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And Another Thing

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File | Associated Press

The Te'o take

The Blob has thought long and hard about all this, or at least as long and hard as it's capable of thinking about any particular thing. And like 99.9 percent of America I've got to say I don't know what to make of it.

Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend never existed? Say what?

All I can say for sure about that is it's the single most bizarre story I've run across in 35 years as a sports journalist. And the more you pick it apart, the more questions you have.

If, as some people suggest, Te'o himself was in on the hoax, to what purpose? To enhance a Heisman candidacy that didn't exist at the time he allegedly "met" this woman? (Either 2009 or 2011, depending on which version you believe). To generate more publicity for himself when, as a Notre Dame football star, he already was at the top of the food chain in terms of publicity?

Makes no sense whatsoever. At least to me.

Also, if he never "met" this woman in person, why did he tell his dad they got together in Hawaii?

Also, why, after all the months (years?) of carrying out the hoax, would "Lennay" suddenly call Te'o and 'fess up?

Those are questions that still gnaw if some others that have been raised do not.

For instance: Why did he keep secret the hoax long after he knew it existed, obliquely answering questions about his "girlfriend" in the run-up to the BCS title game? Well, because at that point, he had no other viable option. He's really going to drop that bombshell the week of Notre Dame's first appearance in a national championship in 25 years? Um, don't think so.

And the whole business about how he could have a "girlfriend" he'd never met in person?

I don't have a hard time with that one, either. It's 2013, folks. People have online relationships -- astoundingly intimate and complex online relationships -- all the time.

That's not to say I totally buy the Notre Dame party line, which is that Te'o was the innocent victim of an incredibly elaborate hoax. The school has, after all, tied its fortunes for so long to not only Te'o but the Te'o image, it pretty much has to go all in with him now -- even if there remain holes in his story you could drive a cement mixer through, and which athletic director Jack Swarbrick, in his news conference, thrashed around helplessly trying to explain.

Bottom line: I don't know what to think. I don't think it's impossible to believe he is genuinely the victim of a hoax. I also don't think it's impossible to believe he was involved in it at least to some extent, even if the motives remain unclear.

What I do know is, if so, he's likely cost himself millions come the NFL draft. NFL GMs don't like enigmas when it comes to investing in talent. And Te'o has now become, complicit or not, an enigma of the first order.

Ben Smith's blog.

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