Defending Notre Dame
By John Mundy
Step one: put them in the national title game against the SEC champ.
Step two: Rinse.
Step three: Repeat.
Notre Dame defended.
Okay, that's a terrible joke. Especially since this isn't about football. Not on the field, at least. What I'm referring to is the inundation of media coverage surrounding Manti Te'o and his alleged fake, dead girlfriend. I'll be honest with you. The first I'd heard of the extensive, heartwarming media coverage surrounding the original (fake) story was when news of the hoax broke last week.
I'm not a TMZ-type guy, and if I ever turn into that guy please shoot me. I really don't care about all the dirty laundry. Someone in sports displayed bad character? Take appropriate disciplinary action and let's move on. The point is, someone else's shortcomings aren't a big deal to me unless said shortcoming involves me or my family.
In other words, I'm amazed at how much coverage is being given to this kid. He owes us nothing.
His school, though? He owes them, well, something.
Let's get this straight: I'm no Notre Dame fan. I never have been. I've always been turned off by their continued publicity and arrogance when it comes to football, even when they were terrible. In this case Notre Dame's legendary hubris came back to bite them, leaving a mark on the university's image the size of Alabama's defensive front. After hitching their wagon to their (legitimate) Heisman candidate and putting the Irish Hype Machine into overdrive, it appears that their darling is either: a) a sociopath, b) a pathological liar, c) a rube of the highest order with a social disorder or d) gay.
In any event, the chain of events that the public is aware of all point to one thing: he lied after finding out about the hoax. And, like we learned in kindergarten, lying is bad. The University of Notre Dame is a prestigious institution with a large alumni base along with thousands of non-alumni supporters throughout the country. Clay Travis spoke the truth in his recent mailbag when he said, "The average Notre Dame grad, very smart. The average Notre Dame fan, an idiot. That's a big distinction."
Sure is, especially when the ND poo-bahs are acutely aware said fans will believe anything they say. Now they are sitting in South Bend with egg on their faces, all because they made the same mistake the media did: nobody checked the story out. Such a highly publicized story deserves verification, especially when one is about to expend significant resources to promote the individual and the university. Nobody did, so everyone screwed up, leaving the university PR folks seemingly guilty of lying to a multitude of adoring fans whose hero is forever besmirched by this scandal.
Only, this one's not on them. Notre Dame isn't guilty of lying; they're guilty of trusting. Big difference.
Manti Te'o is a liar. If he lied to save his image, he's a selfish liar. If he continued to lie so his family wouldn't be embarrassed, he's a loyal liar who didn't think about the consequences. If he truly has a social disorder, he's a liar who needs help. If he went through this whole thing to hide his sexuality, he's a liar who missed a golden opportunity.
After all, this is 2013. Everyone reading this article works with, hangs with or is at least among members of the gay community. Manti Te'o had (and maybe still has) the opportunity to become a noble, brave figure as the first openly gay NFL rookie. Would it have been risky? Certainly. Would he forever be a hero, regardless?
Absolutely and without question.
Eventually, as this endless media cycle continues, I believe Manti Te'o will become a sympathetic figure and codependent America will be okay again. It's like that game you play in school, where the teacher whispers a sentence into the ear of a student sitting in a circle of classmates. One by one, students pass the sentence along until the last kid repeats aloud what he or she heard. More often than not, it's quite different from the original wording.
This story will end up that way, as well, and that's too bad.
Manti Te'o may not be a bad kid. In fact, I'd bet money on it. However, his untruths have put an institution that made a significant financial investment in both his athletic ability and character in the media cross-hairs for weeks to come. This one's not going away for a while, and for that, he owes them.
What form that takes is up to Te'o and his willingness to do the right thing. He and his legacy are alone on an island right now, and the type of life raft he builds will go a long way in his transformation from "high-profile liar" to "responsible adult." Ultimately, the transformation to the latter is what will settle his debt to Notre Dame.