Just five weeks ago, when Texas A&M’s second Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, was sitting in the audience in New York as just one of three candidates for the Heisman Trophy, Aggie fans across the country were anxiously holding their breath to hear the outcome of the competition. There was every reason to believe that Notre Dame’s Mante Te'o was a stronger contender. His seniority and aura of heroism and bravery could potentially outshine the Aggies’ freshman, who’d only done the impossible for Texas A&M’s inaugural year in the SEC, including beating national top favorite Alabama.
What would remain unknown until today was the fact that Heisman campaigns for quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Collin Klein were running strong on talent and little hype; and Te'o was running on a lot of spun gold and green straw and some blocks and tackles thrown in. Fortunately for the reputation of the Heisman Trophy, their voters decided to convey to the Texas Aggie quarterback, history of his own, as Manziel became the first freshman to capture the Heisman. You really have to watch out for publicists and spin, in just about every news story.
Back on that fateful Heisman night, what was going for Te’o as a possible take-home winner of the Heisman, was, in addition to his stunning record of accomplishments as standout linebacker for the green and gold, how he played through his senior year burdened by a dual tragedy. Time and time again, sports announcers and sports writers chronicled the bravery, courage and faith of Te’o, as he’d lost his beloved grandmother to leukemia on September 12, and then just hours later, learned he’d lost his girlfriend to leukemia the same day, and then have to go out and play football.
Break out the Kleenex and shake your head as you envision the courage and the strength of a player whose name you’d might not have ever heard so often, save for his ability to overcome that dual tragedy and “play ball for ol’ Notre Dame.” What a senior season Te’o had, so good that he’d made it to the top of the college world, and there he and his parents were sitting there in the front row at the Heisman ceremony just five weeks ago.
Te’o was a superb linebacker, undoubtedly, but it would also appear that he’s not as commited to veracity and virtue as his alma mater would have hoped for. You have to admit, though, it was a publicist’s dream to tell the tale all season long about a man of courage, in a vital role on his team. You couldn't help but be so proud of a guy you’d never met, who could struggle through all that tragedy, only to learn that half that story was a complete, um, falsehood. It was media outlet Deadspin, quickly becoming the National Enquirer of the sports world, which today filed the story “Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking and Inspirational Story of the College Football Season, Is a Hoax.”
Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg of USA Today filed their story an hour ago, noting that Te'o is a guy who won’t be playing in the Senior Bowl, although he will participate in the NFL Draft. Wolken and Myerberg also reported that Creative Artists Agency had signed Te'o, the Heisman runner-up, as a client last week.
And now to the question of when was it that Notre Dame knew about all this? That’s another story in itself, and the more you read the online sources being filed, hourly today,
truth is stranger than fiction. USA Today shared:
"According to a Notre Dame statement, Te'o and his parents informed the school's coaching staff on Dec. 26 – nearly two weeks before the Fighting Irish lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game – that he had been the victim of a "sad and very cruel deception."
Deception, huh? There’s no way to begin to understand the convoluted way in which the distinguished university relations folks at Notre Dame are trying to help Te’o appear as a victim of a hoax. His new PR firm also said Te’o, their client, “had developed an emotional relationship with a woman he had met online" and was "the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke."
Ponder for a moment that Te’o and his parents infomed the Notre Dame coaching staff on December 26 about the deception and purportedly Te’o being the victim of someone’s sick joke. For two weeks no one at Notre Dame said a word? Surprise anyone? Not really. The same Notre Dame that was fighting for the BCS National Championship and got crushed by Alabama, by the score of 42-14.
Is it probable to presume that the lid was kept on the slow cooker lest any media distractions ruin the most important football game of the year? Is that okay according to NCAA rules? Likely, too, that Te'o had his mind somewhere else the night of the big game, as he undoubtedly could see what was coming up in a few weeks' time. And surely he'd been under tremendous pressure for the three weeks following losing the Heisman trophy and the prospect of how he'd do in the national championship bowl game.
Just three days ago, Paul Myerberg of USA Today reported “Notre Dame is still No. 1, according to one BCS computer. Five of six computers ranked Alabama No. 1, save The Colley Matrix machine. Well, The Colley Matrix had not factored in Te'o and the not-so-dead fiancee, or surely the matrix would have a determinant result of “are you kidding me?”
Well, Mr. Te’o either met his Stanford fiancee or he didn’t. He either spoke to her on the phone or he didn’t. She either died or she didn’t. He either participated in or thought up a hoax, or he was a victim of a sick hoax. Apparently, according to Deadspin, Te’o’s reputed fiancee didn’t die, and she was not a student at Stanford, either. Do the math on the probability of his being a victim of a sick hoax.
It’s a sad state of affairs that in a week where youth of America are still buying t-shirts emblazoned with the names and numbers of their heroes on them (#5 for Te'o in Notre Dame colors, #2 for Manziel in Aggie maroon and white), the value of Te'o’s jersey just spiraled downward from a position of future NFL draft candidate and Senior Bowl player to a dust rag.
So very sad, and too darned bad for every little child and proud Fighting Irish alumnus, who looked up to Te’o and to Notre Dame as institutions upon which to place acclaim and swell with pride.
Investigative reporting in the days ahead will surely unravel the convoluted conflagration of the cacophony of confusion that boils down to one fact. Those who would not provide full disclosure and those who delayed disclosing the 'truth' for so long that a new calendar year is in session--those guys--almost ran away with the national championship and the Heisman trophy. The next thing you know, Lance Armstrong will admit that he used illegal performance enhancing drugs, and do so on national TV with Oprah. Oh wait...
On a brighter note: Texas A&M has the real deal in Johnny Manziel, and the fighting Texas Aggie football team, who beat the Oklahoma Sooners, soundly and then some. And, some post-bowl game antics aside, kids will be kids and all, Texas A&M has just announced that the Kyle Field expansion project payment plan includes a hotel tax hike and “students may also pay for Kyle Field renovation.” And, if you want to see a Heisman Trophy winner, he'll be in attendance at Reed Arena on Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6 pm to watch his Texas Aggie men's basketball team welcome the Florida Gators because Aggies continue to support each other, and the spirit of the 12th Man lives on.
Thought for the day:
Gibbs Rule #36: “If it feels like you’re being played, you probably are.”
---NCIS Season 9, Episode 1.