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January 24, 2013

KEPPELER: For Te'o, the crime is naivety

Tonawanda News — With most of the rest of the world, when the news of the Manti Te’o dead-girlfriend hoax first emerged, I read in horrified disbelief ... and then rolled my eyes.

Really? He wants us to believe he had nothing to do with it? Seriously, dude, you’re 21 years old. You’re a star college football player, not locked up in a cellar somewhere. You never once met this woman (although you said at one point that you did), but you were in love with her?

Either you’re a liar, someone reprehensible who would make a personal reputation over a fictitious tale of tragedy, or you’re just plain dumb.

And no one could be that dumb. 

Not in 2013.

But in the past week or so, I’ve been thinking about the story. Mostly about how the media is in part to blame for swallowing it hook, line and sinker (not a single reporter ever thought to Google Lennay Keuka’s supposed obituary), but about Te’o, and what this whole debacle means.

His name is forever linked with either a nasty hoax that insults anyone who’s ever truly lost a loved one to cancer, or with the utter stupidity of falling for such a tale. 

Or is it just mindblowing naivety? And how could anyone, in an Internet era, be that naive?

Well, it happens all the time. Just not to that degree.

You see them on Facebook, and so do I. People who repost things that tell gleefully of how such-and-such a company will send you an iPad if so many people repost this, or send you emails about how so-and-so celebrity made a comment critical or supportive of an issue they support or abhor. (Ninety-nine percent of them seem to be untrue.) Or maybe it’s a sweet story about a pet or a child that really never existed. (But darn, does it make a good story.)

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