Finding Mudville: My imaginary girlfriend

  • Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Just when you think you have heard it all.
Just when you are about to give up on the overall ridiculousness of mankind, that the bar has already been set as high (or low in this case) as it could ever go.
Mankind rises (or falls) to the occasion and is redeemed.
One name: Notre Dame’s All-American linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o. And two words: Imaginary girlfriend.
What started out as an inspirational story about one young man’s rising above the emotional tragedy of overcoming both the death of his grandmother and the death of his girlfriend all in the same week has descended into an onslaught of warped jokes, hilarious photographs, and witty one-liners.
And yes, I’m jumping on the bandwagon.
To recap briefly, back in September Te’o learned his 72-year-old grandmother had died. Te’o said he was told just six hours later that his 22-year old girlfriend Lennay Kekua had lost her battle with leukemia.
The story catapulted Te’o into the national spotlight as Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish put together an historic 12-0 regular season to earn a shot at the BCS National Championship against Alabama.
What served as the cornerstone of inspiration in this run to the national championship game was a story worthy of placement on the grand pedestal of Fighting Irish lore, right up there with Rudy, Coach Rockne and “Win One for the Gipper” – Te’o’s tragic and heartbreaking story about doomed love.  
A girlfriend, who apparently, not only did not have the courtesy to not die, but never existed. The story was a hoax.
As originally reported on Deadspin.com, the real story emerged last week that Te’o’s girlfriend was someone he had met online, had never met in person, and in fact was not a real person. She was his imaginary girlfriend.
Before continuing, the part about Manti Te’o losing his grandmother this past fall was true. Deadspin confirmed his grandmother’s death on Sept. 11, 2012 at the age of 72 with Social Security Administration records. However, there is no such SSA record of the death of Lennay Kekua a week later or any other day for that matter.
What resulted in a national sports media feeding frenzy failed to produce a single obituary or funeral announcement anywhere regarding Kekua.
“We met online,” Te’o said as part of a statement.
Oh, boy.
As details unfolded, their story told was this tragic love affair having been an exclusively online relationship beginning in 2009. A love story worthy of Brooke Shields where the Irish linebacker grew to know and love a girl he met online and on the phone. 
Oh boy, times two.
Every insecure teenage male in America probably had a Lennay Kekua hidden somewhere in his closet, top shelf, way in the back, in the corner, behind the box containing his old Cub Scout uniform.
You can either believe Te’o perpetrated the hoax as part of some shameless attempt at self-promotion.
Yes, that’s bad.
Or believe Te’o was the witless victim of a cruel hoax and practical joke.
And that’s worse.
Only I would fall for a ruse like that, and I’m not saying I did or didn’t. 
For Te’o, much like the Heisman Trophy he did not win, this is a no-win situation.
There is no such person named Lennay Kekua. Just like there is no such person named Honey B. Sweet, who may or may not have been a non-authentic adolescent non-acquaintance of mine.
Let’s not forget, please, the real tragedy of this story: an imaginary girlfriend is dead.

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