And it would be easy to see why...
Some hulking beast of the gridiron with limitless Professional potential and no doubt his pick of every available (or unavailable for that matter) piece of trim that South Bend had to offer fell head over heels for a "girl" he met on the intertubes that would eventually break his heart in two with her untimely death at the hands of blood cancer only to discover- after the heartache, a stadium sized memorial, and a Heisman campaign that used his stoic play as she met her demise as one of the reasons for his deserving of the award- that she, and their love story, were nothing more than internet bullshit.
It seems too unreal to be something we are actually talking about.
But while the rest of the media is sharpening their knives, preparing to get themselves a filet of this bullshit artist for making them look like the sloppy cut ‘n pasters that they are more and more becoming, I have a slightly different perspective on the matter.
See, I totally can relate to what this poor kid is going through because about 8 years ago I went through (roughly) the same thing.
It was the go-go ‘00s… That now infamous boom time where America wrote the checks we are now cashing…
I was freshly off of a divorce and was going through a rather destructive phase in my life.
I had already blown through the stereotypical “Getting re-released into the wild” phase of a post-divorce life, tearing my way through every receptionist, bartender, and day care assistant I had had an eye on for a bit of time. But now I was almost a year passed it and the off the rails life was still pretty much on the regular.
Having burned through all the lusted after targets I had been eyeing during those last days of fidelity to my vows, my stable’s ranks were reduced to little more than bar fly floozies, strippers, recovering and current drug addicts, and prostitutes (that I was dating, not paying for, and knew what they did for a living. Like I said, it was a really an odd time in my life).
In a word, emotionally I was fucked.
But then one night, while trolling a chat room (yes, it was long enough ago that I was trolling AOL chat rooms for something to do), I came across her.
Her name was “Kiki” (it wasn’t her actual name. To be honest I really don’t recall her real name and Kiki, while an alias, was actually her alias in real life and for the purposed of this story will be how she will be referred to).
She liked Frank Zappa and 80’s college radio and white wine.
We talked all night… no joke, three, four hours of clickity clackity; each SEND clicking leading to an increasingly baited breathe waiting process for the other to reply.
We really hit it off.
We spoke again, a few days later. And again, hours peeled by like minutes. We discussed politics, art, writing, shared poetry, and bullshitted about our day to days. These conversations went on for weeks, with the two of us bumping into one another on the internet and in what seemed like moments but in reality were hours, would ruin one another’s nights by being what the other really needed.
It was odd and weird and psychologically torturous.
But god it was fun.
After a while (and by “a while” I mean spending the better part of two months burning three nights a week IM chatting with someone I never met [and very rarely reducing ourselves to something as cheap as cyber-sex]), we exchanged phone numbers; the two of us starting to feel silly sitting in front of a computer night after night waiting on the other to reply. And it worked, if the idea was to stop typing to one another night after night in exchange for spending HOURS chatting with one another over the phone.
And when we weren’t talking we were texting (this was during the early days of texting too so it wasn’t a cheap addiction). This going back and forth was almost constant by this point; the two of us were seemingly in constant communication. The conversations never ended or began anymore; like some odd, old couple- we were there when we went to sleep and there when we woke up (literally, there were a few times when we would fall talk into the wee hours of the night, pass out talking, only to wake up and call one another and pick it up where it left off).
The Icy Cold of Space
After about four months with the two of us carrying on like this, it was unavoidable as to what was going on… The two of us had fucked up majorly and were fooling enough to catch feelings for “pretend people”.
Now, had Kiki completely and totally disappeared from my life at this point, she would have gone down as one of the great loves of my life. She brought to me something I had desperately needed at a crucial moment in my life.
(But she didn’t, and she isn’t…)
My ego took a beating during that faux marriage I had with my first wife… an almost four year long humiliation tends to do that to a person… but- and really not trying to sound like some pissy eyed girl here- so too had my heart. I wasn’t sure if I was capable of “falling in love” again, let alone being really willing to put myself out there with someone in the kind of way head over heels love draws out of you.
And my endless parade of junkies and ladies of the night was more that strengthening that belief.
But suddenly, there I was… I was head over heels in love with some girl I had never met.
We spoke daily; multiple times a day at that. We sent each other care packages (the greatest of them all was one where she shipped me some home grow she had. Very kind bud…). This was becoming “something”.
We both acknowledged as much and didn’t really recoil away from the idea. In fact we dug in a little deeper.
Grainy pictures and videos were now being exchanged on the fair regular now. Nothing vulgar (though form time to time, each of us surprised the other with a little skin…), pictures of our day to day lives in order to, I guess, make each other feel “closer” than the thousand or so miles that separated us led to believe.
The discussions of meeting started becoming less jokey things of passing and more the focal points of our conversations.
Naturally, the woman would be hesitative to initiate such a meeting. I mean let’s face it… once we were discussing a relationship like the one her and I were engaging in, “meeting face to face” was shorthand for “having sex or getting skinned alive… 50/50”. But after some prodding, we settled on a date.
And the date came… and she cancelled; calling just moments before i was scheduled to leave,claiming to have had some emergency or another just “pop” up.
In hindsight, I should have smelled the bullshit right then and there and walked away with my head held high.
But I was young and in love…
We rescheduled for the following weekend, only to have it cancelled again and rescheduled for the subsequent weekend.
On this final weekend, I got a jump on things. I left extra early and began the moderate drive to Hilton Head, South Carolina from Tampa.
I got to the state line.
She called me at the same time she had called the three weeks prior- 9 am, when she was heading to work- to beg off; this time telling me she had forgotten she had promised a friend that she would babysit her son and would feel bad inviting me over for a fun night of Blue’s Clues and Candyland. But I was undeterred, telling her I didn’t care who or what she had going on… that tonight, whatever she was doing she would have me doing it with her.
Then the bottom fell out.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to hear back from her when she started replying back to my adamant desire to spend the weekend with her.
I had been hoping for joy…
Instead, I got frantic, hyperventilating crying.
And in the sobbing I made out a few words: boyfriend, unhappy, fuck up, ruined everything.
But what I lacked in understanding of that soliloquy of wails and sniffles, I certainly gathered when I asked what would be the last question I would ever ask Kiki:
What’s that make us?
She was quiet for a time- it seemed like ages- before she spoke up again. Her voice was weak and tired.
I sort of blacked out there- I remember pulling over under an overpass just off of 95... minutes away from the South Carolina line. I remember hanging up the phone.
But I don’t remember the ride home.
I know Kiki called a few times during that long quiet drive (I did it with the radio off), but I never answered, nor did I ever check the messages.
There and Back Again
Now this isn’t exactly like the Manti Te’o ordeal.
Kiki, while unavailable, was a real live person while Manti’s main squeeze was a complete and total fabrication.
But, those differences aside, there were a lot of similarities.
I had real feelings for someone I had never met, no different than Manti (if he is in fact telling the truth about being a hapless rube caught up in some cruel loveless fucking troll’s little scam and this isn’t some elaborate Heisman publicity scheme gone horribly wrong or a twisted attempt to keep a gay secret under the covers). During the time when this whole affair of the mind was occurring, I would tell people (in fairness, if they asked) that I had a girlfriend. And once that relationship was taken away from me (granted, it was just a callous “dumping” as opposed to a humiliating in hindsight public mourning but it’ll work), I felt it as deeply as I had any other heart break I had during my life.
It’s easy to see how he could have fallen for a con set up in a similar way.
He seems like a good kid.. little bit of a rube, too (I mean, let’s face it… he spent his formative years a resident of Hawaii, easily the dumbest state in the Union)…
He found himself saying a lie here or there, more to cover up his embarrassment for being the last guy in the world to fall for the “I love you but I can’t meet you” internet relationship scam.
How was he to know that he would be the first defensive player in decades to be nominated for the Heisman Award and that this star crossed cyber love story was going to go from sea to shining sea, getting ate up by the bucketful by every single living, breathing vagina (heralding it as a real life love story), ultimately leading to a cyber-magazine of note (hats off to Deadspin, by the way, for doing the job the traditional forms of media are too beholden to TV contracts to do properly any longer.) to uncover his deep dark dirty secret.
That said, he really does look like an asshole (who did get caught up in his own lies, which makes him look less pitiful and scumbaggier) and will no doubt end up costing himself millions of dollars. (But make no mistake, this guy wil get drafted and he will make whoever picks him up look like a balls on the line genius...)
So, in closing, let’s not be too quick to throw the hammer at this poor bastard.
This Internet is making a real mess out of all of us. The millions he will lose due to NFL teams loving the idea that this weak headed prick just went from a bargain as a first round pick to a steal as a third or fourth) should be punishment enough .
(That said, I will also state that should I be wrong and this hole web of buillshit really is nothing more than an elaborate cover for his latent homosexuality, then I assure you he will be the first pick in the Draft, as whichever team that happens to be picking first will not want to be answering questions regarding their blatant homophobia for missing out on the first openly gay [one never wants to speak ill of the dead, but there were always rumors about Seau…] NFL star.)