In Manti Te'o hoax, don't ask, don't tell

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,College,John Keim

A day later the story remained as bizarre as ever, making Lance Armstrong a distant afterthought. Imagine that.

And when Manti Te'o reaches the NFL, it will be a story all over again. Check that; it will continue to be one because it will follow him through the scouting combine and the draft, too. But there are so many layers to what was wrong with this story that it's hard to know where to begin. Because we're in the media, let's start there. The press wants to -- really wants to -- buy into stories such as this.

Besides, what high-profile person would make up a story about a dead girlfriend? Has to be true. Yet it's unbelievable that reporters from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times -- the heavyweights with resources -- never uncovered the truth.

There were warning signs. ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski did the first in-depth piece on Te'o and his, uh, girlfriend after her "death." Te'o didn't have any pictures of her and, conveniently, told him the family did not want any published, nor did they want to talk. OK, it's a little odd, but who can blame a family for wanting privacy during a time like this?

Another reporter tweeted that a friend of his had asked Te'o for a picture of the two of them together. Nothing. She thought it was odd and continued on with the story. What initially was a hoax became a fact that nobody felt the need to fully check.

The problem is, in many cases reporters only know the stories (or image) the athlete wants to reveal. In this case, what's troubling is that even if Te'o indeed was duped, which is hard to believe but OK, then he grew the lie by how he let the relationship be portrayed. At some point, even if he was innocent in the hoax, he was an accomplice to the lie. Even teammates suspected something was amiss, according to various reports.

Te'o won't be escaping this tale anytime soon even if he tells his side. But there's one easy solution: time. It worked for Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis and countless others. The best way to get off the front page? Just wait for the next tale of woe. Right, Lance?

- John Keim

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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