The fans of this site already know my feelings on the bizarre “Manti Te’o fake dead girlfriend” story, we have discussed it on this site at length, and if you want to read a breakdown, click on the “Manti Te’o tag on this page. I was done with the subject, other than my NFL Draft content, which will have to include some thoughts on the Te’o situation and how it alters his draft stock.
However I woke up this morning to find a piece written by ESPN college football analyst Ivan Maisel, which is apparently supposed to be his reaction to the Manti Te’o interview conducted by Jeremy Schaap titled “Manti Te’o is Longfellow Deeds in a Gold Helmet.” As I said, I was done with all Manti Te’o content, but I saw the headline and, confused I had to read on. This is probably the worst article I have read in the history of ESPN.com. I wrote this piece a little differently, my thoughts are bold and in parentheses following the actual words that Maisel wrote and that ESPN.com published.
ESPN I believe Manti Te’o. (I don’t, but we are each entitled to our own opinion) I believe he told the truth at Notre Dame. I believe he told the truth to ESPN correspondent Jeremy Schaap. But you’ll have to forgive me. I’m a sucker for Frank Capra movies. (who?) Manti Te’o is in the midst of a Frank Capra movie, but nobody knows how this one will end. (No chance 98.5% of your audience knows who Frank Capra is) As the story of Te’o’s mythical girlfriend unfolded last week, as the former Fighting Irish linebacker became grist for the national snark mill, I began to realize that I had seen this film before. (Weekend at Bernie’s?) The fresh-faced innocent becomes a hero. He gets his comeuppance. The cynics pounce. And in the final act, the innocent triumphs. He gets the girl. The movie ends, and we all go to the malt shop. (Malt Shops no longer exist, just like Fran Capra) Capra made movies before and after World War II that remain among America’s best-loved films. (Yet 98.5% of ESPN’s audience have never heard of him) Capra immigrated to America from Sicily as a child. He loved his adopted country and he spoke from its gut in one film after another. His main characters stood up for values that we once told ourselves are quintessentially American: humility, modesty, doing the right thing even when it bucked the system. (except Te’o has admitted to lying in December, so at best, he’s a liar) That’s what George Bailey did in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” what Long John Willoughby did in “Meet John Doe,” what Longfellow Deeds did in “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.” (that shitty Adam Sandler movie was a remake?) Capra made all of those films. (We watch movies with Jason Statham now, can you compare Te’o to Transporter 2?) Te’o is Longfellow Deeds in a gold helmet. “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936) is the story of an innocent from a Vermont village who inherits a great fortune, comes to sophisticated New York to claim it and is taken apart by the big-city wolves. (Like I said, I saw that shitty Adam Sandler movie, it fucking blew) “All my life, I’ve wanted somebody to talk to,” says Deeds, played by Gary Cooper. “Back in Mandrake Falls, I used to always talk to a girl.” (How about any one of the 6,000 real chicks at Notre Dame who were all over Te’o’s dick) “A girl?” he is asked. “Only an imaginary one,” Deeds says. “I used to hike a lot through the woods and I’d always take this girl with me so I could talk to her. I’d show her my pet trees and things. It sounds kind of silly but we had a lot of fun doing it. She was beautiful.” (Except Te’o could have had any chick he wanted, look at what Johnny Football is doing) Te’o is an innocent from a Hawaiian village who, as every schoolgirl now knows, had an imaginary sweetheart, too. (who he made up a girlfriend, and attempted to kill her off, like on a Soap Opera) In the current Capra vehicle playing out on the American stage, we have seen the fresh face become a hero. We have seen him get his comeuppance. We are in the middle of the cynics pouncing. Te’o has been fodder for late-night monologues and cable talkfests. (which he did to himself) Journalists whom I respect took shots that mostly revealed their lack of effort (would it be so hard to learn how to pronounce the name of someone you crucify?). (it’s Maisel, right?) Comedians whom I enjoy rat-a-tatted their way through material that their writers could have pounded out in their sleep — and did, judging by the quality of it. (He finished second for the Heisman Trophy, he made up a dead girlfriend to get sympathy votes, and we shouldn’t have laughed at that?) Maybe it’s because I write about college kids for a living, and maybe it’s because two of my three children are college kids, but the jokes have fallen on deaf ears. Where the Twitter memes see an easy target, I see a naïf who just discovered in public that the world can be mean. “I guess I get the idea,” Deeds says to a group of New York writers in a bar who are amusing themselves at his expense. “I guess I know why I was invited here. To make fun of me.” (If you get tangled in a web of your own lies, you become a target) Te’o’s trust and belief in his teammates galvanized a Notre Dame team that no one expected to contend for the national championship. Head coach Brian Kelly repeatedly said Te’o is the best leader he has been around in 22 years of coaching. (Except he led the nation on a lie that his fake girlfriend had died of cancer while campaigning for the Heisman trophy, when he knew it was bullshit) Longfellow Deeds, played by Gary Cooper in “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” ended up getting the girl in the end. (impossible for Te’o since she never existed) By all accounts, Te’o personified humility. (and lying) He acted without guile all season. (just lied to our faces) When the story broke last week, Te’o continued to act without guile. (because he got caught) He sat down with Schaap, who is no one’s pushover, and answered questions as best he could. ($50 I could push Schaap over) Te’o admitted his embarrassment. (because he got caught) He didn’t try to spin the story to save face. (if he never got caught, he would have kept the lie going) He owned up to his shortcomings. But we should look up from our Te’o jokes to remember that he is the victim. (That is what you believe) He didn’t create this girl out of whole cloth to advance his career. (if you believe him) He trusts people. (including fake people) The dark side of that trust is that Te’o became the ideal mark for catfishing. (or like every other college football player he could have nailed real girls) Babe Bennett, played by Jean Arthur, is the streetwise reporter who befriends Deeds in order to take advantage of him in her Manhattan newpaper. She says to her friend: “Mabel, that guy’s either the dumbest, stupidest, the most imbecilic idiot in the world or he’s the grandest thing alive. I can’t make him out.” (so who is saying this to Te’o? What’s the point here?) And then she says: “Here’s a guy that’s wholesome and fresh. To us, he looks like a freak. & He’s got goodness, Mabel. Do you know what that is? No, of course you don’t. We’ve forgotten. We’re too busy being smart alecks. Too busy in a crazy competition for nothing.” Deeds gave the money away, got the girl and returned to Vermont a hero. I don’t know whether Te’o will become a hero again. We know he won’t get the girl. But it seems pretty clear to me that he’s got goodness. Capra made his last movie more than a half-century ago. He has been dead for more than two decades (awesome, no more dogshit movies ). But I am betting he would have recognized Te’o. (If you are alive and breathing air, you recognized Te’o, you couldn’t miss it).
Here is why I do not believe Te’o one more time. You are telling me that Manti Te’o, who is not just a regular 21 year-old college kid but one that almost won the Heisman Trophy and is having attractive girls at Notre Dame throw themselves at him left and right, is going to be content carrying on a relationship over the phone with a girl that he never met? There is absolutely no way. He is spending eight hours a night talking to a person who he has never met. He does not visit this person, who he loves, as she lies dying in a hospital bed? He does not attend her funereal, even though she is the love of his life? What does THAT say about him as a person? Either Te’o was trying to gain national sympathy for himself to help his Heisman Trophy campaign, or he is covering up his true sexuality, because he is a football player and would be unaccepted by his teammates. There is just no way a 21 year old football superstar carries on a relationship over the phone with a girl he’s never met when there are so many other targets of opportunity, a nerd maybe, but not a superstar like Te’o. If you have been a 21 year old dude, like I have, you’ll know what I mean.
P.S. How bad was Maisel’s article? Yeeeeeesh.