In the rules-free sport of fierce barroom brawls, “fish-hooking” is roundly viewed as illegal and now we have just learned, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a sadistic act called “catfishing” is even worse. When you are in the middle of a beer-soaked bar fight, you can hit an opponent in the head with a still-full longneck or even a heavy glass mug and that’s okay in the big scheme. You can even bite his ear off to the delight of the crowd.
But when you hook your first two fingers inside a foe’s mouth and then rip in a way that broadens a rogue’s smile by five inches, that’s “fish-hooking” and is considered so dastardly a deed a mere stranger can shoot you and be in the right. True story; any of those watching can shoot such a cheating coward graveyard dead and be granted the next round on the house. “Fish-hooking” is neither fair nor manly and is never tolerated, no matter the blood on the sawdust floor.
The same should hold true for “catfishing.” Tender and innocent teenage love is far too precious to allow such a gut-wrenching travesty and, now, after the cruel and crushing way one of the best college football players in America – Notre Dame’s All-America linebacker, Manti Te’o – was just duped, somebody ought to be shot.
Te’o, an American Samoan who is a portrait of gentle innocence, was allegedly tricked into believing his elusive Internet girlfriend had died of leukemia just before a banner year where he would finish second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy as the best player in all the land. The ruse was finally executed on the same day his grandmother really did die and, now that the hoax has come to light, he is horribly embarrassed, ashamed and heart-broken.
The details of the bizarre story, even if they were fully known because they never will be, are incomprehensible to our vanilla minds but to make a short study, the very gullible captain of the Fighting Irish fell prey to some unscrupulous Internet jokesters who posed as the lovely yet elusive Lennay Kekua. The two kids – one real and one definitely not -- fell into puppy love. At least Manti did because he couldn’t hear the silent chuckles or the gasps of disbelief that a college senior would be so totally taken in by such a mean and senseless hoax and its uncanny deception.
Manti was a dim-witted pawn who was being – in the newest phrase of life – “catfished.” It seems several years ago there was a documentary movie called “Catfish” where a similar story burst another kid’s bubble. Some girl posing to be something she was not took a deceiver’s delight in rubbing another foolish boy’s face in the worldwide web’s dirt and, in doing so, became something of a scourge now known in the social media as a “catfish.”
The best way to understand what being a “catfish” means is to follow the script from the documentary: “Let me tell you a story of the cod fish. At the turn of the century cod fish were in much demand on the East Coast. News of this tasty fish spread across the country all the way to the West Coast. There was however a problem,” goes the screenplay.
“How could they get the fish across the country and still keep it fresh? They tried to freeze the fish and send it by rail, the fastest means at the time,” the story goes. “When the shipped fish was prepared it turned out to be very mushy and lacked flavor. Then someone decided to ship the fish live turning railroad cars into huge saltwater aquariums. When the cod fish arrived they were still alive but when they were finally cooked they were still mushy and tasteless.
“After studying the cod fish someone discovered that their natural enemy was the catfish,” according to the story. “This time when the cod fish were put in the tanks they placed a few catfish in with them. Those catfish chased the cod fish all the way across the country to the west coast. This time when they were prepared they were flaky and had the same flavor as they did when they were caught fresh and prepared on the east coast. You see the catfish kept the cod from becoming stale. The ever-chasing catfish kept the cod fresh.”
Don’t you see? The catfish nips at the cod’s fins. In mortal life a “catfish” keeps the victim on his toes. And lest you think Manti is alone, check with any veteran of the Internet dating sites and you will learn “catfish” are also known as “FBF’s.” You see, the male mark sees this beautiful girl’s pictures on the website but when she finally shows up for the first real-life meeting, she turns out to really be a FBF – “fat best friend.”
To get “catfished” is humbling, have no doubt, but almost all of those who dare to dance with their dreams on the faceless Internet know three things from the very beginning – 1.) If it is too good to be true … it is too good to be true; 2. “Fair” is just a place you take your prized pig in the summer; and, 3.) in most cases you got in touch with her before she found you – learn from that.
Oh, Manti. That we could wrap our arms around you and weep, we would. But your lone recourse is to behold the catfish, not the cod. Stay on your toes. Be sharp. Keep your ears pointed and your nose keen. A football player knows he is going to fall but that he has to pick himself back up only one more time than he falls. Great players fall often but a champion knows that “just once more” will always outweigh average.
Most importantly, never be afraid to trust, not even for a day. The world has far more people in it who have trusted, and won a lifetime of joy, than doubters whose fear holds them from so many victories. One day – not now but sometime in the future – you’ll laugh about Lennay Kekua and your laughter will be pure, unlike the short-lived mirth of your deceivers.
Never forget this -- “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” You played a fickle game and lost. Yet who is to say you may not win the next time? All that matters is that you play again – smarter, wiser and all-knowing of the catfish that will always swim in our waters but whose only worth is to keep us on our toes and make us better. Play again, my friend, and often.