For full disclosure, I’m not a fan of the University of Notre Dame. In fact, some people would call me a “hater.” I’ve long believed that most of what makes Notre Dame special is, at best, a fabrication and, at worst, just outright fabrications. We’ve all heard about the Gipper and we’ve seen Rudy. And, for the most part, we’ve allowed these myths to stand because they don’t bother anyone. It doesn’t bother anyone, really, if a school wants to perpetuate all these falsehoods. That’s fine with me. The whole sordid tale of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o doesn’t have a resolution, yet, but with just a quick read of the story at Deadspin, it’s not hard to see where it’s going. It’s a losing situation for Manti and dear old Notre Dame.
As the saying goes, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. On ESPN’s SportsCenter, College Football writer Gene Wojciechowski summed up how a lie can grow to such proportions. To paraphrase, Wojciechowski said that he and some of his fellow sports writers wanted to believe the Manti narrative. Even faced with some contradictory evidence, they wanted to believe in the story so much, they looked the other way. Wojciechowski stated that he asked Manti if he could interview the GF’s family after her death and Manti declined. Wojciechowski asked if he could have pictures or talk to friends and Manti Te’o declined. While I can understand that a family would want to keep such things private, in retrospect, nothing about this situation added up and that’s why we’re here.
The problem with all this is the continued death of mainstream journalism. The big dogs on the block, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and the New York Times all missed it. As has become custom, a smaller investigative websites like Yahoo Sports and now Deadspin, seem to be the only outfits that can be bothered by following legitimate stories. Gene Wojciechowski point blank stated that he looked for Manti’s GF’s obituary and couldn’t locate it. And, I assume, if other reporters had done the same thing, they would have met with the same results. But, since it was undefeated Notre Dame and their best player was playing his way to a Heisman runner-up finish, no one wanted to stop for just a second and connect the dots that weren’t making a pretty picture.
Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel wrote the definitive piece on Manti Te’o in October titled “The Full Manti.” And now that piece has been moved from non-fiction to the fantasy section of your local library. Not to pick on Thamel, but most sportswriters love to act as if they’re above the fray. They want to preach about how unbiased they are and they go where the stories are, when nothing is further from the truth. How could Deadspin.com pick up on this story when all the evidence was out in the open and the big sportswriters and news organizations miss it? Perhaps Thamel was too busy going to Istanbul, Turkey to investigate UK’s Enes Kanter or to rural Alabama to investigate UK’s Eric Bledsoe. Because he surely wasn’t on to the University of North Carolina’s ongoing academic fraud scandal.
I admire Gene Wojciechowski’s openness and candor during his brief interview on ESPN. We have this situation because he and other sportswriters wanted to believe the myth that Manti Te’o and Notre Dame were feeding them and didn’t want to look any further for fear of ruining the fairy tale. Which is unfortunate, because this story isn’t going to have a happy ending.