NAPLES — I am a little out of my league writing about this story of Manti Te'o dead girlfriend, who is not really dead, nor his girlfriend, only because she never existed.
On so many levels.
First, I still write checks and mail our bills with stamps because I don't do any of my banking online. So the whole Internet relationship thing for me is well, a stretch. Second, Te'o claims he was a victim online to what they call "catfishing." Yeah, I'm just old enough where catfish was either a fish or a Hall of Fame pitcher for the A's and Yankees.
For the record, I'm having trouble believing Notre Dame's version over Deadspin's but the truth will eventually come out.
Listen, there is a lot of fun that can be had at Manti Te'o's expense, but no matter what the truth is the real story here is Notre Dame.
Te'o will be a punchline no matter what. The truth will just determine whether he is a joke for a few weeks or years.
But Notre Dame, through athletic director Jack Swarbrick, is "all-in" on this one. They claim they found out about the hoax three weeks before it was reported. They claim they met with Te'o for hours questioning his story. They then claim to have used outside investigators in some capacity to verify what Te'o was telling them.
Notre Dame claims Te'o is a victim of a hoax.
A source in the Deadspin's story implies Te'o likely was part of the hoax.
Swarbrick made sure not to distance himself from Te'o, but to marry himself and the university to him and his story. There appears to be no wiggle room for them, if in fact Deadspin is right and Te'o just duped Notre Dame, too.
They may try to claim things like they too were naive, foolish, or too trusting, but that will be laughable. Also, everything SwarbrIck and Notre Dame said about anything in the recent past will be open for re-examining. That would include the tragic accident at a Notre Dame football practice two years ago that took the life of a student.
However, IF this was just a cruel hoax and Te'o for all his athletic and academic brilliance (a first-team All-American linebacker and first-team Academic All-American) is emotionally a very vulnerable, gullible and naive young man, then Notre Dame is to be congratulated for its loyalty to him. In fact, Swarbrick and the school should be celebrated. It would have been FAR easier to keep their distance, and after the story broke release a statement assuring everyone they had no part in it, and Manti will "set the record straight" shortly.
In these cynical times and during this most cynical of weeks, Notre Dame's stance is either one of great integrity.
Or it will become a joke, too.
That's what is at stake here.
That is why we now NEED to know the truth about this otherwise tittilating, but meaningless story.
Notre Dame's integrity either grows with this story or dies with it.
And that's as real as it gets.
David Moulton is co-host of "Miller and Moulton in the Afternoon" weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. on Southwest Florida's ESPN Radio (101.5 FM in Bonita/North Naples, 105.1 FM in Naples/Marco Island). His freelance column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.