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2013 InaugurationAs you can imagine, it was a busy weekend here in the Capital City. The President of the United States was inaugurated today, and nearly one million fellow citizens flocked to the National Mall to witness the historic event. I, however, didn’t have the day off from work (which might be considered treason in these parts, but you didn’t hear it from me), so I watched the festivities from the comfort (and warmth!) of my living room as I worked on my work because I had to work on work for my work and it was work. (Catch my drift?)

Looking back, my seats weren’t that bad. I still felt the energy from the inescapable buzz around the city. And I got to see the President, his family, and distinguished guests up close and personal, in HD. Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce never looked or sounded so good! In addition, I got to help myself to two bowls of Raisin Bran Crunch while watching, and didn’t have to use a smelly porta-potty. A good day overall.

But there was a cloud over the event for me. I know it’s an important day in history and I was right there with you — waving my miniature American flag and praying that God will guide us these next four years. But what kept coming to my mind — as the military band played and as thousands chanted their love for our great Nation — is how on Earth Manti Te’o mourned the death of a girlfriend he had never actually met in person?

This front-page story has caught me — hook, line and sinker — mainly because it’s just so completely bizarre. Even after a couple weeks of constant news coverage, we still don’t have answers, and this completely dumbfounds me. As a journalist myself, I don’t think the facts add up, but I don’t know a calculator in the world that could help.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, here’s the recap (as I see it):

  • Manti TeoManti Te’o is a college football player (which explains why I’d never heard of him before all this). He’s apparently a good player that plays for Notre Dame. (They’re the Irish team.)
  • Winter 2009: He is contacted on Facebook by a “girl” named “Lennay Kekua” who is also a “model” (go figure). They become friends. Soon after, they begin a relationship. In addition to online interaction, it involves lots of texts and phone calls. But it’s all so real.
  • June 2012: Lennay tells Manti (over the phone, of course) that she has Leukemia. I’d like to point out that it’s now nearly three years after they initially met online, and the two have never met in person. Manti is, however, smitten with his “girlfriend.”
  • September 2012: Sadly, Manti’s grandmother dies. Lennay calls him to say that she will be there for him. Two hours later, Manti gets a call from Lennay’s “brother,” whom Manti had spoken to before on the phone (and the story gets weirder!). The brother is crying hysterically, saying. “She’s gone.” Apparently Lennay has died of Leukemia.
  • A day later, Manti plays football and has a great game. In a post-game interview, he mentions both his late grandmother and his late girlfriend. Hearts break all over America.
  • There’s a huge media blitz (Hello, football term!) over the story of this great guy who lost both his grandmother and girlfriend in the same week… and still marched on to play some great football. Fans are enamored. The hype supposedly brings the coveted Heisman Trophy just within his reach. (And the story gets richer, folks.)
  • A boyfriend would surely go to his girlfriend’s funeral, right? Well, it happened to take place the same day as a Notre Dame vs. Michigan game. What are the odds? Manti holds fast to a promise he made to his sick girlfriend to play football no matter what. How romantic.
  • December 2012: Things start to unravel. Apparently, people are starting to talk about this as if it was a hoax of some sort. Manti may have even known. Yet he continues to act like he had a real girlfriend and she really died.
  • Then, just when you think this story couldn’t get any more bizarre, Lennay comes back to life (Holy miracle!) and calls Manti to say, “I’m not dead.” Manti is furious.
  • Manti tells some people about this. Notre Dame figures out a way to cover it up (surprise, surprise). His family and friends are involved. It’s quickly turning into every episode of every soap opera all rolled into one.
  • January 2013: Manti comes clean to the media, saying he was punk’d Ashton-style and he is embarrassed and shocked. He claims the girlfriend doesn’t exist, never died, and he had nothing to do with the scam. He’s a victim!
  • Media has a field day with this story. No facts are solid and no story seems plausible, which leads to this terrible Swiss-cheese storyline I’ve built for you today. Oh, the holes!

There are so many questions here. Let me list just a few:

  • You've Got MailHow long can a couple interact online and over phone / text before one of them demands a legitimate, face-to-face meet-up? Unless you’re Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, there’s no excuse to not meet before the two-month mark.
  • Whose photo was used on Lennay’s Facebook? If it’s some random girl, I feel bad for her.
  • Who was Manti actually talking to when he talked to Lennay on the phone? I smell an Oscar nomination!
  • What kind of scumbag would pretend to have leukemia, and then pretend to die from it? There’s a line and it has officially been crossed.
  • Does Manti have major self-esteem issues? Because clearly he’s a good looking, successful football player who could get any girl he wants, yet chose to date an imaginary girlfriend for three years. Therapy, anyone?
  • Was this all a ploy orchestrated by Manti himself to garner attention and votes for the Heisman Trophy? Because it nearly worked. He got second place, right?
  • Is Manti — who happens to be Mormon — also gay, and this is the most elaborate stay-in-the-closet scheme in the history of mankind? (Okay, this is a stretch, brought to you by my conspiracy theorist friend, Leah.)
  • Is Manti simply a victim of a longing for love, like so many of us fellow singles?

This post is getting long, so I’ll leave by asking what your take is on this whole story. Leave your opinion in the comments below! Manti has scheduled a Lance-Armstrong-esque tell-all interview with Katie Couric on her amazingly boring new talk show for this Thursday. Can’t wait to see what happens! (Here’s hoping I can stay awake.)

For now, let the truth start to unravel naturally (as it always does, Lance). And if, by chance, Manti turns out to be telling the truth and is just a lonely, broken-hearted, gullible guy looking for love, then we welcome him to this blog community with open arms. You’re safe here, Manti. We’ll probably never meet in person, but I swear, I’m a real person. I mean, there are photos of me on this blog and everything!

~Ruth