After all that waiting—you were waiting for this, right?—the NFL draft has finally popped up on our calendars. Which means it's as good a time as ever for fresh eyes to try to figure out what exactly happened with Manti Te'o, who could go toward the end of tonight's first round (although he won't be in the building), and Lennay Kekua, his imaginary dead soulmate.
Ned Zeman of Vanity Fair spoke to Te'o, his friends, and his family, including his post-Lennay girlfriend, at length, and the story has made its way online today. (Zeman also talked to Burke, Craggs, and me, and—disclosure—he had nice things to say about us and about the site, because of that big story we published back in January.)
Much of the story's discussion with the Te'o camp follows the usual pattern. Manti's a good kid. He comes from a good family, a naïve family. Manti was young. He was trusting. He was duped. But here's the key passage:
The only time he wasn’t completely honest, Te’o says, was when he spoke to the group of journalists on December 8. “Put yourself in my position,” he says. “I’ve just found out my girlfriend is a big prank. And I think she’s just died and people are asking me about her. And I’m just a 21-year-old guy getting this question on a national stage just two days after it happens.”
Yes, he has regrets and embarrassment—but only up to a point. As he puts it, “I would say I was naïve and I was just unlucky. I was naïve in that I trusted this ‘person.’ But a lot of things just happened, all together, to make this just a case of bad luck.”
But still. A football game over a funeral? Really?
Te’o takes a deep breath. “You have to understand,” he says. “This is a person I’ve never seen before. So I didn’t want to be seeing her for the first time dead in a casket. I didn’t want to see that. I wanted the first time I was seeing her to be the first time I see her. In the kingdom of heaven.”
It doesn't have a great deal to do with football—then again, when did a dead girlfriend?—but it's baffling nonetheless. It's part of an overall supposed thought process that will never make much sense to anyone outside the Notre Dame echo chamber. Who thinks that way?
According to Te'o, though, his cognitive process became abnormal only after he had learned of the hoax. He said this: "Honestly, I’d say I’m never going to be completely normal. Never. It’s still with me now. It’s always going to be something that’s just there all the time, in the back of my head."
Two other relevant notes: Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man behind Lennay, blew off his scheduled interview with VF, while Te'o's best friend and teammate, Roby Toma, did finally speak, and said he had talked to Lennay a number of times.
The Boy Who Cried Dead Girlfriend [Vanity Fair]