An Unbelievable Girlfriend

Manti Teo

Photo: Deadspin

This year the college football national championship game was so lopsided that it seemed doomed to be remembered as the national ogling of a Quarterback’s girlfriend.

It’s the nature of the camera operator to capture interesting images, and when the lenses of the ABC network couldn’t find anything compelling on the football field they naturally turned to the seats in the stadium.

What they found was Katherine Webb, the reigning Miss Alabama and ladyfriend of Alabama’s AJ. McCarron.

When the broadcaster’s over-enamored annunciations wandered from appreciation into envy, the audience was finally given something they could talk about after the time had mercifully expired.

The week after the game was spent talking about a football player’s girlfriend.  Little did we know that another football player’s girlfriend would come to dominate our national attention in the weeks to come.

As a Mormon Polynesian attending a Midwestern Catholic college, Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Teo was already an anomaly.  It helped that he was a gifted and intelligent athlete.

At some point during the fall of 2012 he claims to have begun an online relationship with a woman named Lennay Kekua.  She was a young woman who Manti Teo began to call his girlfriend.  When the news arrived that Lennay had died during the same week as his grandmother it all seemed too terrible to be true.

Family and friends rallied around him and a player who had already received significant attention for his on-the-field play began receiving national coverage for his off-the-field tragedies.

That’s when reporters discovered that his girlfriend never really died…

…Because she had never actually lived.

Lennay Kekua was the online invention of a friend.

While Manti Teo claims to have been duped by the perpetrators of a cruel hoax, and the University of Notre Dame stands behind his story, the investigative reporters who broke the news suspect otherwise.

Teo and his family members have given interviews claiming to have met both Lennay and her family members.  While these may have been lies told to keep outsiders from giggling about the perceived immaturity of an online relationship, the fact that every person involved with the creation and perpetuation of the “cruel hoax” is a relative or acquaintance is deeply unsettling.

We’ll probably never know the truth about who knew what, when they knew it, and why they chose to do it, but the connection between the two girlfriends raises some interesting questions.

Why does “having a woman”, especially a beautiful woman, bring a man instant credibility?

What is it about humanity that will cause us to heap admiration and respect on someone for having a desirable partner?

Do we attach ourselves to people because of the credibility that they provide?

It is true that the perceived quality of our companions brings us elevated levels of respect.  You see this in everything from business to family.

A woman with an arrogant or ignorant husband receives sympathy in the same way that a man with a graceful and demure wife receives both respect and promotion.

Being able to entice and maintain relationships with attractive people is one of the ways we determine the character and abilities of the people we interact with, but this begs the assumption that the beautiful people that they surround themselves with are also wise and discerning.

A devilish man can certainly dupe a beautiful woman… especially if she isn’t experienced, or old enough, to be discerning.  In these situations we are in danger of also being manipulated by a posse of beautiful but “un-credible” character references.

When we find ourselves lacking in credibility we often reach for something, or someone, who will allow us to slide by on theirs.  When we don’t like the way our story is playing out, it’s easier to jump into someone else’s than make changes to our own.

It’s all makes for an important reminder that we ultimately have to make determinations about people based on their own merits, not on who glides into the room on their arm.

With the credibility of our national championship game in question, we immediately punted to a beautiful woman to deliver us from boredom.  After the game was over we spent the week talking about her and whether or not the coverage was excessive.

Maybe we’re all looking to borrow someone else’s credibility.

Our national championship game was a hot mess.  We didn’t change the channel; we just went looking for a better story than the one we had.

It became the story of two girlfriends who were too good to be true:

An unbelievable girlfriend,

And a girlfriend who was un-believable.

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