In addition to being obsessed with all things Fort Lauderdale, some of us in the Fort Lauderdale Collective are also obsessed with sports. And this Manti Te’o story is just about the craziest sports story we can remember. It’s so crazy that it seems inconceivable this didn’t occur in Florida. On one hand, not having many Florida connections to this story is good in that it doesn’t confirm many people’s view of Florida as a crazy-ass lunatic-filled swamp. On the other hand, it’s fun having things like this (although we haven’t had anything exactly like this) continually happen around here, and it is shocking this didn’t. The Manti Te’o story involves outright lying, completely fictional people, inattentive media not following up on the truth, computer fraud, a cult of football with the accompanying university blurring reality, and surely more to come. If only there was a Ponzi scheme in there we would have owned this. But alas, the story is not really ours. It belongs to a small city in Indiana, the island state of Hawaii, and to a degree Stanford and Palo Alto, California. To the local bloggers in those areas: I am jealous. Have fun. But we do have a few touches, a few edges of this story that rub up on South Florida. We summarize those here:
1. Brian Te’o (Manti’s father) once lived in Fort Lauderdale. Here’s an interesting article courtesy of the Miami Herald around the time of Notre Dame’s undistinguished performance in the national championship game. Brian Te’o, who is not un-involved in the fake girlfriend story, discusses his time in Fort Lauderdale. Apparently Brian lived in Fort Lauderdale for a year when he was young and his dad (Manti’s grandfather) opened a local bakery. Brian went to grade school in Hollywood and had a teacher named Mrs. Johnson. Analyzing the time-line, we estimate Mrs. Johnson’s current age to be in the area of 55 years to 110 years old. If anybody knows a Mrs. Johnson that fits this profile, we would like to talk to her. Please pass along this request.
3. Reagan Mauia played his rookie season for the Dolphins in 2007. No, this is not a particularly great connection, but it does relate to one of the craziest and mind-bending portions of the story. Reagan Mauia (currently with the Arizona Cardinals) is on record saying that he did (unlike Manti Te’o) meet Lennay Kekua and they actually became close and confided in each other over her father’s passing. This is very confusing, mostly because she did not exist. They “hung out” several years after Mauia’s stint with the Dolphins, but I can’t help thinking that Mauia’s time with the Dolphins made him somehow delusional. And I don’t just mean because of hard hits to the head, I mean because the Dolphins don’t seem to know what the hell is going on. The Dolphins went 1-15 in his season here. I’m not saying it explains anything, but it cannot have helped.
4. Manti Te’o currently resides at a football camp in Bradenton, Florida, prepping for the NFL draft combine. While Bradenton is not in South Florida (it is south of Tampa and therefore not too far from University of South Florida I guess), at least Manti was in our loco state when the story broke.
Please don’t get us wrong, we like Manti Te’o. We don’t know his exact involvement with the hoax and we expect it’s more than he’s letting on, but no matter how the story shakes out, we’re not going to be too hard on the young man. We have all made mistakes, yet none of us in the FTLC were college football heroes so our mistakes got a bit less play. But we do love this story. We love the fake tragedy, the fake inspiration, the fake Notre Dame of it all. We are a South Florida blog and we are jealous for once.