Barstool Golf Time | Book Tee Times At The Best Prices & Earn RewardsDOWNLOAD NOW

We're Missing the Real Scandal in the Manti Te'o Documentary

Like virtually every other guy I know, I've spent a couple of hours this week watching Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn't Exist on Netflix. And I agree 100% with Chief's review of how utterly bonkers the whole story is, and what a great job the documentary does telling it:

Judging by the reaction I'm seeing on line and hearing from my friends, it strikes me that the major points people are taking away from the whole saga are:

A) How ridiculously naive Te'o was to have fallen for the scam.

B) What a sociopath Tuiasosopo is, beginning every sentence with "I" and showing a complete lack of remorse for the damage the catfishing scheme did in other people's lives. 

I've read a few people questioning why the chick whose MySpace photosTuiasosopo used never came forward to blow the whistle on the whole thing sooner. But let me remind them that, strange as this may sound, not everyone is fixated on Notre Dame football the way, for instance, I am. Not even preposterously attractive women like her. There is a vast segment of the American public that wouldn't know a story like his unless it came up on The Bachlorette or Kylie Jenner's Instagram. So I cut her all the slack there is in the world. 

But all these plot threads miss the larger point. The actual scandal at the heart of the entire matter. Even the documentary itself doesn't give the issue more than a couple of minutes of conversation. And it's the fact that every single major sports and news outlet in America got catfished even worse than Te'o did. 

How may hours of TV coverage and how many megabytes of online data were spent telling the story of Te'o tragically losing his girlfriend to leukemia and then heroically taking the Irish to an undefeated season in her honor? Aliens landing on the White House lawn to return Amelia Earhart wouldn't get that much attention. And not one of them - not one - of the biggest media giants in the country ever bothered to invest the half a day it would take to find out the whole thing was a grift. They just fell in love with the story and repeated the lies. 

Seriously, not one of them assigned some entry-level reporter to look for information on Lennay Kekua. To check the obituaries. To find out where she lived and get a statement from her friends and loved ones. To go to Stanford and ask her heartbroken coed friends to look adorably sad on camera, which is the kind of content the networks love. Hell, to even look at her Facebook page, notice the red flags thrown up by the fact she was the only pretty college aged girl in the country in 2012 not updating her photos constantly and posting five times a day. For five full months, they simply ignored all the obvious warning signs and the inconsistencies. Because they loved the story and didn't want the truth to get in the way of it. 

You can ask why, if we're so smart, Barstool didn't do the research? And I'll point out that it wasn't up to us. We weren't the ones spending September 2012 to January 2013 biting our lower lip and releasing a single tear at this heartwarming tale of love defeating death itself. We were busy building an empire on making people laugh, not spinning maudlin tales of tragedy and romance. Besides, there were like 10 writers on the site at that time. I was using my phone as a mobile hotspot to connect my laptop to the internet from the shitty WiFi-free public building I was working in. But believe me, before I decided to spent the fall and winter of 2012 tugging at heartstrings, I would've done a small amount of digging. What's NBC's, ESPN's, CBS's and Fox's excuse? Other then they pinch their nipples in aroused delight every time some Olympic swimmer is jumping into a pool to honor some dearly departed great-grandfather, and this was the perfect example that brand of sappy Up Close and Personal" sports journalism.

Which brings me finally to the journos who actually did the work to expose the scam. I don't normally give credit to Deadspin. But I have no issue with giving credit to Deadspin: 2012. That was a time when that site still had some reason to exist. When their mission - at least in part - was to be an alternative to the traditional media. Before they convinced themselves they stood alone on a moral high ground of their own creation. When they'd get all sniffy and indignant about us entertaining our readers with galleries of smokeshows and guessing celebrities' asses in bathing suits, while they were posting illegally obtained full frontal videos of Hulk Hogan and Erin Andrews. That is, before they became the Coolest Kids on the Internet:

Judgmental, self-possessed, Puritanical scolds with a sense of self-worth way out of proportion to their actual talent. And whose righteousness and arrogance destroyed the company and sent them all scurrying to their own WordPress pages. But those two guys who did the research in 2012 still had some self-respect. Kudos to them. 

And in the documentary, these former Deadspin try to make the case that the real story here isn't that some narcissist grotesquely catfished a naive athlete, it's the way the American media swallowed the story. Unfortunately, that point gets completely buried in the sensationalism of the story itself. Just like it did 10 years ago.