Jamie Reidy, a 1992 Notre Dame graduate, explores a new theory being put forward about the duped All-American.
Full disclosure: I am a diehard Irish fan. I just got back from Miami, where I watched my alma mater’s beloved team get clobbered. In that game, our star player played far below his usual super human level. Now, obviously, we know that Manti Te’o had a lot more than Alabama’s running backs on his mind.
The public is discussing three main theories for his “Catfish” scandal: a) he was duped, or b) he was in on it from the start, or c) he was duped and then it got embarrassing, so he went along for the ride because, “Hey, who gets hurt by some white lies about a dead girl?”
Here’s a fourth possible reason: Manti has a secret.
I have no inside information. I have no idea if he has a secret or not. I’m simply brainstorming. I don’t even know what the secret may be. Perhaps he is gay, as is being discussed by a few people, including Bill Simmons. I don’t want to presume that, but we should at least consider it as an option when talking about the life this kid has led in a few different conservative cultures.
Consider the plight of a 22-year old devout Mormon who knows he’s gay. Acting on homosexual feelings is considered a sin, according to church doctrine.
Consider the plight of a 22-year old Hawaiian who knows he’s gay. I specify “Hawaiian,” because traditionally, manliness reigns supreme in the Warrior and Samoan cultures. Coming out in any culture must be difficult, and I assume that culture is no exception.
Consider the plight of a 22-year old middle linebacker who knows he’s gay. He mans the most macho position in America’s most macho sport! There’s a reason no NFL player has ever come out while still playing in the league: fear of being outcast in the locker room.
Manti Te’o is all three of those things: a Mormon, Hawaiian middle linebacker.
Again, I know nothing about Teo’s sexuality. But isn’t it at least plausible that he and Ronaiah Tuisosopo, the man alleged to have run the hoax, are gay lovers who created this “girlfriend” as an e-beard?
Interestingly, coming out as a gay man is the only way Te’o can prove a) he’s not a gullible moron and b) isn’t a scumbag who invented a dead girlfriend for publicity. Instead, he’ll reveal himself to be an understandably frightened young man who lied to cover up a truth about himself. A truth, that in his life, could potentially end life as he knows it?
Such an admission would hurt him in some red states and I’d guess, sadly, in the NFL draft. Is professional football ready for a first-round draft choice who openly prefers “Playgirl” to “Playboy”? I’m afraid to say that it might not be. It would make for fascinating drama on ESPN’s coverage of the draft on the night of Thursday April 25th. Talk about Must See TV.
On top of that, it will undoubtedly hurt his legacy among older Notre Dame graduates; Catholicism can give Mormonism a run for its money when it comes to accepting the LGBT community.
What a moment this could be for America: having to accept a gridiron god as gay.
We also have to take a minute and think about what are the consequences of people alleging he is gay, without any knowledge or evidence to this fact. How could this affect his life? His career? Is it okay to even be discussing this?
What do you think? Is Te’o’s sexuality off-limits, or are we helping move the conversation about sexuality in pro sports forward when we make guesses like this?
Photo: Winslow Townsend/AP