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By TED SILLANPAA

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was never any more to me or my Irish football-loving sons than a really good college football player. We didn’t find that his legend grew when he played on after his grandmother and girlfriend died during the past season because … athletes aren’t legends, they don’t do legendary things off the field.

We just choose to enjoy the games and how the players play them.

I couldn’t care less if Te’o had a girlfriend or whether he was part of a hoax that now indicates that he … er … I don’t even know what the media coverage about the Te’o story involving a girlfriend who didn’t exist is about. I don’t want to know. He’s a football player. If he makes tackles and doesn’t break the rules, on or off the field, I’m fine with him.

But, boy, are lots of the rest of us into the dirt and detail of Te’o's story about the girlfriend who didn’t exist. He’s a football player who prominent sports journalist Michael Wilbon said Thursday, “struck me as very simple … almost childlike” during an interview weeks back.

You can’t believe that somebody could fool a college kid on the level Te’o appears to have been fooled? It’s easier to understand if you consider that Te’o struck a noted journalist as ”simple” and “almost childlike.” Wilbon leaves the gossip and shenanigans so many of you love to the web sites that make money sensationalizing stories we really shouldn’t care about at all.

If you read about Te’o, this girlfriend dying and thought, “Oh, what a hero! He’s amazing!” then you deserve to be shattered and confused. Te’o was a Notre Dame football player. Nothing more. You chose to lionize him for playing on after he, allegedly, lost loved ones. That’s your problem. Don’t make heroes of people who just happen to be really good at playing games.

If you can’t believe that this girlfriend who died story turned out to be part of a hoax, you’ve got no understanding of online dating, social networking or what today’s college kids are doing. There are lots of people who will tell you they’re in relationships with people they’ve never seen or only rarely see. And, they’ve all got friends who will come out of the trees to tell tales to members of the media about their friends’ relationship that they’ll assure you they’re 80 percent sure are true.

I don’t care about Te’o, how the girlfriend story came to pass or whether or not he did or didn’t play a role in convincing you that he was more a hero for playing on after … oh, never mind!

If you feel like a college football player let you down, that’s your problem. If you don’t know that people shade the truth, lie and get duped every day, all day … you’re not very bright.

Manti Te’o was just a college football player. Putting him in position where his private life is your concern is your problem.

I’ll be interested in Manti Te’o again when NFL summer camps open.

 

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Comments

6 Comments

  1. KB

    In reading the title, “Te’o story exposes what’s wrong with us, media” I thought I was going to read your thoughts on what’s wrong with us as a society – not that we shouldn’t care, or that it’s not a big deal about an athlete’s personal life.

    The story for me is how we, as a culture, are spending more time interacting with computer communication gadgets, rather than communicating face to face.

    January 18th, 2013 2:09 pm

  2. overtime

    KB…Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think it’s a separate story … the part about how we don’t communicate face to face. And … it’s not one I want to write based on this story about a football player. The problem with us as a society of sports fans, I think, is that we care about these guys as people … think we know them … think we understand their story off the field and we don’t know. We can’t know. … Sports, Notre Dame’s star player, aren’t the things that prompt me (or you) to talk about communication online versus personal communication face to face. Our communication processes as a society is far more important and worthy of in depth discussion than one I want to have in this spot (which is largely devoted to sports) because of Te’o's story. What’s wrong with is? We insist on making heroes of regular people who happen to be good at games … then we rush to trash them when we find out they’re normal people with human flaws. TED

    January 18th, 2013 2:33 pm

  3. WaldoTruth

    Going off of the “Why do we care” question… I care less about why people care and more about why people, or at least the web versions of themselves, want so badly for Manti Te’o to be guilty of creating the hoax. Why are so many so quick to jump to the conclusion that he is guilty of a hoax? Why do they seem to relish his potential downfall?

    During this process I’m learning more about those quick to condemn a college student-athlete based on an obviously slanted Deadspin “expose” than I am about Manti Te’o or people who create fake people online.

    January 18th, 2013 3:51 pm

  4. overtime

    Waldo…We’re just laughing at Te’o, completely unwilling to acknowledge how easily a college-aged guy could go along with a “girlfriend” he’s never seen, etc. Most of us are fortunate that every dumb story we told to try to cover for some stupid decision we made at his age didn’t become public. People, the media especially, just buys into every story they hear about every athlete’s fairytale and they will lash out if the fairytale turns out not to be true. This won’t end until Te’o gives some public confession … that will only serve to embarrass him as opposed to serving us. Ted

    January 18th, 2013 5:14 pm

  5. David

    I don’t know how you keep your job with your common sense approach to these subjects. One of your cohorts says it is his job to exploit these kinds of stories. Keep fighting the good fight.

    January 19th, 2013 4:57 pm

  6. overtime

    David…Thanks for reading. I really appreciate the thought. Today’s fight … explaining that Bay Area media types are repeating what 49ers’ fans want to hear and that, I’m certain, the Falcons actually do have a chance of winning the NFC title game. I’m pretty sure an NFL team doesn’t go 14-2 in the regular year only to need the perfect game in their home stadium to win the NFC title … but, around here, the consensus is that the 49ers show up, play OK and win in a breeze. There are two teams on the field, right? Ted

    January 19th, 2013 5:43 pm

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