At least, that’s what a 22-year-old, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, professed to be during an interview on the “Dr. Phil” show aired on 1/31.
He freely acknowledged that he was gay (or as he put it more delicately “a recovering homosexual”), and that he had created the online persona of Lennay Kekua, a nonexistent woman who Te’o admittedly fell in love with, despite never meeting her in person, and with whom he only had often lengthy conversations by phone over a 3-year period.
For those who’ve followed this intriguing, somewhat macabre story from the get-go, and which has had more twists and turns since then than a West Virginia mountain road, I’m sure you were as relieved as I was that the truth finally came to light, albeit with lingering doubts in the minds of many (including me) about whether there’s more revelations to come out before the book is finally closed on what reads like a tragic love novel, with duplicity as its main theme.
Now, as a skeptic by nature, I find it impossible to believe Te’o would’ve falling as deeply in love, as he said he did, with someone he’d hadn’t met in the flesh in order to judge whether or not the “chemistry” was right between them, or that at no time did he suspect that the person he heard on the other end of the phone line in their long conversations was that of a man imitating a female’s voice.
(I can think of only three people who were masters of such deception: actor Tony Curtis in his full-drag impersonation of a female jazz musician in the 1959 movie “Some like it Hot”… comedian Robin Williams in his skit “Mrs. Doubtfire”…and Jonathan Winters in his hilarious portrayal of “Granny Maude D. Frickert.”)
And Te’o telling ABC News’ Katie Couric in a taped interview that he only lied briefly- as opposed to what I guess he considered as a long-lasting one-to the media and public after discovering on Dec. 6 that his online true love did not exist and was part of an elaborate hoax, and then yet only two days later on Dec. 8 publically mentioned his girlfriend by name and of his everlasting love, leaves a dark cloud of suspicion hovering over him, not only to his credibility but to any role he may have played in concocting and carrying out that fantasy romance.
What this goes to show, is that every time we put an athlete on a high pedestal, it burns us all too frequently.
And boy have we been burnt badly recently by other icons than him in the world of sports-a la Lance Armstrong, who lied through his teeth so much about never having taken performance enhancing drugs, it’s a wonder they didn’t rot and fall out; and Tiger Woods, whose philandering ways put other renown, celebrity womanizers to shame, by his trying to break par for the number of intimate relations one could have in a compressed amount of time.
But there’s a host of other past sports’ luminaries who were just as guilty, if not more so than that delusional man who fabricated the Te’o hoax ; such as:
- O. J. Simpson would top the list, whose public image as an outstanding running back in college and the NFL (and in his later acting career) plummeted faster than a runaway elevator as a result of his 9-month long criminal trial in 1994-95. Although found not guilty of murdering his wife and a pizza delivery man, he is now in prison serving a 30-year sentence for armed robbery, kidnapping and weapons charges. The ”Juice,” as he was known as has sure gone sour.
- The equally famous baseball stars, a la Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clements, who were accused, but never proven beyond a shadow of doubt of using steroids to build up their strength and prolong their careers. But the chances of their ever being selected to baseball’s Hall of Fame are slim at best.
- Pete Rose, who holds the record for the number of hits he had, and who would’ve been a lead-pipe cinch for entering baseball’s Hall of Fame, had he not been banned forever from holding any position in baseball, for his having fallen prey to the evils of gambling, especially when betting against his own team. And who now reduced to making a living signing baseballs.
- Olympian track stars Ben Johnson and Marion Jones, who were stripped of the gold medals they won in the 1988 and 2000 Olympics, respectively, for testing positive for banned anabolic steroids.
- Another runner, who committed perhaps the biggest scam in sports’ history, was Rosie Ruiz, who was declared the winner in the female category for the 84th Boston Marathon in 1980, only to lose the title and be banished from ever competing in it again, when it became known that she had bolted from the crowd only a mile away from the finish line. (That she wasn’t sweating and had flabby thighs only served to confirm it.)
- The so-called Black Sox scandal in 1919, when 8 White Sox players accepted bribes from a notorious gambler to blow the World Series has become the gold standard for all sports’ hoaxes to follow it.
Quote of the day: “Since organized sports began, athletes have resorted to drastic and illegal methods to achieve notoriety-from taking drugs to enable them to set records and for gaining the advantage over the competition, while some do it for a good laugh, and others to fatten their wallets; but whatever their motives, they more than not get caught.” Aaron Kuriloff in ESPN column.