by Daniel Luzer
Over the past few years, ESPN, Fox Sports, the Boston Globe, the New York Post, the Associated Press, and CBS all reported the girlfriend-car-accident-cancer-death story. Calderone: “It’s understandable that journalists may not have double-checked Te’o’s account of how, say, he supposedly met Kekau after a football game. But it’s amazing that news outlets were so quick to cover a woman’s death without any verification.”
Yes, well football victories are a dime a dozen; football victories in the face of the cancer death of loved ones are pretty rare and interesting stories. Tune in for more details! The human-interest story of the year!
Now we should try, as much as possible, try to be sympathetic here. The football player in question either made up a girlfriend or was the victim of a baroque con undertaken for no reason. Either way this speaks to pretty severe insecurities or gullibility, but this is not like a normal scandal.
Unlike, say, the Lace Armstrong con—in which an athlete engaged in complicated deception in order to win races—there’s no valid strategic reason to make up a girlfriend. People who do so (beyond the age of, say, 14) have, to put it in the most general terms, some issues to work out.
At any rate, though, Notre Dame and journalists had little reason to try and uncover the true story here. Te’o was, according to the Deadspin piece, a very real candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Many colleges now approach the Heisman as essentially a marketing campaign, complete with heart-warming details and slick superman myths.
Te’o is just as good a football player as he ever was. Why did the dead girlfriend story line matter so much?