James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, January 18, 2013

Manti Te'o: The Mormon Factor

Bill Simmons's mailbag today was on Manti Te'o. I commented on Facebook:

Forgotten angle: T'eo was portrayed as devoutly religious. What better way to save oneself for marriage and avoid temptation on campus than have a long-distance girlfriend?

Details are trickling out, most of which apparently vindicate Te'o's position that he was NOT a conspirator of a hoax but a victim of it, although it seems to me he must have lied to some degree about meeting the girl, because he'd be embarrassed to have an entirely online relationship. And it appears he did lie late in the hoax, in the interest of avoiding distraction for his Notre Dame team as they were about to compete for the national championship.

On Thursday, January 17, former NFL player and tv personality Dhani Jones on SportsNation admitted to a six-month relationship in college with a woman he never met, with only a picture and phone calls. When she was supposed to visit him, he waited two nights and then when he tried to call her, her number was disconnected.

I mentioned my experience two days ago. When I wrote it, I was relying on ESPN reports, not the Deadspin article. But here are the facts: Notre Dame investigated the case, and Te'o's advisors investigated, and believe his side of the story. I believe Te'o lied along the way, but only to protect himself from embarrassment and, ultimately, to protect his team from distraction.

The media was embarrassed by the news of Te'o's fake dead girlfriend because they never did any fact-checking or follow-up on the story. But really, Te'o owes them, and the public, NOTHING.

Yes, it might be in his interest to tell his side of the story in a press conference, interview, or detailed public statement ASAP.

On the other hand, I understand that even telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth may require a few days of preparation rehearsing with lawyers, agents, and PR guys.

If you think this only makes you look guilty of something, you're a fool. He'd be fried for any inconsistency he utters in a press conference if a question is asked and his memory fails him on any detail.  

The only important thing is to tell the truth to NFL teams considering drafting him, to measure his judgment and character. Ray Lewis may have murdered someone thirteen years ago, and he's lionized now. Te'o harmed nobody.The better he plays in the NFL, the quicker this will all blow over. 

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