We’re Getting Catfished


Still laughing about how poor Manti Te’o got duped?  Jim Jividen addresses the ways we’re all being catfished.


I killed my imaginary friend. Just like Manti Te’o.

I was four; I had an imaginary friend named Dawn Dicker, and she was the owner/operator of the Poop Store. We’d play Sorry! together. She got eaten by a shark.

At least, that’s what I was told; I don’t really recall any of it, but like my splitting open my head on the coffee table twice when I was two, these are things passed into my conscience by the retelling.

So, I think I killed my imaginary friend. But that might just be a story. It’s possible I’ve been getting Catfished my whole life.

That’s why I’m empathetic to Manti Te’o. I wish he wasn’t out of eligibility; one assumes that Notre Dame would just be able to get him transferred to another parish.

The Te’o mythology didn’t begin this year.  I’m a USC fan, so I’ve been hearing for years about how he was planning to attend SC, but then God told him to go to Notre Dame instead. God gets chatty on the weekends; I assume He needs to color code his Outlook calendar to block off time just for Ray Lewis. Te’o got to wear the Tebow Memorial Jersey for all that is good and right about sports, which almost always centers around some variation of Christianity. Evander Holyfield wore it for a good portion of the late 80s and early 90s, until we found out he had eleven children with six different women.

We’re getting catfished – you and I. It’s happening every day; it happens from cradle to grave.

It looks like Te’o’s gonna try to beat this thing.  His current posture is complete innocent victim, despite timeline impossibilities. That’s gonna be tough – he’ll need to go to an NFL market with easily captured media. He might have a better chance we he able to combine victimization with a less defiant version of Jodie Foster’s speech from last week. If the facts allow him to become the most high profile out gay player in US team sports history, it changes the narrative. Sure, a fraud on the public is not the ideal kickoff to Rainbow Jackie Robinson, but this is a hard story to spin.

Coincidentally, this was also the week Lance Armstrong became James Frey. I can’t say this enough – every non-American sports analyst paying attention knew for years that the Armstrong narrative was fiction – but it moved a lot of product. Armstrong hosted the 2006 ESPYs, where he won his 4th straight athlete of the year award. Did we know in 2006 that Armstrong had used PED’s? If we apply the Barry Bonds test, we absolutely did. 2006 was two years after the publication of L.A Confidentiel, the Armstrong scandal equivalent of Game of Shadows. Here’s where the Sports Illustrated cover vault is invaluable in capturing the narrative as driven by corporate media. When Game of Shadows was coming out – the Sports Illustrated cover pictured a morose Bonds in a grey hooded sweatshirt with the headline: The Truth: Barry Bonds and Steroids. About two months later, a full two years after the evidence was piled at least as high against him as was it against Bonds, was SI’s sixth Lance Armstrong cover since the publication of LA Confidentiel; he’s pictured with three children with cancer and called “a political force unlike any other athlete in history.”

Barry Bonds was on the SI cover in 2004 – with an asterisk. Barry Bonds was on the SI cover a second time in 2006 – with, wait for it, an asterisk.

Lance Armstrong was on the SI cover twice in 2004 and 3 times in 2005. All of them triumphant, one including the phraseA Legend and a Champion.”

But Lance Armstrong=American Hero + Don’t listen to those gutless French, remember World War II?  That’s the story that sells. So they sold it. Even though they absolutely knew it wasn’t true.

That’s the real Catfishing. We are told the stories that will sell. Lance Armstrong became a hero and Barry Bonds a villain. One deified, the other vilified. Lance Armstrong’s just a guy on a bike and Manti Te’o a college kid with an imaginary friend. Like Snuffleupagus with leukemia.

The real catfishing is institutional. Corporatized. Systematized. Florida’s crappy Tea Party Governor, Rick Scott, very publicly adopted a rescue dog during his campaign for office, and there was a Facebook contest to give it a name (Reagan, of course). The dog was last seen in public the day before the swearing in – two years passed – and the press asked, so, uh, where’s the Governor’s rescue dog?

After first refusing to answer – eventually they had to come “clean” when he got elected – the Governor of Florida gave the dog back.

The Tea Party Governor of Florida, with a net worth approximating a hundred million dollars, but a noted challenge appearing human, used a rescue dog as a campaign prop and then dumped the dog right after.

There’s a group called the Business Roundtable that tells a story you’ve probably heard for the last twenty years – that Social Security is going broke. Their solution is to raise the retirement age to 70.

The Business Roundtable includes the CEOs of the largest corporations in the United States. Average CEO pay for the S&P 500 is almost 13 million dollars a year. Do you know how payroll tax works? The payroll tax is limited to just a little above the first hundred thousand dollars of income. If you earn a hundred grand, you’re taxed on every dollar. If you earn thirteen million – you’re taxed on every dollar…of that first hundred grand. After that – nothin’. Let’s assume Social Security needs saving – we could “save” Social Security by raising the ceiling of the payroll tax – maybe all the way up to the first million bucks of income, meaning you and I (I’m guessing) would pay exactly the same and those CEOs would pay more. Or: we could raise the retirement age to 70, meaning you and I (I’m guessing) and people with significantly more physically taxing jobs than you and I have, would work longer, enlarging the labor pool, which would allow for the paying of lower wages.

The next time you’re told a story about how Social Security is in trouble, keep that in mind.

You want a big time professional sports liar from last week?

I watched the first couple of episodes of Pete Rose’s reality show.

I don’t know the degree to which Lance came clean to Oprah, or will Manti to Katie Couric – but in the opening second of his opening show, Pete Rose says this:

“I made some serious mistakes back in 1987. As manager of the Cincinnati Reds, I bet on my own team to win every night.”


In 2007, on, of all places, Cold Pizza, John Dowd, author of baseball’s investigative report on Rose’s gambling, made clear that the incontrovertible evidence was that Rose did not bet at all in the 1987 season when Mario Soto or Bill Gullickson pitched.

Why is Pete Rose lying about his gambling, still, a quarter century later? Because he knows a good portion of this TLC audience has only a passing acquaintance with either his case or the idea of why gambling in sports has always mattered more than drug use, and he knows that saying he bet on his own team to win “every night” will allow a portion of that portion to say “why does that even matter? So he thought they would win, he had confidence in his team and himself and put his money where his mouth is – what’s the big deal?”

The big deal is you’re a professional bookmaker, one of the men who Rose racked up thousands and thousands of dollars in debt with, and you know Rose bets 2 grand a game on the Reds to win most nights, and then there are nights – predictable nights – when Rose doesn’t bet at all.

Your estimation of Rose’s confidence in the Reds to win those nights is?……

Mario Soto had an ERA over 5 in 1987. Bill Gullickson’s was just a shade under 5.

You know the manager of the Reds doesn’t bet on his team to win when they’re pitching.  He still sends them out to pitch.  Just doesn’t bet on them to win.  Like he does every other night.

That’s what Pete Rose did.  Pete Rose gave a certain seedy section of gamblers that informational advantage in 1987 – every night.

A quarter century later, he and his “reality” show are still selling a different story.  More people will believe him than not; more people will remember Rick Scott rescued that dog than will ever find out he gave it back after he won; and almost everyone accepts as an article of obvious truth that we need dramatic entitlement reform as there’s no way there could still be any money in the Social Security fund when we retire.   Those stories have already sold.

Here’s the truth:  Baseball knew about steroids the same way they knew about amphetamines, but that wasn’t the story they wanted to sell you. There were home runs to hit and stadiums, including one in San Francisco, to build. And now – baseball knows that PED users already cover the Hall of Fame, but that’s not the story they want you to believe, because that wouldn’t serve our ceremonial cleansing ritual.  We’re throwing Barry Bonds on top of a fire and declaring our sins purged.

SI and ESPN and the full weight of the sports media establishment knew about Armstrong – probably since the late 90s and at the very latest 2004. But instead they told you a false story much more pernicious than the one told to you by Manti Te’o.

We’re getting catfished – you and I. It’s happening every day; it happens from cradle to grave.



About Jim Jividen

Jim Jividen (@JimJividen) is a lawyer, a professionally produced playwright, a game show winner, and the owner of a 2009 Honda Accord on which he diligently makes payments. He can distinguish among dozens of different suplex variants and may be occasionally read at his two non-revenue producing blogs, Basically Gherkins and What if Steamboat Beat Hogan? Jim’s been a college instructor since the top of 2004 and is currently working in the mist as a Course Mentor for Western Governors University.


  1. Amy Reese says:

    You know I love you, and I was with you until you got into the “corporate CEO” propaganda. I think Mr. Obama I the biggest catfish of all. 4 years of nothing except a giant health care program we can’t pay for. And are we really supposed to believe that he and Hillary are best friends. Lets get back to the days that sports was about natural performance and “fantasy” is left to movies and television. I buy your argument for Lance though. As someone who takes care of real cancer patients everyday, he is really hurting a quality organization that focuses on real Survivors.

    This takes me back to our Extemp days. Thanks for carrying the big box!

  2. It’s funny. I think about how confidence is a huge part of sport success, and how in the male psyche a significant part of confidence is based on desirability. Imagine you knew a kid who had all the potential in the world but lacked confidence due in no small part to incompetence in socializing with their desired mate type. Handing them a fake long distance involvement to break teeth on could easily be viewed as not only harmless but in fact potentially quite constructive, as falsehoods go. And a situation that innocent could easily produce the kind of clusterf@$k Teo seems to be experiencing right now.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m compelled to lean on Occam’s razor too, but I’d give the benefit of the doubt on that particular story.


  1. […] will happen though again, though – it will happen more than it won’t. Some new Lance Armstrong will be deified, a new Barry Bonds will be vilified, a new Tim Tebow will be proof of a higher (only Jesus, please) […]

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