For love, Manti Te’o formed a long-term, long-distance relationship with a woman he’d never met and would never meet. The former University of Notre Dame football phenom and NFL linebacker claimed this woman as his girlfriend. He believed she suffered life-threatening injuries in a car crash that left her confined to a hospital bed. He whispered through a phone to her shallow breathing every night for a month, until he believed his efforts returned her mind and body to a responsive state.
Te’o believed that while in the hospital, his girlfriend was diagnosed with leukemia and later succumbed to her battle with cancer. He dedicated a stellar senior football season with the Fighting Irish to his late girlfriend and grandmother, both thought to be lost within a 24-hour span. Then, he believed his girlfriend might be alive again and only faked death to escape a dangerous situation. It wasn’t until someone mentioned the term “catfish” that he considered the possibility of it happening to him.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.*
It doesn’t seem that it was lies and unlikely events that Te’o held on to, but love. In the recent Netflix documentary, Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, he expresses how invigorating it was to connect with someone who seemed so perfect for him. For a love hard to find even on the other side of unforgiving quest, he bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things.
As humans go, Te’o represents the best of us. He’s kind, generous, integrous, and admittedly thrives off helping others. This could also serve as a factor in his falling for such an elaborate hoax. Those who represent the best of us tend to see and even manufacture the best in others.
We too believed this improbable story, for love. Reputable media conglomerates published supporting pieces void of fact-checking. Because the story of overcoming was too good, too powerful not to embrace. We wanted to believe in a love that when interrupted by tragedy could propel an athlete forward. For a young man to lose two people so close to him and go on such a tear in their honor was storytelling gold.