Just when you thought "Manti Te'o's Girlfriend Did Not Exist" is the weirdest headline that you would ever see in your sports watching lifetime, along comes the news that the voice behind "Lennay Kekua," Manti Te'o's phony girlfriend and the central character of an apparent hoax perpetrated on the former Notre Dame linebacker, is actually that of "catfish" mastermind Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
Yes, the sweet songbird that gently sent Te'o into REM sleep on hundreds of occasions, the verbal honey that occupied literally years of Te'o's collegiate life in dozens of six hour chunks, is that of a dude.
So what do we make of this?
Well, let's start with the revelation and explanation of Tuiasosopo's being the voice (along with the alleged brains) behind the scam. According to a report by the New York Daily News, Tuiasosopo's attorney Milton Grimes revealed just how deeply woven into this hoax his client is:
Milton Grimes said that Te'o "thought it was a female he was talking with. It was Ronaiah as Lennay."
Naturally, the follow up question to this stunner is "Ummmm...WHY DID TUIASOSOPO DO THAT?" Grimes explained:
"This wasn't a prank to make fun," Grimes said, according to the newspaper. "It was establishing a communication with someone. [...] It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship."
Ok, so now this whole ordeal wasn't just to clown Te'o or rope him in "for sport," as Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick indicated in his press conference last Wednesday, but instead Tuiasosopo just wanted to get to know Te'o? And he decided to do so in the creepiest, most underhanded way possible?
When asked by the Daily News
whether or not Tuiasosopo is gay about Tuiasosopo's motivation, Grimes said:
"I wouldn't describe his issues at this time," he said to the Daily News.
All righty then.
I'll admit, this story has gotten so weird, I can barely write about it nor process it seriously anymore. Ten days ago, we were talking about Manti Te'o as the most decorated college linebacker of all time. Now he's being brought up in debate segments on talk shows in questions like "Who is the safer draft choice? Manti Te'o or Tyrann Mathieu?" Just too strange.
So naturally, firmly ensconced in the "all you can do now is laugh" phase of this story, thinking it can't get any weirder, I set out to write a blog post on Thursday entitled "Five Women Whose Voices Arouse Manti Te'o." Of course, I was assuming that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo had at least hints of bass in his voice, and that once we heard the voice that spoke to Te'o on the phone we'd say "Damn, Manti. How'd you fall for that?"
And then, in the middle of my writing that post, Katie Couric released three voicemails that allegedly Tuiasosopo (channeling Kekua) left for Te'o:
Lennay on her first chemotherapy session
Lennay accusing Te'o of having a girl in his room
Lennay on 9/11/12, the day before she "died"
Listen to those messages. I mean, it sounds exactly like a woman. That's pretty incredible. If that's Tuiasosopo, then he's got a future as a voice actor. That is, as soon as he gets out of the mental asylum.
At this point, I've given up. I'm now treating this story like a season of 24. Remember how you'd feel like the season should be ending at a certain juncture, like we had all the answers, but then out of nowhere there'd be a twist that would send us into another eight hours of that season's shitty day for Jack Bauer?
Well, I'm at that phase now with Te'o, and if this were a season of 24, there's no doubt that Brian Kelly would be revealed to be some sort of "higher power" behind this whole thing.
At this point, after Thursday's revelations, I'm not ruling anything out.
(UPDATED: And right on cue, early this morning comes a story from the New York Post that the voice on the other end of those phone calls was actually Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's female cousin Tino Tuiasosopo. So who the hell knows?)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.