not like the tracks were particularly well covered in this hoax.

  46. calling all toasters:

    If 2012 has taught us anything, it’s that you can always take the word of a Mormon.

  47. calling all toasters:

    Reporter: “He says she’s in another coma.
    Editor: “Sounds suspicious. Try and follow up after the season, if they don’t stay undefeated.”

  48. Dave3544:

    CNN is reporting it as Teo being the victim of a hoax. ND says he told them on Dec. 26 that something was hinky.

    But who did he meet at the Stanford game? As far as I can read, he claims to have met the girl – at least once once. Does someone say that he has girlfriend after meeting someone once? Did they ever kiss? Go on a date?

  49. Bill K:

    Reagan Mauia, a fullback on the Arizona Cardinals, is saying he was apparently a target for the same scam before Te’o.

  50. Decrease Mather:

    What do you mean “any dirt on her”? I can see looking into her story to get quotes from her family, etc. But dirt?

  51. Decrease Mather:

    Did Te’o really use the word “hinky”?

  52. Richard:

    According to the exposé, he claimed to have met her at the game and then met her in Hawaii several times since. But now he’s saying he only met her on the Internet and over the phone. Lot more to this story is going to come out

  53. Anonymous:

    Deadspin appears to have cracked the case, found the phantom “girlfriend,” and the dude who swiped the real woman’s photographs.

  54. CaptBackslap:

    On Wednesday night, Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia (a/k/a “The Juggernaut . . . Bitch“) said that the fake dead girlfriend of Te’o is real. Specifically, Mauia says he met Kekua in 2011.

    “This was before her and Manti,” Mauia said Wednesday evening, via “I don’t think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was — I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa.”

    OK, now we’re getting into serious WTF territory.

  55. elm:

    Maybe I have a cynical view of the media, but I assumed someone would have looked at the story and said, “Wonder if there’s some other angle to this,” and started doing background checks to see.

    Turns out Gene Wojochowski at ESPN did actually investigate and could not find an obituary or any press account about a previous car accident. When he asked Te’o about this, Te’o told him to back off, so Wojo did and ran the story anyway even though he couldn’t verify any of it.

    Not a great day for sports journalism.

  56. adolphus:

    This. I have a pathological liar for a brother and the lengths he will go to perpetuate even the slightest of fabricated stories is literally unbelievable. I caught him once creating fake dentists notes. (Remember the Seinfeld when George takes his not-to-be in-laws to his fake house in Montauk. Picture that but George really believing there will be a house there when they arrive and then making a story up about why there isn’t) Creating fake girlfriends is amateur hour for him and if I worked hard to rack my memory I probably find one that he said died at some point. If you have never been in regular contact with a true pathological liar you really don’t know what it is like. And the sad thing is, and what people may need to prepare themselves for is that this kid lied the whole time but he really believes his story to be true at this point and it will take some kind of irrefutable evidence made public before he admits he lied even to himself.

  57. Decrease Mather:

    From the South Bend Tribune article:

    Kekua, who eventually graduated from Stanford, was, in fact, doing so well that she was released from the hospital on Sept. 10. And Brian Te’o was among those congratulating her via telephone.

  58. John:

    Given that the hoaxster was a man, who was Te’o supposedly talking to on the phone?

    At any rate, there’s tons of demonstrable falsehoods in what Te’o and his family told the press. That he met Kekua at the Stanford-Notre Dame game in 2011. That “their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.” That “every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there.”

  59. John:

    Hoaxster was a dude. Who was he talking to on the phone?

  60. John:

    That’s really weak on Wojciechowski’s part.

  61. John:

    And who was he talking to on the phone? The hoaxster, again, was a man.

  62. Kadzimiel:

    Easy question: Manti, what was your “girlfriend’s” number? If he won’t answer that question, you know it was a big lie and he was part of it. If he can give you a number, it ought to be possible to trace the account holder.

  63. Decrease Mather:

    That’s what started this whole thing.

  64. STH:

    Why does all right-wing humor involve hurting people?

  65. hells littlest angel:

    And a mormon.

  66. BW:

    Exactly. There’s a 99% chance all his calls were from his cell. If he really has nothing to hide and was the innocent victim of a bizarre hoax, then it should be trivial to produce his phone records showing that he frequently spent lots of time talking to an identifiable person.

  67. mark f:

    Did you read the Deadspin article all the way to the end? There is a woman, apparently knowingly involved, who posed as FDGF’s sister some time around the beginning of the unraveling. If Manti or Brian Te’o ever met or spoke on the phone with anyone they believed to be FDGF, it was probably her.

    Here’s another weird angle:

    Reagan Maui’a, a fullback for the Arizona Cardinals, told ESPN that he [and Troy Polamalu] met Kekua doing charity work in American Samoa in 2011 . . . “We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family.”

    He claims the same dude who stole Reba’s pictures for FDGF’s Twitter page introduced them. I find it impossible to believe that Te’o was not aware (“RIP and no I don’t want your obit for my wallet or your family to come to senior day.”) but there seems also to be some other con at work here.

  68. bradP:

    He wasn’t missing tackles, he was hugging his girlfriend.

  69. swearyanthony:

    Yeah, that was seriously creepy – especially the “hey can you take a photo with this sign for a sick friend” thing? eeeew

  70. BW:

    I am not a psychologist, but the one thing that seems unusual if we assume Te’o is a pathological liar is that Tuiasosopo must have been a full co-conspirator. Now, pathological liars certainly have friends and enablers who will accommodate them to absurd lengths without really being in on the con. But do they really work in teams with one another? Seems at odds with the personality we’d expect from a pathological liar – when you’re this manipulative, can you really trust anyone else (even a lover) enough to coordinate your lies with them?

  71. dsquared:

    “Slightly creepy personality cults based on dead fictitious women have no place here! This is Notre Dame!”

  72. rea:

    Here’s a guy who claims he met her before Te’o:

  73. Anonymous:

    10 Hail Lennays for you

  74. Cody:

    From my understanding, a lot of this story is from the South Bend newspaper.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they kept badgering him about his “girlfriend” until he upped his story (oh, ya, I totally met her!) to improve it.

    Or even if the South Bend press just wrote in their own details…

  75. Cody:

    We are building a religion
    We are building it bigger
    We are widening the corridors
    And adding more lanes

    We are building a religion
    A limited edition
    We are now accepting callers
    for these pendant key chains

  76. Manju:

    I swear to freaking god, I was once in a soho restaurant with Patti Smith sitting at a table to my left and Jon Corine at one right behind me….speaking of sinners.

    Held onto my wallet pretty tight.

  77. Manju:



  78. Manju:

    Also, since we’re riffing on lyrics…Te’o know all there is to know about the crying game.

  79. Manju:

    At this point, its a matter between Man and God. After the offending parties apologize to Oprah, she can tell us what to do next.

  80. Cody:

    . “Faith,” he told ESPN, “is believing in something that you most likely can’t see, but you believe to be true. You feel in your heart, and in your soul, that it’s true, but you still take that leap.”

    I bet Manti Te’o didn’t see that quote becoming prophetic in quite this way…

  81. John:

    There’s always the “Te’o and Tuiasosopo were lovers, and together invented the fake girlfriend as a beard, and then things got out of control” theory.

  82. J.W. Hamner:

    I know somebody who was grifted by his girlfriend faking having cancer (though this was a IRL relationship), so it’s entirely plausible to me that T’eo was the subject of an elaborate con… but it does seem he needs to start supplying some proof.

    There is also the theory that it was all to hide the fact that he is gay, which is really dumb but also plausible.

    The explanation I find least likely… the one that would make this guy a really terrible sociopathic person… is that T’eo conspired with several other people to invent a fake girlfriend to “kill” simply for the purpose of publicity.

  83. John:

    It’s a bit unclear if Donna Tei was knowingly involved. That being said, even if she was, there’s no way she was having 8 hour daily phone conversations with Te’o, as claimed. Maybe she was the one talking to his parents, and they weren’t in on it. I find it seriously hard to believe that he didn’t know, given the number of blatant, outright lies he’s told throughout this story.

  84. Xenu Morph:

    At least now we know what Shelly Miscavige has been up to.

  85. John:

    If he was just the victim of a con, why has he lied so much?

  86. sparks:

    “Lying for the Lord” takes on a new dimension.

  87. actor212:

    The meta-question is, why does ANYONE care?

  88. actor212:

    How did he lie? As far as I’ve read and heard, he was as duped as anyone. Perhaps once he uncovered the scam, perpetrated by a close friend, he lied to avoid embarrassment, but I think that’s pretty understandable, unless you want to confess how you crapped your pants when you were just out of diapers.

  89. Bill Altreuter:

    I thought everybody knew that a “Canadian girlfriend” is always made up. In Buffalo they are– come September a lot of guys go back to school with stories about this girl they met from St. Catharines.

  90. J.W. Hamner:

    Because having an “internet girlfriend” is still the subject of a lot of scorn? I think telling sports reporters “Well, she’s my girlfriend, but we haven’t actually met in person yet…” would get him ridiculed.

  91. Decrease Mather:

    It’s not entirely clear how many of the lies are his. The story about meeting at Stanford apparently came from his father. It could be Manti lied to his Dad, could be his Dad embellished. Could be reporters embellished to make a better story. The South Bend Trib story reads like it was juiced up a bit.

    Still, I’d wouldn’t bet that he’s just a victim.

  92. mark f:

    I believe that Manti Te’o had to have known a long time ago. Whether from the inception or at some later point, I don’t know. It seems equally plausible to me that he’d go in on it, or that he figured it out after he felt he couldn’t back out and hoped it would blow over.

    It seems Tuisosopa has an “in” to the Samoan football community, at least enough of one to get close to the players at charity events, and may have been fishing for a target. Whether his goal was to pull a scam like a fake charity, to pull a prank that got national attention, or to eventually help a Manti Te’o to get undue publicity and accolades . . . well, how the hell do I know?

  93. J.W. Hamner:

    He either lied about meeting her in person or he’s lying now about it being entirely an online relationship, but there is substantial reporting in the Deadspin piece of him (or his father) saying that these two had met in person.

  94. speak truth's mom's pancake fumes:

    Needs more Byrd.

  95. Njorl:

    Strange aeons indeed.

  96. Njorl:

    Leap of faith followed by plummet of reality.

  97. Richard:

    It’s a little unclear whether he said he met her on several occasions or whether the Indiana paper reported that. And now with two NFL players claiming to have met her before Manti knew her, we are getting into serious strangeness

  98. witless chum:

    Why do you restrict it to humor?

  99. witless chum:

    It’s hard to blame him. He works for ESPN.

  100. Cody:

    I always assumed it was “lying” in the biblical sense.

    Turns out I’ve been a bad Christian…

  101. Kadzimiel:

    ESPN = Egregious Suckers Producing News

  102. Kadzimiel:

    He was running for the Heisman, for Pete’s sake!

  103. John:

    I can’t imagine that either his father or the South Bend newspaper would simply make up stories that they met in person. Those have to have come from Te’o.

  104. John:

    (I guess his father might have, but only if he is in on the scam)

  105. John:

    That is the most bizarre part of the whole thing, from what I can see. Did they meet the girl whose picture was all over the place? If so, could she be in on it and have snowed the Deadspin guys?

  106. John:

    If he’s embarrassed, why talk about her at all?

  107. Scott de B.:

    There doesn’t seem to have been any financial payoff for whomever was behind the hoax, however, so it’s hard to see why someone would con Te’o.

  108. lawguy:

    Well, I saw this train wreck once from a safe distance. And i usually slow down at wrecks on the highway, so that explains why I find it interesting.

  109. drkrick:

    Hoaxster could have a female friend in on it. With all the other things that don’t make sense in the story, this isn’t a head scratcher.

  110. Kurzleg:

    Well, he says he’s a Mormon.

  111. drkrick:

    It seems really odd that they didn’t ask around at Stanford. She would have had former teammates and coaches there, and some quotes about what a wonderful young woman who really loved life she was (not to mention how much the relation with Te’o meant to her) would be standard profile filler. I can’t imagine what was in it for the writers, either.

  112. drkrick:

    Letterman fan.

  113. drkrick:

    Well, I’m learning how thoroughly disconnected from college football I’ve become post-Sandusky. Was this thing really a big story back in September? I don’t remember hearing a thing about it.

  114. Hogan:

    Who would lie about that?

  115. N__B:

    Have you ever looked at your hand Notre Dame football? I mean, really looked?

  116. John Protevi:

    Please accept this internet in recognition of this comment.

  117. J.W. Hamner:

    The imaginary medical issues could have been the grift. She doesn’t have health insurance! She needs experimental treatments that insurance doesn’t cover! However T’eo wasn’t rich yet, and he has not claimed that he sent her any money or anything.

Leave a comment

You must be