Manti Te’o, linebacker for Notre Dame’s storied football team and contender for this year’s Heisman Trophy, experienced much hardship at the beginning of the season with the deaths of both his grandmother and girlfriend. Rallying around Te’o in his time of need helped craft an inspirational narrative for what was intended as the Fighting Irish’s comeback season.
However, a report released by Deadspin.com claims that one of the more heartbreaking aspects of his story, that of his girlfriend’s death from leukemia, wasn’t true. More than that, the woman never existed.
This created a veritable firestorm of criticism and speculation on Twitter, generating over 140,000 tweets in the hours after the initial report. Reactions have ranged from incredulous and perplexed to curious and empathetic. 16% find it impossible for him not to have been in on it, claiming it was a publicity stunt, while 9% are empathetic and feel bad that this happened to Te’o, just as it did to many others. Another 2% find the story to be extremely bizarre.
By using ForSight™, we not only identified the topics through conversational nuance, but humor as well, which is a theme we explored in a previous blog post surrounding Paul Ryan’s VP selection. In fact, humor dominates social media buzz about this story, currently occupying 54% of the overall discussion. One explanation for the prevalence of humor is that people are finding it less and less plausible that Te’o was duped and more likely that he was hoping to inflate his chances for the Heisman Trophy award.
Regardless of his explanation, Te’o’s NFL draft chances are up in the air. On one hand, if he is the victim of a hoax, it calls into question his character and his judgement of the character of others. On the other, if he did in fact create the hoax out of his own self-interest, then he appears as conniving and underhanded, not a winning trait in any team’s chemistry.
What do you think about this story and about Te’o’s future on and off the football field? Find us on Twitter @crimsonhexagon.