Many college sports fans by now have heard about the mystery surrounding the fake girlfriend of Notre Dame’s star linebacker Manti Te’o. After reading several articles and conflicting statements from numerous sources and alleged eyewitnesses, I discovered that I truly do not care what actually happened, or if Te’o’s “girlfriend” even existed. However, I find the “news” coverage of this soap opera from media outlets like ESPN ridiculous, absurd, and hypocritical. In fact, it would have been better if this whole circus had never been brought up in the first place. This scandal reveals that just as the NCAA exploits student athletes’ abilities for money, media groups like ESPN exploit the fame or shame in what can be gleaned from the personal lives of these college athletes for ratings and profit.
Along with being known for his skill on the gridiron, star player for the University of Notre Dame, Manti Te’o was known for his perseverance during personal tragedy. According to news sources, Te’o’s grandmother and girlfriend died on the same day. For the remainder of the season the NCAA, the Notre Dame athletic department, ESPN, and other sports news outlets used the amazing tale to create an inspirational narrative surrounding the former Heisman hopeful. Thus, Manti Te’o became an inspiring young hero on the quest for a national championship, his name becoming commonplace on radio, television and the internet
In the process, ESPN, a major partner with the NCAA, used Te’o among many other players to promote the National BCS Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama in an attempt to boost ratings because the more people who watch, the more revenue that comes in for the media. But as others began to further explore Te’o’s personal life, it was discovered that this “girlfriend” may have never existed. Whether he intended to or not, it was then that Manti Te’o committed a mortal sin; he made the media look like fools. And another thing, there is not much of a better story than ascension to greatness after personal tragedy…except for the fall from grace. As easily as the media can lift an athlete into celebrity and fame, they can tear them down when they fall (Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong). Many different versions of the “truth” came out. Some of them accused Te’o of lying in order to increase his own fame and for personal gain, even though all of these other groups were using this tall tale for just that reason.
The media began to lay on the pressure on Te’o to come clean with the truth. Te’o has already given his side of story, that he was the victim of a cruel prank. The interview he gave was off the mic with no television cameras and apparently, that wasn’t good enough for the rabid media. They forced Te’o to come clean in front of the camera because they felt the public deserved it. During Te’o interview with Katie Couric, she grilled Te’o about being “the most naive person on the planet” and Couric asked Te’o, “Are you gay?” I don’t know about other fans but I don’t feel entitled to know every detail of another person’s humiliation, something that has nothing to do with their performance on the field. What these media outlets want to do is to again exploit Te’o’s humiliation and his personal life solely for the sake of revenue that comes from higher television ratings. It isn’t actually about the truth; it’s about how many people are going to tune in to watch it.