Today’s excavation of the archives revisits one of the great pseudo-scandals of our time — or at least one of the most delicious tragicomedies.

We’ll venture back to just after the 2012 college football season, which ended with Alabama destroying Notre Dame in the national championship game, although it soon took a backseat to the plight of Irish star linebacker Manti Te’o, who thought he’d played most of the season in honor of his dearly departed girlfriend.

It turned out fairly harmless in that he’d been “catfished,” an internet term meaning “duped” or “hoodwinked,” and the girlfriend never actually existed outside the world wide web.

Anyway, this was my take on the fiasco in mid-January of 2013.


OK, Notre Dame, time to fess up.

The Gipper wasn’t a real person either, now was he?

Come on, open up, this can be cleansing.

Wake up the Echoes (if they ever really existed). Nay, wake up the confessions. Rattle the skeletons.

Were there really Four Horsemen? If so, what breed?

And how can a sky be blue and gray at the same time anyhow? Never did figure that one out, but it was all part of the Notre Dame Legend-Myth.

The whole Knute Rockne plane crash deal? Made that up, too, huh?

What, needed a sympathy card to play?

The Golden Dome is really synthetic copper plating or somesuch.

Who can forget that Joe Theisman’s family always pronounced their sir name THEES-man before the Fighting Irish script writers went to work on it.

And most of us for sure always thought the whole, bogus Rudy flimflam — yeah, right —was way too syrupy good to ever be true.

Now comes Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o and his imaginary girlfriend — now pseudo-deceased — quite possibly the funniest football scandal to ever come down the pipe.

If Reggie Bush can suddenly NOT win the Heisman Trophy five years after he won it, I’m cool with Te’o having an make-believe girlfriend.

A four-hanky, tearjerker tragic love story to which your girlfriend would drag you kicking and screaming has suddenly turned into a delightfully quirky romantic comedy suitable for couples of all ages.

And nobody had to die. Nobody real, at least.

Yes, finally, it’s the rare leukemia story you’ll giggle through from start to finish.

RIP, Lennay Kekua, we hardly knew you.

The only sad thing is that Notre Dame is having to play this story straight, with somber faces and real press conferences and carefully worded, lawyered-up releases.

Hey — again — nobody died, even when we thought somebody did.

Isn’t this a good thing? A life has been spared. Lennay lives on (not just in spirit, but forever in our, uh, imagination). Or can a life be spared if it never existed?

We’ll need a ruling on that one, perhaps, but for now let’s just rejoice. Thursday “Lennay” was healthy enough to be tweeting again.

Surely there’s more to come in this saga. Te’o has yet to speak publicly since his tearful recollection on Lennay’s “death,” such that it was, or how he courted her for three years without actually seeing her.

Notre Dame is portraying Te’o as the victim of a love story three years in the fabricating.

If Te’o really was duped, then there are Nigerian deputy finance ministers all over the world who can’t wait for him to ink his first NFL signing bonus (in disappearing ink, no doubt) so they can fire off get-rich-quick emails to him.

It’s apparently a harmless scandal, juicy as it is.

What is Notre Dame afraid of?

Unless this imaginary girl friend gave him some made-up extra benefits, the Irish should be clean with the NCAA.

Michigan State is the one that ought to be crying foul after being duped.

Te’o used the “death” of the “love of his life” as inspiration to pillage and plunder the Spartans in her fuzzy memory.

But maybe this explains why Te’o was credited with 10 (apparently imaginary) tackles in the BCS championship game against Alabama when nobody remembers actually witnessing a single one.

Notre Dame beat Pitt and got to the BCS title game on a phantom pass interference call, why shouldn’t they get there and be playing for the memory of a lovely, sincere, inspirational, courageous-in-the-faceof-cancer girl who never existed (or died).

Pay no attention to the touchdown we all could have sworn we saw Stanford score against the Irish. It never happened, just another cruel hoax, probably internet-related.

So, given that, why couldn’t Te’o be playing for the memory of a phantom girlfriend?

Milking the gag too far? Possibly.

I just wish he’d explain his real name’s gratuitous apostrophe.

But here’s where Te’o has some real explaining to do with the Irish.

Are Notre Dame women that ordinary that it’s preferable to have an imaginary girlfriend in California than a real one in South Bend?

Not to rub it in on a football world already suffering from SEC burnout, but maybe Missouri receiver T.J. Moe was right back in August when he talked about the differences in the SEC, particularly the “prettier girls” part of his evaluation.

Not only that, but Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend was 100-percent real — had to be, she was on TV — not a figment of Brent Musburger’s imagination.

Nice try, Manti.

Some people hire “escorts” to take home to the high school reunion.

Te’o, we presume, did sort of the same thing as inspiration to hold off Southern Cal with a goal-line stand.

Even the media bought it, hook, line and sinker.

If the fact-checking involved wasn’t one of the sports media’s shining moments, hang in there. Surely, Oprah is on the case as we speak.

For now, college football’s offseason news is dominated by star players’ girlfriends, real and imagined alike.

This does, of course, serve the common good by keeping recruiting on the back burner where it belongs.

Meanwhile, I don’t know what to believe anymore.

But it does make you wonder, deep down, if we really landed on the moon.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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