The American college football player (i.e., not soccer) Manti T’eo is all over the news in the U.S. Born in Hawaii, and of Samoan extraction, he’s now playing as a linebacker for the University of Notre Dame and is a prime candidate to go to the pros, i.e., the National Football League.
Last week T’eo became embroiled in what has turned into a scandal: this season he claimed that he had played extra aggressively because both his grandmother and girlfriend had died on the same day. Reporters later found out that no such girlfriend existed, whereupon it was revealed that T’eo was the victim of a phone hoax perpetrated by an acquaintance, in which a woman (still unknown) would call T’eo and talk to him for hours. T’eo claims he formed an inseparable bond with the woman, and then, after faking the occurrence of a car accident that injured her, the hoaxers killed her off from leukemia, leading to her reported death, which was of course faked. T’eo claimed that he was too embarrassed to reveal to the press that he’d never met this woman, and so pretended that she was his real girlfriend.
There are some claims that T’eo became complicit in the hoax later on. It’s all a bit murky, but it’s sad, and I’m not quite sure why this is getting so much press (see the story and a video here). T’eo didn’t do anything wrong except mislead reporters about whether he’d ever met his “girlfriend,” and it shouldn’t affect his prospects to play pro football.
But that’s just background. The point of this story is an exchange about the T’eo episode that occurred on a sports radio station, and was reported to me by reader Joe in an email (reproduced here with his permission). Welcome to America!
Dear Dr. Coyne: I hope this finds you well. I’m not sure whether anyone else has reported an interesting exchange that occurred at ~3:00 a.m. EST this morning between a caller and Amy Lawrence, one of the overnight hosts on CBS Sports Radio. I heard it as I lay awake fretting over some work-related matters. I won’t get the exchange exactly correct, but the essence is a follows, in the context of Manti Te’o's non-existent girlfriend (I actually feel sorry for the young man):
Caller: I’ll probably get cut off, but I’m calling about Manti Te’o.
Ms. Lawrence: Go ahead.
Caller: It’s interesting that Manti Te’o girlfriend doesn’t exist. He and Notre Dame keep pushing God on us after every victory, and God doesn’t exist either.
Ms. Lawrence (cutting him off): That’s it! You can’t come on this show and offend all of the listeners who believe in God!
I was too tired to get up and call, and I probably wouldn’t have made it past the screening in any case.
Ms. Lawrence seemed to have missed the point that many of us are offended by having God thrown at us in every conceivable context. It reminded me of when I lived in Boulder and Craig Morton was the Broncos’ QB [QB = quarterback]. Whenever they won, he’d thank Jesus for being there with him during the game—especially when the game was played in snow and bitter cold in Mile High Stadium I couldn’t help but think that anyone who is omnipotent would have been in Miami watching the Dolphins.
Anyway, Teo is a terrific defensive player, and a sure bet for an early selection in the pro football draft. Here are some highlights of his playing for Notre Dame (his jersey number is 5):