TE’O’S TALE: Manti Te’o says he is completely a victim in his girlfriend hoax, but others have their doubts. Photo courtesy Joe Raymond/Associated Press

In some ways, this article is a tad late. In others, it’s much too early. And in others still, it’s right on time.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about the great hoax of 2013, the one surrounding Manti Te’o and his now-known-to-be-fake girlfriend Lennay Kekua. The story has been out in public for nearly half a week now, which is funny, because so many questions –all surrounding one big one — still remain.

Even three days after Deadspin’s original article sent shockwaves through the sports world, it’s hard to decide what to make of the situation. There are some facts and “almost-facts” — yes, this is true — but there are countless more rumors, accusations, and unconfirmed accounts of what happened.

Here’s what we do know: Lennay Kekua, the girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o that supposedly died of Leukemia just six hours after Te’o grandmother passed away, is not real and she never was.

NO WAY LENNAY: This woman, despite what Te’o once believed, is not Lennay Kekua. Kekua never existed. Photo courtesy Deadspin.com

And that’s it.

Sure, there are many things that are very, very likely to be true, but that is the one and only corroborated fact so far in this whole fiasco. Outside of that, everything pretty much is up for debate.

Some believe Te’o staged the whole thing. Te’o himself, in an ESPN interview late last night, denied any involvement whatsoever. The opposite side of that spectrum, which has just as many supporters, is that Te’o knew absolutely nothing until the Deadspin story came out.

Then there’s Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man many say created Lennay Kekua. A woman says she’s close to Tuiasosopo and that he confessed to staging the whole thing, but that has yet to be confirmed. Why? Because no one really knows where Tuiasosopo is. As far as we’re concerned, he could be about as real as Kekua herself.

And then there’s the messy, much disputed timeline of how it all went down. Several people believe Te’o found out on December 6th that Kekua was a hoax. Yet, in several instances after that date, Te’o acted publicly as if her and her lost battle to Leukemia were very much real.

So who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who’s both? If you ask me, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

For the past 72 hours, I’ve looked something like Michael Jackson in the movie theater during the ‘Thriller’ music video; I have been eating this story UP.

And like I said, there’s a lot of he-said-she-said, but if you look closely through the stories and articles, I believe there’s a narrative that exists that is extremely close to what actually took place. Since, it would take a book longer than 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to hash out all the possible storylines, we’ll cut right to my theory.

Manti Te’o had absolutely no part in ORIGINALLY creating this hoax. I’m not taking his stringent denial as gospel — god knows we’ve learned our lessons from Lance Armstrong — but I go back to this reported previous incident. Two family members of another Polynesian-American say that he too was duped by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Not only do they know Tuiasosopo to have been the culprit of the same kind of sick joke, they say that Tuiasosopo used the EXACT same name — Lennay Kekua — and even used the same photos for online profiles. That’s pretty compelling in its own right, but then a separate woman, who has absolutely no connection to that family, says that she is a friend of Tuiasosopo and that the man called her and gave her a full tear-filled confession to orchestrating the joke on Te’o.

Two people with no connection with legitimate testimony pointing to the same man? That’s convincing enough for me.

Then, on December 6th, I believe, as stated, Te’o received a phone call on a number connected to the woman he believed to be Lennay Kekua in which someone, possibly Tuiasosopo, confessed that Kekua was one big hoax.

MANT OR WON’T: Never one to shy away from the spotlight, Te’o has been uncharacteristically tight-lipped since Wednesday. Photo courtesy USA Today Sports

There are just too many pieces of evidence that corroborate this date on the timeline for it to not be true. I could list them all (again, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, people), but I’ll let you research that for yourself.

If you buy the December 6th admission, from there it becomes pretty clear what happened. Informed of the hoax, Te’o continued to talk about this late girlfriend of his as if she were real. What was his motivation here? Was it just emotional denial? Was it a struggle to not have the narrative change? Did he think this story would win him the Heisman? The simple answer is that there is no answer. Manti Te’o is the only person who knows why he did what he did and, unless he chooses to share it, we will never be privy to that information.

From there, the same reports that give the December 6th date also say that Te’o informed the school on December 26th, the day after Christmas, of the supposed hoax. Outside of wondering what was going on with Te’o for 20 days, the accuracy of that date is not really important. We know for a fact that at some point Notre Dame launched an independent investigation because we know that the school shared the results of said investigation with the Te’o family. So if it all started on December 26th, fine, so be it; that’s the day we’ll work with.

We know that the school shared the results of that investigation, like I said, on January 5th, two days before the BCS National Championship. If at no other time, this is the latest Te’o could’ve possibly been notified of the hoax. I believe the school came to the Te’o family on this day, and essentially confirmed to them what they suspected: pretty much everything that would come out days later in the Deadspin article. One, Lennay Kekua didn’t exist. Two, she never did. Three, he was the victim of a hoax. And four, they don’t really know who did it or what motives they had.

Not that this meeting between the school and the family is really up for debate, but you could see it quite plainly during the title game. To say Te’o played horribly is an understatement. It was probably the worst game of his college career. When you take into account that he was obviously battling some real personal demons, it all makes a lot of sense.

And there it is, that’s my educated guess as to what happened in this bizarre mystery. I mean, that’s what we really have here: a mystery. With names like Te’o, Kekua, and Tuiasosopo, it all sounds like a bad Hawaii 5-0 episode.

We know the “who’s” and “where’s”, and we have pretty good guesses as to the “what’s” and “when’s”. Now just one question remains. Frustratingly, it’s a question we may never know the answer to. It’s the question we probably first exclaimed when we read the initial headline or watched that first hour of Sportscenter. It’s the kind of question that doesn’t really matter, and, at the same time, is the ONLY question that matters.

It’s perhaps the best question we can ever ask about this whole debacle.


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