The Canessa Commentary
By KEVIN CANESSA Jr.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. --
And yet, after an interview with Katie Couric — after hearing him refer to himself as a “kid,” after hearing the story in its entirety (or was it the entire story?) — I cannot help but feel we’re still not hearing the truth. Because I can’t help but think the people who advised him — or supposedly advised him — really did a poor job.
A horrendous job.
To the point where it seems nearly impossible to believe anything he’s said, despite having the reputation of being a wonderful young man, a God-fearing man, who clearly loves his parents, his teammates and the game of football.
To be very clear here — I do not watch college football consistently. In fact, I only watched a few games all year. Ironically, they happened to all be Notre Dame games. I only watched the games because someone else in my household is as huge a Notre Dame fan there is.
I remember some months back when my roommate, at the time, said you’ve got to watch this. It was the piece where his story — of losing his grandma and girlfriend on the same day — aired. It was a remarkable story, one I thought couldn’t even be written for Hollywood. It was too surreal for the big screen even.
Then I recall, during those games I watched, hearing the name Manti Te’o.
“That’s the kid who lost his grandma and girlfriend the same day, right?” I asked.
Still, I really knew nothing of his ability as a football player — not until a few weeks later when Zach Gelb told me he was covering the Heisman Award Ceremony — and that he’d sat down with Te’o for a one-on-one interview.
Fast forward, quickly, to a few weeks ago. The story breaks that it’s all a hoax.
His girlfriend wasn’t real.
We’d later learn whomever she was purported to be was actually someone else — a man.
And yet, on “Katie,” we heard voicemails she allegedly left for Te’o. We heard how distinctly, the voice was that of a woman — not a man. And we learned that, if anything else, as smart as he is on the football field, Manti Te’o is not a very bright man otherwise. And it’s very difficult to say that.
Many questions remain unanswered — even after the interview.
Despite hearing the woman’s voice — and knowing it — I still cannot help but wonder: Why, over all this time, did Te’o believe her when every single solitary time the two used Facetime, she could see him, but he could never see her? After the third or fourth time, didn’t it start to jive there was an issue here?
When he was of the belief, after he thought she was dead, that she was actually STILL ALIVE, how, in good conscience, could he go on television and numerous radio programs and still refer to losing his girlfriend to cancer THE SAME DAY his grandma died?
When he learned she was still alive, didn’t it ever cross his mind he had to speak up?
Here’s what I saw on “Katie.”
I saw an immensely immature man. I saw a Notre Dame football player who said he was “just a kid,” as if a man’s conscience isn’t formed yet at 21 (tell that to an assignment judge).
I saw a man whose very words begged more questions than they provided answers. I saw a man who, despite every technological advance in the world, never apparently thought that he could conduct a video call with his girlfriend, even though she could always see him on the other end.
I saw a man who had an opportunity to “see” Lennay in San Diego on his way to Hawaii, when he was told she’d been in a car accident, hit by a drunken-driver. He smiled when Katie asked him why he didn’t take a two-hour car drive to see her in hospital, and said it was because he didn’t want to tell his parents he “missed the flight” to see her. “I didn’t want to test that,” he said.
I saw a man who had answers — absolutely inane answers — to questions that could have vindicated his story.
I saw a man who says his girlfriend came out of her coma while he was on the telephone with her — all while not a single doctor tried to end the call to tend to her, to see how she was doing, having spent days in that coma.
I saw a man who believed that shortly after his girlfriend came out of a coma whilst on the phone with him was soon, thereafter, diagnosed with Leukemia (are cancer tests even administered to comatose patients)?
I saw a man who said he’d known of this “woman” when he was a freshman.
And then in his senior year — when he got to know her better —became her boyfriend.
I saw a man who is as frighteningly immature as anyone I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen all aspects of the maturity scale as a teacher.
I saw a young man who, at 21, appears to fear the shit out of his father — and to a lesser degree, his mother.
I saw a man who, despite actually thinking something was amuck, did nothing to fix the craziness.
We may never know the real truth of this story. Perhaps he’s telling the truth. Maybe he was just petrified of the truth. Maybe he was looking to increase his visibility. Maybe those voicemails were fake. Maybe they were real.
Regardless, whoever it was behind this mess did an absolutely horrific job of making this all a reality. It was absolutely too much for a Hollywood script — and now, looking back, it was absolutely too much for reality.
And we, the people of America — and the world — completely fell for it.
So maybe we’re the real suckers here.
And all the while, Manti Te’o will continue to smile — all the way to the bank.