Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Tao of Te'o

I’m really disturbed about the whole Manti Te’o story.  You've heard about that, right?  The Notre Dame linebacker that was a victim of a hoax, wherein some dudes struck up an online friendship with him, using the persona of a hot Polynesian babe, and got him to fall in love with her?  And then on the day his grandmother died, the pranksters told Te’o that the girl died of leukemia.

It’s not so much the hoax that bothers me, which was bad enough, but all the people that immediately came crawling out of the shadows to make it worse, by asserting that Te’o was in on it the whole time, as part of a publicity stunt to draw sympathy and votes for the Heisman Trophy.  They denied anyone could ever become so attached to someone they never met in person.

Right off the bat, I was inclined to believe Te’o, because I could totally see something like that happening.  I know for a fact that you can develop serious feelings for someone you’ve never met, because it’s happened to me.  Of course, my things happened some time ago in chat rooms, before Skype, FaceTime or video chatting was common.  I guess I was lucky enough not to get mixed up with a sociopath.

And with Te’o, you have to remember that for all the notoriety that comes with being a big-time collegiate athlete, he’s still just another broke-ass college student.  These guys can’t accept a sandwich, let alone plane fare from Indiana to California, lest he run afoul of the NCAA.  His actions could cause repercussions throughout his school’s football program, so his hands were tied as far as meeting the girl.

Once he found out the nature of his “relationship,” he told school officials, but they sat on the information until after the BCS Championship game.  I understand this as well.  The media frenzy around these kids was bad enough without throwing this hunk of red meat to the circling sharks.  Yeah, he probably shouldn't have mentioned his “girlfriend’s” death again in the media scrum, but I think he was towing the company line to keep the ruse intact.  I don’t think that should label the kid as complicit in the scam.

Others wonder why he couldn't find a suitable squeeze on campus.  The point is valid, but consider that this was a dude from Hawaii, for which Indiana will never EVER be mistaken.  Maybe he just wanted a good lei.

Director’s DVD Commentary: OK, I apologize for that, but how can I possibly pass up such a juicy lei joke?

It’s sad to me that the whole affair had to become national news.  The dude’s got to be mortified by all the attention being paid to his “love” life.  Isn't there something more pressing we could be worrying about?

I’ve got enough material from my own late-90s chat-room escapades to fill a half-dozen posts or more, and I may spill them at some point.  But the thing is; you certainly CAN become attached to someone online. 

I used to visit a particular chat room, along with quite a number of other “regulars.”  We lived all over the globe, but would come together here each night to yap about whatever was going on.  It was just like a real neighborhood.  Friendships were made and broken. Some people acted like assholes.  Some people got picked on and others would flock to their defense.  There was a great camaraderie among us.

I remember one time some newcomer to the room trolling for cyber-sex and acting like a dick.  One of the girls in the room told him he could find all the sexy-talk he wanted by pressing [Alt/F4.]  She took a well-calculated gamble that the guy wouldn't know that [Alt/F4] closes the application.  We LOLed our asses off when his avatar promptly disappeared.

I usually just laid back and tried to make people laugh.  Sometimes I’d rate my night’s work by tallying up how many “LOLs” I got.  (No, I didn't make a spreadsheet.)

There were some people there that were very kind to the newbie that I was, and helped me out a great deal by making avatars for me and sending me various useful programs.   One person actually transmitted the full version Paintshop Pro 7 to me when I asked how I could make avatars too.
Someone made this for me and it became one of my favorite avatars to use.

Aside from the comments in the room, you could also Instant Message (IM) people for private conversations.  I had a number of people I would regularly IM with, and a couple of them turned into, well, I’m not quite sure what to call them.  “Very close relationships,” I suppose. 

I may have had more money than a broke-ass college student, but not by much.  Airplane tickets or hotel reservations were things for which I needed to save up.  And I sure didn’t have the dough to hang on the phone, cooing sweet nothings to some girl in another country.  So we made do on the computer. 

You can get very close and learn a lot about each other just by writing to each other.  I loved to use ICQ, (remember that?) which provided a split screen and real-time responses.  It was cool because you could see the person’s typing appear as it was happening, so could you evaluate their thought process and typing skill at the same time. 

Sitting in a candlelit room and sipping wine in front of your computer screen, you could delve into your deepest self.  Sure some people may have used the distance to create vastly different versions of themselves, but I went the other way and engaged in brutal honesty.

I always looked for any story changes or inconsistencies, but I think my being honest brought out the truth from my chat-mates.  I know on my part, whenever we’d swap pictures, I’d include multiple shots of me from different times, with different people.  I figured that would let her know that I didn’t just pull some random shot off the Internet.  (And how much of a zero would I have to be to pull this mug off the internet to use in place of my actual picture?)

I eventually met a couple of ladies in real life and engaged in some serious monkey business, (no, not both at the same time... I totally would have told you about THAT already), but it took quite some time to get to that point. 

But suffice to say, if something tragic had happened to one of them before we’d met face to face, I’d have been devastated, just like Te’o was.  The people may have lived very far away, but to me, they were right in front of me every night.  So like I said at the outset, I believe the kid.  It could happen.

I bet it won’t happen to him twice…

27 comments:

  1. You know I don't give a crap about football unless there's a ticker tape parade in it for me, but when my friend told me there was an Internet-love-related football scandal going on, I was PUMPED. Poor guy, if even I know what's going on with him . . .

    I can't wait to read the stories about your Internet girlfriends. My BFF and I spent all of our Friday nights in high school in chat rooms, because it was either that or drugs where we lived, so this is right up my alley.

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    1. If nothing else, it really developed my typing skills.

      When I first discovered the chat rooms, I was addicted. All I'd think about, all day at work, was when I could race home and dive in to the online chatting world. Eventually, I kept myself to Friday nights, when I'd either go to the chat room, or IM with one particular person. It was a real rollercoaster ride, while it lasted.

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  2. I followed the story closely. I agree he was not in on the hoax and I was very sympathetic initially. Some of the things he said later, however, on dates after he was told that the girlfriend was a hoax, appeared to perpetuate the misunderstanding in a way to garner sympathy (and perhaps Heisman's votes). For example, he referred to his deceased girlfriend two days after being informed she was not dead. This was during the height of the Heisman balloting. I also became suspicious because he said he would tell all at a press conference that never came to pass and instead decided to use his media agent to create very controlled circumstances where he would be interviewed. It was certainly to Lance Armstrong's favor that the story broke at the same time as his Oprah interview and hype leading up to it. But as for the premise of how this could happen, I see that being quite credible.

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    1. Yeah, I said that it was too bad he was still mentioning the issue after he learned it was a hoax. I still think the ND officials probably told him to keep the situation on the DL until after the Championship game. Perhaps they should have told him to keep his big yap shut on the matter.

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    2. Yes, you're probably right. Our home has NO ND fans. Something that Ohio State and Michigan fans can agree on.

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    3. I don't really have a strong opinion on ND either way. I get tired of them being on NBC every week though.

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  3. I remember the first time I exchanged emails with a stranger, senior year at Penn State, 1993. It was cool (but chaste). Never did the chat room thing, but sounds interesting.

    Hey, did you hear about the ND recruit who said he visited ND but didn't? Yahoo ran it. ND is full of all kinds of stories. :-)

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    1. My prime chatting years were from 1999 and 2004, until the chatting platform we used was discontinued.

      I never heard any other stories pertaining to ND, but I don't doubt it. I think college football is as crooked as the day is long.

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  4. Some of my best friends are friends I made on Myspace.

    I'M SO ASHAMED!

    Okay, not really. But yeah, like you, I wasn't really that fazed by the fact that he had never met her.

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    1. See? Anyone that’s “been there” has a much less skeptical opinion. Thanks for the backup, Mandy.

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  5. I definitely believe him. Especially if those guys main goal was to get him to fall for her. I'm sure they really came on strong and made him think there was something there. I think his feelings were real and he didn't know.

    I think of it a little like blogging. While it's not chatting, per se, you are developing relationships with people online through snippets of conversations. Some people I have met from blogging have become some of my closest real life friends. Some of them I have only seen in real life or even spoken to on the phone ONCE. It is entirely reasonable to "fall" for someone just from chatting online.

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    1. I hadn’t really considered the blogging aspect, but you’re exactly right. What we do is like a longer, more drawn out form of “chatting.”

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  6. All I can say is that if you were the middle linebacker of Notre Dame University, and a probable first-round draft pick in the NFL, I don't think you would have been wasting your time in chat rooms when there would have been scores of beautiful South Bend coeds eager to hang all over you.

    Even his teammates are opening up that Te'o was a publicity hound who would work any angle if it meant a headline or screen time. Maybe he wasn't in on it from the beginning, but he milked it like a dairy cow. And school officials are already going back to press conference transcripts and scrubbing all of Te'o's mentions of the girl.

    If he's really that gullible, he will fall for every ball fake that the NFL throws at him!

    But on the up side, he'll be stellar in Fantasy Football. Boom!

    Notre Dame is proving to be a scum-sucking place. They've already covered up the sexual assault of a real girl by protecting football players until the girl committed suicide. It's just a shame that Te'o's story gets more coverage than that of the real dead girl.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/notre-dame-lizzy-seeberg-suicide_n_2499256.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

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    1. It could very well be that he's actually a playa... hell, I don't know the kid. I'm just saying it's not unreasonable to believe that he could have a relationship with someone he hasn't met (yet.) And I'm sure "she" was leading him on like a pro.

      That's disturbing about the girl. Covering up evidence and denying everything? Seems to be the Catholic Leadership playbook.

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  7. Plus.... his parents seem to have no trouble flying to every game from Hawaii. It doesn't seem like they are poverty stricken. I'm sure someone would have floated him the money to fly to Cali and see his dying girlfriend, especially with his future earning potential to some day pay them back.

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    1. I don't think they can do that without running afoul of the NCAA. If they could, there would be a whole plague of agents bankrolling the players life for 4 years. (OK, there probably is now anyway, but they keep it on the DL.)

      Didn't a situation like that with Reggie Bush strip him of his Heisman, and land USC on No-Bowl Probation? I believe someone loaned he mother a new car or something...

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    2. Agents and boosters can't give him money, but a friend or relative could.

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  8. I've made some of my best friendship relationships online, and I would be devastated if I found out they weren't real or thought they died.

    P.S. For some reason I can't comment on your posts using my iPad. I keep reading them, then it won't let me comment and I forget to go back and leave comments! Oh technology.

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    1. That's funny... I can comment on Blogger sites with my iPad... Like right here. Weird...

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  9. I've made a lot of friends online that I care about, and yeah, they could be fake, but that doesn't make the friendship any less genuine, particularly on my end. So I see how easy it could be to fall for someone you've never met, especially if you attach a pretty picture to it. She's got a great personality, she makes me laugh, AND she's hot? Who wouldn't fall for that?

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    1. Exactly! We also have a tendency to believe what we desperately want to believe. Plus we have to remember that this guy was always getting the best attempts from his “girlfriend” to make him love her. She was always “on” and told him whatever “she” thought he wanted to hear.

      Gah! I just remembered… when I was writing this piece, I meant to compare the Te’o situation to when Lily Von Schtup was trying to “seduce and abandon” Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles, and I totally forgot.

      You’ll just have to insert your own jokes here.
      (“It’s twoo, it’s twoo…”)

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  10. The biggest whole in his story is Skype. Most young-uns I talk to are perplexed as to why they never Skyped. This has not been answered. Maybe Katie Couric will ask him this question, if she knows what Skype is.

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    1. I heard that he wanted to Skype, but “she” always ducked it, saying that she didn’t have a camera or sufficient broadband, or something like that. He probably wanted to believe her.

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  11. I believe him too. So many people fall in love online now a days. Not to mention that I've made so many friends with other bloggers that I truly care about. I've never met these people, but I still count them as close friends.

    Hugs!

    Valerie

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    1. That's exactly my point. Personal experience can make one a believer.

      Like, there's this crazy chick out in Jersey and I'd be quite distraught if something happened to her...

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  12. I beg to differ. Hawaii, in fact, reminds me quite a bit of Indiana. Kentucky too, for that matter. You have to spend a lot of time and get involved in the local community...but it's a lot more Indiana than California or New York at the grass root level. Maybe it's just that I never got lei'd in either state...

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    1. I was only referring to the relative lack of people in Indiana that look like he does. Once you’re outside the cities, it could be Iowa

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