Thursday, January 17, 2013

Scandal at Notre Dame

If you have opened a newspaper or visited most any news or sports media outlet online in the past 24 hours, it is highly likely that you have come across the shocking news that has rocked University of Notre Dame football.  Scandal.  The breaking news of a hoax uncovered that will forever be linked with this hallowed institution and, specifically, the All-American linebacker for the Fighting Irish, Manti Te'o.

I will preface this by saying that this is not a post about what happened.  I am also not a football fan, college or otherwise.  My only allegiance to Notre Dame is that it is my husband's alma mater {class of 1994} and if he loves Notre Dame football, then so do I.

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

This past September, college football news was filled with stories of incredible loss that Te'o had suffered.  Not only had his grandmother passed away, but so had his girlfriend who had leukemia.

Or did she?

You cannot escape the stories online today.  The big hoax.  The scandal.  The lies.  The liar.  Harsh words and angry fingers pointing at the 2012 Heisman Trophy runner up.  On January 16, Deadspin published an article stating that the girlfriend was, in fact, not deceased and that Te'o is the victim of some sort of sick, elaborate hoax.  What was once a story of incredible strength, character and inspiration has now turned ugly.  So ugly and, I assume, that ugliness will worsen as the story unfolds.

In a shocking announcement Wednesday night, Notre Dame said Te’o was duped into an online relationship with a woman whose “death” from leukemia was faked by perpetrators of an elaborate hoax. The goal of the scam wasn’t clear, though Notre Dame said it used an investigative firm to dig into the details after Te’o disclosed them three weeks ago.

Source: Time Sports - January 17, 2013 Read more:

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

In Te'o's words:

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” Te’o said in a statement. “We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.”
Source: Time Sports - January 17, 2013Read more:

If you want to know all the details of the hoax, you can Google it, Bing it, Yahoo it, or search for it any way you want.  My purpose here is not to add to the list of articles spreading the story.  All I could think about this morning with regards to this story is that there is an incredible amount of sadness.  The rumors are flying. The gossip is spreading.  The fingers are pointing.  Names are being called.  It's a scoop that people grabbed a hold of an ran with it.  It's a story unfolding.  As members of the general public, our facts are based on these articles which are quickly populating the media.  I have seen comments on stories ranging from disbelief, to anger, to "my conference is better than your conference", to speculation that Manti Te'o himself was part of the hoax, to digs at Notre Dame creating this elaborate story to gain publicity.

Do I know the truth?  No.  I don't.  I know only what I've read and heard.

Do you know the truth?  No.  You don't know the truth any more than I do.  Unless you are Manti Te'o, the "girlfriend", or God Himself - you do not know the truth.  And if Te'o is indeed a very unfortunate victim of some sort of hoax or plot, then I suspect that it is quite possible that even he doesn't know the truth!

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

Here's the thing.  This is not the only hoax ever to be made public.  This is not the first time a public figure has allegedly been victimized in some way.  It won't be the last, I'm afraid.  What I do know is that regardless of what happened, we need to remember that each and every person involved in this situation is a real person.  They have real emotions.  They may even have real problems.  

I don't know the truth - I wasn't there.  I don't know these people.  These people are deserving of respect.  It is highly unfortunate that our scandal-hungry society makes it so that at the drop of a hint of a scandal, a single person's life can be altered forever.  If the stories that are emerging are to be believed, then I am deeply sorry for what Te'o must be enduring right now.  Not just Manti - but his family as well.  Beyond that, what is the team feeling about this.  The school?  It's a black mark for sure.  For the rest of football history, people will look back to this day and recall the scandal that rocked the world of college football.  By all accounts, Te'o seemed like the kind of guy who would do anything to help people.  Did that make him more prone to this horrible vicitimization that will alter his life forever, and could affect his future career in football?

I am sure there are Christians and non-Christians alike who are taking delight in the frenzy that this hoax is causing in the media.  People across the country are chiming in, giving their two cents on what they think happened.  People are suddenly armchair experts on every topic this situation involves.  This brings me back to that feeling of sadness I had over the issue this morning.  The truth is this - God calls us to love.  Everyone. We are not called to be malicious gossipers and slanderers.  We are not called to kill and destroy a person's character and integrity.  We are not called to these things.  Yet all of these things abound in the media today.  It is sad.

"There are six things the Lord hates - no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family."  {Proverbs 6:16-19, NLT}

People are arguing that Manti's love for this girl could not have been real because he met her online and perhaps had not physically met her in person.  You know what??  In April, I will be married to the man of my dreams for 13 years.  Want to know how I met him??  Online!  Yes.  Online.  Before I had ever met Ron in person, we met in a chatroom in the late '90s, way before the dawn of online dating sites.  We knew that we were meant to be together before we ever laid eyes on each other in person.  The feelings we had for each other were cultivated online and on the phone.  Other people in my family had chatted online with Ron and spoken to him on the phone before we physically met.  Friends of mine knew he existed and knew my feelings before they ever saw him and before Ron and I met.  So for any of you doubting that Manti Te'o could possibly have harbored such deep feelings for his girlfriend, you need to just forget what you are thinking if you have never been in that situation!!  Things happened to work out for Ron and I.  Unfortunately, it sounds like Te'o was the unwitting victim of such an elaborate hoax.  I feel very sorry for him if, indeed, this is true.

God calls us to love one another.  What is being spread in the media is not love.  There is no respect.  I feel sorry for public figures.  God forbid they take a step off the path the public thinks they should be on, or that some tragedy befalls them.  We pick up on the media instantly and we pick sides.  We are drawn to one side or another and we "love" one side and "hate" the other.  This is not Godly, friends!

I think that what this situation deserves is a call to prayer.  Instead of making comments about how you think the school designed a hoax for PR purposes or saying that Te'o was in on this himself, we ought to pray for the situation.  We may have our personal feelings on what we think happened.  How can we possibly know what happened??  Who are we to judge that which we know absolutely nothing about??  If what we are hearing about is true, then Manti Te'o is a man deserving of respect, privacy, and mostly prayer.  I cannot even imagine the depths of the pain that this has brought him.  I cannot imagine the burden he must be feeling as it relates to how this story has affected his school and the football program that he was an integral part of.  

If this emerging story is true, then there is a person or persons responsible for what has transpired.  I cannot even begin to imagine what a person must be going through in their own lives to desire to hurt someone is such a horrible way.  Why on earth would someone deliberately choose to harm an innocent person in such a personal and public way?  "Hate" shouldn't be an option here.  This person, too, needs prayer for whatever it is that caused them to do this.  People who we have labelled as "evil" or "monsters" still need prayer. God wants us to love everyone - not just the people who are easy to love or convenient to love!

If something eventually comes out that determines that this hoax runs far deeper than we know now and that the victim becomes a perpetrator of the hoax, well, then that situation also requires prayer.

We need to stop the judgment!  Our society is so full of judgment and not full enough of love and prayer and respect.  Let's take a moment and think about our internal reactions to an event - whether it's this publicly exposed hoax or something within our own personal lives - before we rush to judge and finger point and speak harsh words.  Let us act in love towards others!  We cannot possibly know the hurt that we have the potential to cause someone.  

Remember that we are all sinners.  This victimization of a public persona is sin.  Just because it is so public does not make this sin greater than any of our own.  Sin is sin.

"'Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  For you will be treated as you treat others.  The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.  'And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.'"  {Matthew 7:1-5, NLT}

Grateful for a loving and merciful God who is at work in all situations - even this one.  

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