This week in sports has been about as bizarre as it gets. First, the Baseball Writers of America announced that there will be no one enshrined in Baseball’s Hall of Fame this summer. Though the candidates listed included Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, no one player received the mandatory 75% of the vote for induction. (I’ll get on my soap box later on this topic.)
The most bizarre story however, came on Wednesday when news from South Bend, Indiana was released regarding Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o. I’m sure everyone is up to speed by now about Te’o and his recently deceased on-line girlfriend. You remember, the young lady who passed away this past fall, the same day as Te’o’s grandmother. Keaku was her name I believe, and she reportedly died following a battle with leukemia. This week it was announced that Keaku never existed. Te’o was either pranked for six months while he built an on-line relationship, or he was responsible for the outlandish idea himself. Either way, it was a terrible idea and I feel very sorry for Manti Te’o.
Notre Dame held a news conference on Thursday, standing by their all-American linebacker, who has since refused to comment. The story, which was leaked by the website Deadspin.com, claims that a California man named, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was responsible for the hoax. No one has been able to reach Tuiasosopo as yet for a comment; in fact none of the people named by Deadspin.com have been reached. (Kinda makes you wonder if they even exist.)
Notre Dame officials have been criticized for not going to law enforcement earlier, but who would they go to? This is not a victimless crime at all however. There is fraud and deception if nothing else, but who is responsible for committing the crime? That is something that may be very hard to determine. In the meantime, the gossip columns and shows like, “Inside Edition” and “Assignment Hollywood” will have a field day for months.
At stake in all this is Manti Te’o and his career as a football player. He is very talented, but he looked nothing like an early NFL draft choice in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama. Maybe he was feeling the heat from the mess he was involved in as either a very naïve victim or a scheming ego-maniac, attempting to use nationwide sympathy as a boost for his Heisman Trophy chances. In either scenario, he needs help; a lot of help in fact.
It is hard for me to believe that Manti Te’o was that naïve. To be fooled by an entire group of people for several months about a girl he had never met or even seen is almost unbelievable. To fall in love with her and build a relationship like the one he described is even more unbelievable. This is a seemingly, very intelligent individual; a student at a major institute of higher learning who is claiming to be duped by several people thousands of miles away.
A few highly intelligent, well-educated people I know have given me a couple of theories about this entire situation. All their theories point to the same conclusion; there are fewer people involved than first reported, and Manti Te’o may be dealing with a deep, dark, problem in his life. When this story mercifully comes to an end, and all the details are made known, I may write another column about those theories and if those people were correct. Until then, I will watch, listen, see what happens and still feel very sorry for Manti Te’o.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).