The Truth About Te’o

People have suggested that Manti Te’o must either be the perpetrator of a disgusting hoax or supremely dumb.

Numerous pundits, including the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Colin Cowherd, have said that it’s inconceivable that a red-blooded, alpha male, Division I athlete could ever carry on a serious relationship almost exclusively online or by telephone. That you would never profess “love” for a woman you never did, or could have, touched.

But, there is a third possibility.

It hit me while watching the same interview, from early last fall, that the networks run to expose him. And, I understand how it might have been easy to miss because he’s tough and has a tattoo of a Mayan hockey rink on his bicep and plays like a wild barbarian. But, I recognized it immediately in the innocent way he described his affection for her.

See, Te’o is Mormon. And, it’s already been suggested in delicate ways that he might have been less than socially or relationally sophisticated. But, children of devout Mormon and extreme evangelical families can develop a deep psychological inhibition to sexual activity even as they’re subject to the same natural impulses as their peers. It’s not necessarily naivete but a kind of personal reticence. I recognize it in Te’o, as unlikely as his popularity and image might suggest.

Importantly, this is different than being gullible or just dumb. Such inhibition would allow a kid like Te’o to be comfortable with a long distance relationship over a period of time where others would demand more. It would actually relieve that angst for him. At the same time, it would make him more susceptible to catfishing because he would not insist, as quickly, on the same physical evidence, so to speak, that in-person interaction would provide and that essentially every person with a chin-strap and testicles would require.

And precisely for this awkwardness, he certainly might have been unduly energized by any media attention that took this otherwise stunted relationship seriously. So, you get what appears to be an exaggerated expression of love when in truth it’s probably about as serious as he’s had.

I, obviously, don’t know — about his personal religious conviction or virginity or dating history. For all I know, he might be a Don Juan.

But, I see and suspect something I personally recognize. It’s a real phenomenon whether Te’o fits the diagnosis or not.

I guess you could say that I know the feeling.

UPDATE: TheRapUp.net has picked up on my song today.

Manti Te'o, Jeremy Schaap

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by juiceboxjackson.

Today’s blong here:

Catfisher of Men