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The Virtual Girlfriend

WTF?

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, the stories said, played this season under a terrible burden. A Mormon linebacker who led his Catholic school’s football program back to glory, Te’o was whipsawed between personal tragedies along the way. In the span of six hours in September, as Sports Illustrated told it, Te’o learned first of the death of his grandmother, Annette Santiago, and then of the death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.

Kekua, 22 years old, had been in a serious car accident in California, and then had been diagnosed with leukemia. SI’s Pete Thamel described how Te’o would phone her in her hospital room and stay on the line with her as he slept through the night. “Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice,” Thamel wrote.

Upon receiving the news of the two deaths, Te’o went out and led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 upset of Michigan State, racking up 12 tackles. It was heartbreaking and inspirational. Te’o would appear on ESPN’s College GameDay to talk about the letters Kekua had written him during her illness. He would send a heartfelt letter to the parents of a sick child, discussing his experience with disease and grief. The South Bend Tribune wrote an article describing the young couple’s fairytale meeting—she, a Stanford student; he, a Notre Dame star—after a football game outside Palo Alto.

Did you enjoy the uplifiting story, the tale of a man who responded to adversity by becoming one of the top players of the game? If so, stop reading.

Deadspin has possibly their first real scoop ever: Kekua apparently did not exist and her photos correspond to some random woman in California.

Te’o’ has now released a statement claiming he was the victim of a hoax, that someone pretended to be this woman. There are still a few outlying questions, mainly that he supposedly met this woman in person. I must say that I’m reserving judgement until more comes out. This story is just too weird to be.

Fake girlfriends are nothing new. It’s usually not someone like Te’o’ but someone lonely who is in a dry spell and sick of getting mocked for it. But the elaborate detail on a national stage is simply stunning.

Seriously: WTF?

4 comments

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  1. Argive says:

    And this is why conspiracy theories are bullshit. That Te’o couldn’t keep a website best known for publishing pictures of Brett Favre’s dong from finding out about his fake girlfriend shows that no one can keep a secret for long.

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  2. Hal_10000 says:

    And this is why conspiracy theories are bullshit. That Te’o couldn’t keep a website best known for publishing pictures of Brett Favre’s dong from finding out about his fake girlfriend shows that no one can keep a secret for long.

    ^^^^THIS

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  3. InsipiD says:

    I got the feeling from the story that the perp didn’t pick some random girl and had even gotten a posed picture out of her. ND’s statement gives Te’o the benefit of the doubt, but it’s unlikely that he knew nothing. His dad was probably in on it, too. This would probably be sufficient violation of ND’s honor code to get him kicked out now that it doesn’t matter much. The big question is whether any NFL team now wants to risk his weirdness.

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  4. Argive says:

    Also, Hal, I take exception to your characterizing this story as Deadspin’s first “real scoop.” They should have won a Peabody for their coverage of Oddibe McDowell’s water bill.

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