I [didn't know] it was you, Manti. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.

When I was at ND, I would have been thrilled to have a fake girlfriend as attractive as Lennay. And, if questioned by reporters with microphones and cameras, I’m not sure I would have had the moral fiber to explain, fully, the nature of our relationship – that we had never met, that there were weeks-long gaps in our communications. Obviously, FaceTime and Skype weren’t available in those days, but let’s assume I had asked my Lennay for a photograph and it just never arrived, for whatever reason. I don’t know if I would have confessed, under the lights, to that, either. In short, in most regards, I’m rather certain that I would have done much as Manti has.

But, that doesn’t make it right. In my view, Manti Te’o bears a huge amount of responsibility for not being both upfront about the nature of his relationship with Lennay and for not fully confessing the moment he knew. Whether that moment came “when the light [went] off” on December 23rd or earlier or last week, Manti should have, as a player, a captain and as a man, gone to Coach Diaco or Coach Kelly and told them that the narrative was flawed – a narrative that we were all complicit in creating.

I’ve thought about Manti’s role in this a lot. And how I cannot pretend to have walked a mile in his shoes. What’s it like to be the Chosen One — to have returned Notre Dame to relevance with a story as powerful as any tackle, a narrative arc as perfect as any of the interceptions? And that’s where my understanding founders. How can one person possibly be so naïve? For I get what it means to be both an idiot forty-something AND an idiot student, fumbling to make sense of a romantic relationship that simply would not stand up to scrutiny. I was once that young man punching at the walls with my bare and bloody hands. But that doesn’t make it right.

How I behaved was meaningless - for it affected nothing more than the appearance of my knuckles for a week or two, perhaps, a small part of my wall in my apartment in Turtle Creek. I don’t understand, at a very base and fundamental level, Manti’s excuse, that he was in the moment and focused on the season or on enjoying the Heisman run-up with his family. Even Michael pulled himself from the moment to kiss his brother and tell him that he knew of his betrayal. I think, with a good degree of certainty, that I would tell Manti the same now, and maybe in the same way, if he didn’t rip my arms off before I could get the words out, “I know it was you, Manti, you broke my heart. You broke my heart.” But that doesn’t make it right.

The University is complicit, too. There has to be someone, whose job it is, to fact-check this stuff. I know. Tex and I had this very conversation today — why should we have to verify a dead girlfriend? I dunno, but maybe because there’s a show on MTV about this? If you’re ND, and we are ND, isn’t it just good practice or due diligence that you should just Google this stuff? That’s not Kelly’s job, or Diaco’s job, but can’t you check all the same? Have you gone back and watched the game ball dedication? Do you cringe?

I do. Not that Manti knew at the time. And not that Kelly knew at the time. But it clearly resonated with everyone — with BK, ND and NBC. Lennay’s death shifted the merchandise, as it were. And while there may have been nothing predatory in Kelly’s motives, or ND’s motive or NBC’s motives, it was Lennay, and not the grandmother, whose death made the moment cinematic. If you’re going to go along with something in such a public manner, you have to make sure that it’s real. Don’t we owe that to our student-athletes? If they are so focused on football, academics, trophies, relevance and draft status, shouldn’t we have some functionary whose job it is to Google this stuff? To find out that there is nothing, in fact, to Google?

And the students who knew are complicit, too. I don’t mean to single out Tyler Moorehead, but his article the other day has blown up and he’s now a de facto student representative. So, I’ll take him to task: were you silenced? Did you and the players who knew this was rather literally much ado about nothing do anything? Did anyone go to the University with their doubts? To say that you wouldn’t do that anyway, for any student is easy. But that doesn’t make it right.

And we in “the media” are complicit, too. You can read Thamel’s apologia over at SI if you want — his posting of the transcript I don’t think helped his cause. You can read the South Bend Tribune’s excusing its “archiving” of the Manti article and believe it if you want. If you read the questions that journalists asked Manti carefully and read Manti’s answers carefully, you cannot help but come away with the impression that about fifty questions weren’t asked. Like, “so what was it like, Manti, when you first met her?” “No, what I meant, Manti, is what was she wearing, what were you wearing and set the scene for me Manti?” I can describe the fucking second Mrs. Bayou Irish walked into my life, all purple cocktail dress and heels and a FUCKING ENTOURAGE. You want to know the details of the dress? Done. The color of her lipstick? Done. How she wrinkled her nose at me and said, “you smoke?” before laughing and tossing her blonde mane in a display as garish as anything seen among tropical birds. You think ‘Bama versus ND was an SEC versus the best of the rest contest? You cannot imagine the difference and disparity between Mrs. Bayou and me — an LSU woman at (what I thought then were) the peak of her powers) and a Notre Dame man with the looks of Woody Allen and the comedic wit of Kenneth Branagh.

And no one at this blog bothered to check, and how hard was that, in retrospect? Couldn’t I have Googled ANY of it? I mean, I have a family and a job and I’m not a professional journalist. But that doesn’t make it right. We all failed. Manti failed us. We failed Manti. We all failed ND. And we all failed ourselves. We wanted a hero so, so bad, that none of us didn’t do anything about the gaps and holes and inconsistencies. But that doesn’t make it right.

  • Lisa

    Great piece!

  • Jon

    Sorry but you’re lookIng to assign blame to the wrong people. It’s easy to do if you’re disconnected with today’s youth and don’t understand how they deal with things.

    • Bayou Irish

      Jon: Thanks for reading, but I’m perplexed. To whom should I assign blame? I “blamed” everyone — and I think I did so with a good regard for how “today’s youth” deal with things.

  • Julie G

    Manti my heart and prayers go out to you. Do not listen to people who judge you. You be true to yourself and nothing else matters. I listen to the interview several times. You are a fine and sensitive young man with a supportive family. You also have a great future ahead of you.

    • Bayou Irish

      Julie: Thanks for reading. I agree that Manti is a fine and sensitive man with a supportive family and that he has a remarkable future ahead of him. This is an awful mess for which he did not ask, but one in which I believe he was complicit at a certain point and in a certain way. He’s the victim, certainly, but in my opinion, and having read the transcripts, he allowed it to continue.

  • brentsn

    You are absolutely right,you can’t pretend to walk in Manti’s shoes. So why DID you just pretend to ? So you are comparing yourself to Manti ? I’m sure Manti would have loved to have seen a woman in a purple cocktail dress , but….wait , thats YOUR life. Theres millions of stories like yours of the “perfect encounter”. I’m sure Manti would apologize to you that he didn’t come across that. I, myself didn’t realize there are rules to finding your soulmate to make it legitimate. I’m still trying to figure out the point of your whole article. I wish everybody could walk in other peoples shoes. You think Manti broke your heart ? I wonder what you’d think if you did walk in his shoes then ? I believe HE is the one with a broken heart here , more so than you , as outlandish as that sounds. I’m sure you are suffering pretty bad. Manti is a very proud man that oozes with character. He was brought up somewhat sheltered and as a mormon. He’s 22 and his heart is real and genuine. He’s embarrassed and humiliated by what happened to him. Because of it , he feels he let people down. I’m sorry so many people like you don’t want to or can’t understand , and obviously don’t care to try. After all , its different , its not typical. So everybody thinks they are owed an explanation. Why ? LOL I have no idea. Its just how America is now. Everybody just cares about themselves. I mourned with Manti all of autumn just like everybody else. Unlike everybody else , I’m still mourning with him. Its not bad enough losing someone special ?? But to be shocked later to find out what had happened to him ? Unimaginable to me. Manti owes me nothing. I don’t need to hear another word from him. He’s an emotional wreck and its weeks away from decisions being made about his pro career. I want to see him be successful. But , thats just me. I want no part of the “negative America” we have going on these days. I’m just not that selfish to believe some one (whom I’m not close to , or a part of my family)owes me anything because of something that happened in their personal life. I hope purple cocktail dress never breaks your heart. How would you like the world hounding your ass wanting to know all the details and why you couldn’t keep it together , giving you timelines and telling you to talk !! Don’t worry about Manti or myself , we won’t badger you about your personal life. We have heart.

    • Bayou Irish

      Brent: Thanks for reading. And for commenting. Clearly, you and I have differing views of “negative,” for I don’t think I wrote a single negative thing about Manti. But I do think he’s responsible, in his way. He bears the responsibility of explaining because he was up on the dais – because of the coverage, the adulation, the leis. And don’t confuse responsibility with forgiveness or anything like that. I cannot imagine his hurt, pain and anguish. But don’t confuse that with a lack of some responsibility. And I wrote the bit about meeting my life because of the questions that paid and trained reporters didn’t ask — questions that should have been asked and to which the answers would never be given by a 22 year old kid from Hawai’i who in many ways didn’t ask for this. Again, I appreciate your reading and commenting.

      • DJ

        Did you write the headline of this piece? The one that compares Te’o to a character universally known as weak, stupid, and a traitor? Sounds rather negative to me. Or anyone else with a working cerebral cortex.

        • Bayou Irish

          You mean the quote referencing heartbreak and Miami?

      • brentsn

        Thanks for commenting back , I appreciate it. Manti didn’t ask for any of this period. I can’t imagine his shock and confusion of the whole ordeal even now , after a month and a half. He might never be able to get things straightened out in his head , but everyone is hounding him to tell the world every detail of it. If he gets confused and gives the wrong date about when something happened , or makes one little mistake , they’ll all jump on him saying “see , he’s lying , he ‘s not telling the story straight. I believe Manti is real and genuine. He believed in Lennay 100% just like we all did. Then he faced shocking news , news more shocking than most people will ever hear in their lives. Shocked and confused , he didn’t know how to react. He still don’t , with the millions of questions being hurled at him. Yeah , the adulation , the leis, the coverage is what made it so much more complicated for him. He didn’t know what to think himself , much less a whole world that loves and admires him. He was graduating , football was #1 and undefeated , this young man had alot on his plate. Theres no textbook to outline how to handle what he’s been through. I guess he and family will be on Katie Couric this week (thur..I believe). This is my take on the whole thing. I know he’s real and genuine and I guess you can use the word naive. I don’t like to use that word , because I don’t believe you’re naive just because you believe. Yes he should have been more careful , but why would he think of that ? He believed with his whole heart.Shock and confusion is still what he’s feeling , probably always will. He probably feels worst about how it affected ND and fans world-wide than he himself. This is all big stuff for a young man. I BELIEVE in Manti and I believe Manti. I don’t need any proof of anything. He will suffer the rest of his life for this. I’m sure people would say I’m naive and maybe I am , I don’t care. This naive 54 year old believes Manti Te’o was a victim and handled an impossible shocking situation the very best he could.I just wish people would understand him and let him move on. Manti Te’o owes me or anybody else nothing. Thats my feelings……..Thanks again for the reply !

    • ADND

      I feel badly for Manti and believe he is grieving, feels foolish and all the rest. However, he and his parents on 1/6 told Jack and Kelly he was signing with an agent on 1/8. The University advised he tell his agents and reveal the hoax. He did not. Ten days later the story breaks and the only voice heard is Swarbrick. The University takes a beating when Te’o was the victim, the University investigated to the point of evidence that the story was a hoax and Manti caved. I feel for the kid. He is naive. He has been great for the University but at the critical moment he did not step up and come clean. Whether the decision was made by is agent, his parents or him is irrelevant. He put the school in the middle of his story. That’s isn’t right and based on everything this young man has done and demonstrated it is at the least a dissapointment and at the worse a character flaw.

  • brentsn

    This is the first I’ve heard about the agent. I don’t believe for a minute theres any flaw in character with Manti. He’s shocked and confused , I think it will take some time for him to really sift through all he’s been through. Honestly , i don’t believe theres any kind of problem with his character , and he’s no kind of disappointment, to me anyway. Its been a whirlwind , I think he’s handled it the very best to his ability , which I don’t think is bad either. Thats just me.

  • alli

    What Manti needs is a big sister, which is why I hope the Saints draft him. Then I can cook meals for him while he sits at my kitchen table and asks me for advice.

    But seriously, having made some atrociously poor decisions during my time at ND, I have but an inkling of the pain and utter humiliation he’s going through. And keeping the public narrative simple while it purportedly got a lot more complex is a rational response. I’m pretty sure some of that was also based on a desire to keep his head down and not distract the team. Let’s just all be glad we didn’t have the national media in our business when making poor decisions in college. Like, punching a wall in your apartment, perhaps?

    • Bayou Irish

      Alli: thanks for reading and for posting. I too think the Saints need Manti – and he would benefit from the umbrella provided by Sean, Drew and Vilma. If you’re accusing me of not understanding from where Manti came vis a vis his silence, I think you misunderstood me. I get it. I get it completely. But that doesn’t make it right. If you read Tex’s timeline last night and his findings, it’s clear that Manti lied — in the same way ANY REGULAR KID WOULD DO.

  • Pat

    “We failed Manti. We all failed ND. And we all failed ourselves.”

    Sorry, but this is preposterous. As fans, we are not complicit in this; we had no duty to check out our football players’ relationships – for them or for the university. As for me, call me callous, but I never really gave a damn about the whole girlfriend angle. Manti Te’o was a hell of a football player. He also seemed to have a humble heart. And he helped us win a lot of football games. That’s about as far as our “relationship” went. I’m not apologizing for not doing a duty that was never mine, or for not doing the media’s due diligence.

    Otherwise, good article.

    • Bayou Irish

      Pat: thanks for reading and for commenting. And for not pointing out my gramaticaly clanger at the end “none of us didn’t do anything… .” I’m not backing down from my stance that “we all failed,” but neither you nor I nor a student who heard a whisper owed a real duty. Of all the ridiculous aspects to the story, the girlfriend’s irrelevance is one of the most glaring. And to me, that irrelevance lends credence to Manti’s victimhood. She wasn’t born and then she lived and then she died all on the same day — she was a fabrication in years at that point. But I think it was her elevation in the story, by the media and the school, even if for innocent reasons, that makes me think in terms of a failure. I want that “big sister” loyal reader alli fantasized for Manti and all players. In today’s world, it’s simply to easy to scam them.

    • canuck75

      Sorry Bayou, but you are wrong this time. The national media is admitting that they take these type of feel good stories at face value, so why shouldn’t we? And you started off with a good point-many guys have make believe girl friends at ND because it justifies their striking out with the real girls on campus! Manti did have a real girlfriend (to him)It doesn’t get much better than having a phone call every day from a gf. ( But I acknowledge the lack of Skype should have been the sign he needed.) I think Manti was the perfect candidate for this,given his spirituality and apparent modesty.
      Maybe I am in the minority, but I think we (ND) come out of this looking pretty solid. It was a terrible hoax but the school and most of the family backed Manti when it looked questionable. Now we look like the institution that stands up for what we believe.
      But like most, I’m tired of it. Lets play some football.

  • george kaplan

    BAyou Irish, I submit that you’re right that Teo got caught up in the whole story. He has a bit iof the actor in him and this is a flaw. But I believe he was honestly, not dihonestly caught up. Was he a fool or a liar? Definitely the former, a little of the latter, but in a benign, relatively forgiveable ,venial way. Otherwise I have no problem with how the principles handled it. A couple of weeks to evaluate ramifications in this complex age makes perfect sense, esp for ND. BTW, telling the truth and embellishing just to tell people what a glorious hottie you’ve got may be to your benefit and our entertainment, but I predict some day she’ll find a way to ding you for it. Still, an adroit parallel for which I give you full credit.

  • george kaplan

    BTW: turning Manti into Fredo is way wrong. Turning yourself into Michael, Hmmmm……..

    • Bayou Irish

      George: thanks for reading and for the comments. I am surprised at the reaction to the Fredo clip. I picked it purely because of the Miami reference, the heartbreak and disappointment. Clearly, Manti Te’o is no Fredo. I am also no Michael, but that’s another story.

  • george kaplan

    Uhuh. I like your writing, though.

  • Irish Grad ’62

    Hardly anyone can believe that someone would pull a scam this low, so why would Manti? Maybe if he knew from the beginning he would have kept better records of dates, times, and names, but he didn’t know. As for lying to his father, who hasn’t lied to their parents when it seemed harmless at the time?

  • GB

    I am wondering where Lannay put the game ball. Actually, I have wondered about that from the beginning. Bayou Irish, you have again piqued my curiosity. I don’t know if you or your wife exist. We need to see your pictures.

    Actually, this is a fair piece. Right now it seems as though most of the blame belongs to Manti even though most people think he was scammed. I want to hear from Ronaiah. He’s the real culprit and he has all the details. This will never go away until he tells everything. Manti’s got tweets from Ronaiah confessing and he said he is not going to tell anything to the media or anyone until Manti gives him the word. If Manti does anything right, he has to tell Ronaiah to fess up publicly. The tweets are on ESPN’s webpage.

    We need the pics, Bayou.

  • Terry

    There was never a legend of Manti Te’o, there is no legacy of Manti Te’o, there is no Manti Te’o saga. There was the sordid affair of a gullible kid who was cruelly hoaxed for a number of years and when he realized it didn’t have the guts to confess it immediately (would you?), but it came out eventually, as was inevitable. Since Notre Dame was involved there was an extra added element to it, and now, with Te’o agreeing to an interview with Katie Couric, this whole sordid affair has made the last possible leap down – to farce.

  • Terry

    How long will this last? As long as we let it last. Ignore it and eventually it will go away. But Notre Dame was SNOOKERED, let’s not forget that, and let’s not try to deny it.

    A large dollop of humility should help the healing process begin.

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