Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

King Catfish: My Manti Te’o Theory (And How It Could Happen To You)

Two years ago, in conjunction with VSB’s three year anniversary and the release of “Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night,” we threw a huge party in D.C. Titled “Three Deez,”, it was a mix between a book-signing event, a meet and greet, and a swinger’s ball, and 500 or so people attended, some coming from as far as Seattle and Miami.

That day was also the first time Panama and I met each other in person.

After three years of doing VSB together and six or seven years of knowing each other, we just…never met. There’s really no explanation why. I mean, only four hours separate Pittsburgh and D.C., and I’d actually been to the DMV area a few times in the year before we finally met. It just never happened.

To us, it doesn’t really seem like a big deal. I mean, of course you can start a popular blog and a business and write a book together without face-to-face interaction. We did it because, well, we just did it. Others seem to find it a bit more peculiar than we do, though. Some even think we’re making it up to cultivate some sort of mystique. But, trust me when I say that neither of us care enough about this factoid to carry on a lie this long.

Anyway, as odd as our relationship may initially seem, I don’t think it’s really all that unique. I’ve been pretty engaged with the internet for over a decade now, and in that time I’ve seen numerous people cultivate all types of relationships—friendships, partnerships, businesses—online with people they hadn’t even met in person yet. This knowledge and experience definitely helps me understand how a person could have a “girlfriend” they haven’t even met before, and for this reason I do believe that Manti Te’o was just a victim of the most high-profile case of “catfishing” ever.

(Btw, isn’t it amazingly coincidental—or not coincidental at all—that the year when the term “catfish” enters our national lexicon happens to be the same year the most talked about instance of catfishing ever also happened? This relationship began before Catfish aired, but do you think the fake “death” was at all influenced by the presence of the show?)

There are other theories floating around—he knew all along, he’s gay and the online girlfriend was a convenient beard for him—and each can be true. But, knowing what I know about internet goggles and how easy it can be for someone to cultivate real feelings for a virtual person, I think he was duped, found out about the hoax in the last few weeks, and just went along with it—hoping the truth would never get out—because it would have been too embarrassing to admit.

Now, just as it takes a certain type of person to have the type of relationship Panama and I had, it takes a certain type to fall for someone they haven’t even met. Many (if not most) people would have pushed harder for evidence that the person they were in love with actually existed. But, as we all know, sometimes it’s easier to delude ourselves, to believe in the improbable (and likely impossible) than to just admit the truth. In this sense, Manti Te’o is no different than the chick who’s had a “boyfriend” for three years but still doesn’t know where he lives or what he does for a living, or the guy who “believes” that if he just acts nice and waits his turn, the woman of his dreams will finally give him a key to break out of the friends’ zone. What happened to him has happened to many of us and could have just as easily happened to many of those who it hasn’t happened to.

Actually, nah, f*ck that. This shit is crazy, and that n*gga is nuts.

Anyway, you’ve just read my King Catfish theory. People of VSB, what are yours? What the hell do you think is really happening here?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • I Am Your People

    Here’s the problem with Manti Te’o – in various interviews, he claimed to have MET her. In fact, they first met at Stanford. Furthermore, who doesn’t visit their dying girlfriend in the hospital? And as Deadspin pointed out, the timeline didn’t match, and he mentioned his girlfriend early this month despite learning about her in December.

    And lets keep it real – you’re a star football player with a plethora of p*ssy on campus, but you’re in love with a girl you never met? I suspect someone at Notre Dame might have been complicit in elevating a somewat better than average player to Heisman status. helps ND in Heisman counts, helps Manti in the draft.

    • Tx10inch

      I agree with ALL of this…completely.

    • Njnear

      I don’t believe Te’o was duped, howver i don’t know how involved he was either. The details don’t matchup. I am glad you actually read the Deadspin piece. I am tired of people saying, “lets wait til the facts come out.” Deadspin did a great job of confirming their finding to the best of their abilities. What I don’t get, if you are dating someone online for three years, wouldn’t you at some point Skype, FaceTime or even snap chat your girl?? If the girl declines video chatting, wouldn’t you get suspicious?

      • Wild Cougar

        Ive never skyped and I never heard of facetime before this story broke and people keep saying “He never heard of facetime?!” A lot of people just haven’t installed virtual presence into their social repertoire. I’ve never felt the need to, but that’s not to say i won’t. But it does seem weird to me to talk to someone on a screen.

        • Tristan

          i think the obvious difference is age, someone older maybe isn’t into it but Te’o is a college student, nah yo.

          • Rewind

            EXACTLY. Aint a college student alive that isn’t somehow a wizard at technology, even the lazy ones know something.

            • Wild Cougar

              I do technology. I just don’t do Skype. I’m sending this on my new Samsung Galaxy, for Petes sake

              • Sweetsass

                Oh, WC, you are old though. *no shade, just facts

                You grew up with widespread rotary phone usage.

                College students today got cellphones in 3rd grade.

                • Wild Cougar

                  I’m quite proud of my age. I’m just saying, not using Skype has nothing to do with age or use of technology. Pretty much any type of technology that the kids use, I use. And some they don’t. I was the first person I know to route internet channels through my xbox before they configured them for that. I just don’t use Skype.

              • Rewind

                It has nothing to do with your age WC. But there should be no such thing as a college student who is not intuned with technology, because they are the generation who grew up with it, literally.

          • nillalatte

            Really? You need to come up off dat. Kids. Umph. I teach technology baby cakes My kids some of the first ones that screw up their phones and computers and then come crying, ‘help me.’ Well, if your silly arse wouldn’t download every app and game on the net, you wouldn’t have these problems. Do you know how many times I have had to rebuild computers and phones? I build the back side of systems, the parts that younger folks don’t know about. smdh…. Age difference. Yeah, right. LOL

    • Todd

      The meeting story is something that Yahoo Sports debunked. Apparently, the only source of him saying that they met is his father, and he was caught out there.

      Also, not every football player is chasing p*ssy. Ability to play football does not directly correlate to wannabe playa status. And it’s sad that a football player HAS to smash everything moving, lest he get called names.

      • camilleblue

        Todd…see this article..
        http://msn.foxsports.com/collegefootball/story/manti-teo-notre-dame-comforts-parents-of-dying-girl-with-letter-grief-cancer-102512

        what’s really kind of disgusting to me is that he reached out to other people that lost a loved one and comforted them by being able to “relate” to their pain b/c he lost his grandmother AND girlfriend…..So his GF was at St. Judes…but he ain’t never send flowers…never skype with her or any of her friends or family ain’t never call her hospital room and didn’t go to her funeral – she was too sick to do any of those things, but not too sick to initiate and maintain an online “relationship”.???? He’s a fraud, and having lost several close family members to cancer it just really kind of pisses me off that he would use that as a means for a come up for himself.

      • AfroPetite

        He may not chase it but lets not pretend star athletes at these D-1 schools don’t have the puss.y chasing then. There are plenty of females lurking and trying to be the parasite reaping the benefits of dating or casually fukking the big man on campus.

    • Tristan

      *signs promissary note for IAYP comment*

    • Royale W. Cheese

      “you’re a star football player with a plethora of p*ssy on campus”
      .
      P*ssy does not always = sweet attractive girlfriend.

  • I Am Your People

    Aside: my cousin goes to ND on a basketball scholarship. I will be teasing her about the ND athletic program as a whole forEVUH

    • Val

      Wow, is your cousin Skylar Diggins? if so, she’s one of my favorite players. And, she’s a cutie. :-)

      • I Am Your People

        i’m not saying who, but no, not Skylar. But I am trying to keep Lil Wayne the h*ll away from her. “We” (I’m not an alum, just riding with the cuz) need to beat Baylor and win it all this year *o/*

        • Val

          I was really glad when she ignored Lil Wayne. The thought of Lil Wayne corrupting her is just too much to bare.

          Well, ND beat Connecticut, so that’s a good sign. But, Britney Griner and Baylor are going to be hard to beat. I’m pulling for ND though.

          • That Ugly Kid

            Weezy would’ve only upgraded her. You know not what you speak.

            • keisha brown

              O_O lol. non.

              • That Ugly Kid

                Yes.

            • Val

              Yeah, just like Lil Wayne upgraded what’s her name. See, I can’t even remember her name now.

              • That Ugly Kid

                YOP!!!!

            • GypsyCurl

              @TUK: Speaking of Lil Wayne (referring back to your previous comment of rappers who went to college), he spent a semester in college but dropped out. He then took classes from University of Pheonix (ugh don’t get me started with these online schools) and he may have gotten a degree from UofP (which in my boogie book doesn’t count). However, taking college classes is not the same as getting a college degree. Just bc a rapper enrolled in college (and several have), doesn’t mean he is intelligent, especially if they didn’t get a degree (which several did not get). Have you gone to college? (*Friendly sarcasm*) Within the first semester, people drop out like flies. And its not bc they are bill gates or Zuck. He!!, people who got degrees aren’t that smart, they just stuck it out. And dont get me started with some of the med students and phd students I am surrounded by. They dumb as he!! too. And the international students are dumb too. I have encountered some dumb student from china, India, etc.

              • That Ugly Kid

                Lil Wayne dropped out not because of grades, but because he wanted to focus more on music. But before he dropped out he was an A student.

                • GypsyCurl

                  He made all A’s? Says who? His transcript was never published. And like all students, transcripts are private and can’t be released without permission. Also being an A student in elementary school (which was also mentioned in the comment) doesn’t mean diddly squat.

                  • That Ugly Kid

                    He was an A student. And believe it or not, being an A student in elementary school does mean something. It means getting accepted to a magnet high school, which in turn gives you a higher chance at being accepted to more prestigious universities.

          • Todd

            Well, Li’l Wayne got that mojo that runs women crazy. That’s probably some poor underlings job to handle the Li’l Wayne patrol for Notre Dame. LOL

            • camilleblue

              “Well, Li’l Wayne got that mojo that runs women crazy”

              He runs me in the complete opposite direction, lol! I just don’t see it. Him and Jim Jones ALWAYS look like they need their grandmama’s to give them a good hot bath tub scrubbin’ LOL!

              • Todd

                Jim Jones isn’t dirty as much as he’s just a hairy a$$ dude. Unless he gets laser treatment, he’s just stuck like that. Say what you will about Li’l Wayne, but he won’t notice from the slobbering sounds being made on his peen. He’s never wanted for female companionship.

                • camilleblue

                  true dat…imjussayin…they both look dirty to ME all.the.time.

                  • Maris

                    +1 hundred, thousand trillion.
                    And trust me, Jim Jones looks…dirty. Like the dude on Charlie Brown Dirty. It’s like a cloud of dust travels with him. It is for that reason I just CANNOT touch a rapper. They just all look to me like they smell of three-day old weed smoke, bodega bacon egg and cheese sandwiches, stripper juice, and a four-wing fried rice special.

                    • camilleblue

                      d*mn – not Charlie Brown dirty – and LOL to the “They just all look to me like they smell of three-day old weed smoke, bodega bacon egg and cheese sandwiches, stripper juice, and a four-wing fried rice special.”

      • Malik

        Just because she plays basketball Val…. :P jk

        • Val

          Ha!

  • NipseysKlub

    This dude is lying and planned this hustle. As it was mentioned on the Tony Kornheiser radio show, this dude is the star linebacker on one of top football programs this year. As folks know, top athletes get access to lovely ladies, but mostly jumpoff, etc. Yet despite access to all these live, can be touched ladies, he is caught up on an online, never met girlfriend. “n*gga please”

  • I Am Your People

    Aside #2: As I said on Twitter – can someone please find the Catfish behind the Willie Lynch story?

  • Val

    Nah, sorry, Champ, he was a knowing participant in all of this. I wasn’t really sure until this evening after seeing a report that he lied to his dad and said that she was at a game and he met her.

    That, to me, means that he conspired with someone to make this all up. Why? Well, either because he thought a double sob story (his grandmother really did die) would help him win the Heisman Trophy or because he’s gay.

    If one or more of his teammates had a suspicion that he was gay then that would be enough reason to make this up. No openly gay person, that I know of has ever been drafted into the NFL or played in the NFL. So being gay, or thought to be gay, might actually cost him millions, unfortunately.

    • Rewind

      Well since he’s knee deep in bullshyte, only way to know for sure is when some random dude comes out to blow up his spot about getting head in a 7-11 bathroom

      • Val

        Yep, I can see the National Inquirer headline now.

        Did you go to the meet-up?

        • Rewind

          Yes I did and it was great. We all had fun, about 5 of us altogether but not bad for round 1. Hopefully the next try, we get more people.

          • Val

            Cool.

          • Shamira

            y’all better! I’m so butthurt I had to miss out! *pouts*

            • Rewind

              Don’t feel bad love, the first time is always a little weird when you don’t know anyone and can’t even tell if you’ll be able to recognize anybody.

              But yo behind better be at the next one!

              • Asiyah

                I had a deadline! Couldn’t make it! Next time, hopefully!!!!

                • Rewind

                  I’ll forgive you only if you’re buying shots for the next meet up.

        • GypsyCurl

          Has anyone proposed a Detroit meet up? Anyone? :( *back to my seat*

          • niksmit

            There’s really nothing to it but to do it. All you gotta do is name a time and place, GC. Are there really that many Detroit VSP though?

            • Brother Mouzone

              Detroiter right here!!! Now living in Atlanta.

              • Iceprincess2

                @brother mouzone You & I & kid video need to arrange something here in the A.

                • Yoles

                  Kid Video is currently a resident of Alabama… Roll Tide

            • curlygirl

              slowly raises hand

              Detroit Metro Area ** aka Ann Arbor

            • GypsyCurl

              I must confess, I am a bad planner, but if the interest is there, i will try. I have seen a few comments from people saying their in the D (or metro area). If anyone wants a Detroit Metro meet up say I.

              • Shamira

                I heard that it’s so cold there.

                *giggles*

                Sorry, I couldn’t help myself….

  • nillalatte

    I’m confused. I just read the timeline of Te’o quotes and I was thinking… Wait. What? Is dude a psycho case? I mean, what’s the point? Isn’t he a bit old for imaginary girlfriends? Maybe he needs a new doll? BOL. Oh, the places I could take this! :D

    • Val

      “Oh, the places I could take this!”

      Don’t hold back, Nilla!!

      • nillalatte

        Wait, but what the hell does it have to do with the Heisman? I have no idea what this fake girlfriend and the Heisman have to do with each other. The whole damn thing is just weird. And, why does something like this make the news? smdh…

        • Val

          Sympathy votes. Grandmother and girlfriend die on the same day, supposedly. Plus he’s a senior, so no more chances to win. He could have gotten desperate to win. A Heisman can mean 1st pick and millions of dollars in the NFL.

        • Angel Baby

          Now that I agree with!!!! No one should really care about this story. It’s funny to laugh at but not take seriously. This is how young people get caught up in their feelings before they mature and learn how to deal with mistakes. The adults and media have taken this way too personally. It’s no way this should be that big of a deal for a college student. I couldn’t imagine any of my friends and I during our college years being on the news for the lies we told. smh

  • I Am Your People

    Manti is supposed to have a press conference at some point. He’s been proved a froud. He just needs to come out of the closet…cuz that’s what I also think motivated this. Again, I don’t care how devout of a Mormon he is – popular athlete with no girl(s) on his arm? No

  • That Ugly Kid

    January 18th. It is officially my 23rd Birthday. I want Chipotle, comic books, and strippers. In that order.

    • Val

      :-) Happy birthday, TUK! :-)

    • chameleonic

      [*does a sexy little dance*] haaaappy biiiirthday mr preeeesident. happy birthday to you! *kisses your cheek*

      • That Ugly Kid

        I got a kiss, I feel special.

        • chameleonic

          good, cuz youre….justin credible!!! [*adds plate of cheese to where the cake and drinks are*]

    • nillalatte

      Chipotle, comic books and strippers? That is an odd combination grasshopper. How about some chicken chipotle strips in a happy meal? They have comics on the boxes sometimes. :D LMAO…

      Happy Birthday honey. Muwah.

    • I Am Your People

      *throws glitter* *rubs self down in glitter*

      • Rewind

        *plays 90s porno jazz*

        • camilleblue

          lol

    • keisha brown

      you are what????
      *puts up x with fingers and walks away. you youngins are dangerous. lol.
      but ummm…happy birthday!!!

      • Tristan

        dont be acting like you aint bout that youngin life…u been my Lennay Kekua since 18 lol

      • That Ugly Kid

        Awe Keisha….what about my trip to Canada, eh?

    • Breezy

      HAPPY BIRTHDAY TUK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      *let’s all the kids at pre school sing happy birthday, gives them a slice of the Spider Man cake that WC sent for TUK and then sits back and watch TUK, Tristian and Adonis play tag your it*

      • Todd

        LOL You WRONG!

      • Tristan

        *sits at adult table*…idk who TRISTIAN is anyway

        • Yoles

          lol….lol….lol

      • camilleblue

        lol!

      • MicTheMessenger

        Y’all betta watch you out. The young boys making up for where them older, ain’t ish kneegrows is slackin off.

        Salute to my fellow Chicagoan/VSB/Januarian/sub-30 brother. Just don’t go to any strip clubs in Harvey.

      • nillalatte

        Girl, thank you for bringing the Sprider Man cake AFTER he got his happy meal. Wouldn’t want to spoil his appetite. ;) Should we also find the pin the tail on the donkey game or do a pinata? Wait. We’d better not give him a stick! :D

        • That Ugly Kid

          Aw, word? Yall just gon sit here and talk about me like I’m a lil azz kid? Man, forget yall. I don’t need this.

          But…wassup with that Spiderman, though….

    • msdebbs

      Happy born day TUK!

    • Sweet GA Brown

      *hands over chicken burrito bowl and starts stretching*

    • Cheekie

      HAPPY BIRFDAY, TUK!

      • Cheekie

        Oh!! *flings stripper-SHAPED confetti*

        That’s all I got.

    • Tristan

      Happy Birthday TUK #VSBunder25gang

    • AfroPetite

      *put on sports bra and matching shorts for twerk session*

      Yay for the 1990 kids! It’s our Jordan year!!!

      • Kema

        Happy b-day Tuk!!! *puts on matching sports bra & shorts in a different color* Just like we practiced in rehearsal right?

    • Wild Cougar

      Awww, you all grown up now? *gives TUK ice cream*

    • Wild Cougar

      Awww, you all grown up now? *gives TUK ice cream*

    • CNotes

      Happy Birthday Youngin! : )

    • Yoles

      ♫ ♪♪ ♫ Happy Birthday to You ♪♫•*.*•♫♪♪Happy Birthday to You ••♫♪ Happy Birthday, Dear That Ugly Kid AffectionatelyKnownAsTukAndWhoWeKnowIsNotUglyyyyyyyy Happy Birthday tooooooo You! ♫ ♪♪ ♫ I hope you are enjoying your special day :D

    • That Ugly Kid

      Thanks you everyone for the birthday wishes. *Now patiently waits for the twerking to begin.*

      • chameleonic

        i wanna go first! [*puts on vulgar songs*] my sh*t bang, my sh*t bang, my sh*t bang bang bang bang….=x

      • Iceprincess2

        HAPPY BIRFDAY TUKMIESTER!! *sets down a big plate of shrimp scampi with a candle in it*

    • Asiyah

      Happy Birthday, handsome! Chi-town’s in the building!!!!!

    • Royale W. Cheese

      Happy birthday. Try not to kill the strippers with all the gas you’re going to get from $h*t-potle.

  • DG

    Catfish or no, the fact still remains…

    THE IRISH GOT THEIR A$$ BEAT IN THE NAT’L CHAMPIONSHIP…

    …that is all

    #SEC-alum

    • Jay

      RMFT!!!!

    • Todd

      Fcuk the SEC. Or as I like to call it the NFL Championship Division. After all, you know if pro football did promotion and relegation, there would be a LOT of SEC teams in the NFL, with the large payrolls they have. #shotsfired.

  • chameleonic

    you and panama knew each other for seven years and went into a serious business venture together and didnt meet until three years after it blew up…..im just gonna let that one cook. WOW.

    anyway, i dont really know much about the king catfish thing because that show isnt really on my radar. but i will say is, i guess its not a big deal so as long as you truly know the other person on the other side of the screen. and i dont understand why people lie. i get that the interpersonal nature of online interactions can be just as organic as going to a class or to your job or to a community center and creating bonds with people youre in close quarters with. except you eventually wanna touch the person and be with them and do things together so why lie upfront.

    i said it before, i think everything that could/would turn a person off to you should be put on front street and they can make the decision for themselves. and i think thats best for both people. aaaand maybe if youre slightly sizing someone up and ask for their enumber because you wanna know more about them and have such conversations, maybe that should happen fairly early on. you know, just in case weekends get unbearably quiet. not that im saying thats how *i* feel.

    maybe theres something uncomfortable about “girlfriend” and you just wanna have honest conversations with a good friend youll eventually be sleeping (with) next to. maybe friends tell friends the truth. and maybe its easier to be honest with someone when you dont run the risk of losing the person you really care about. basically, what im saying is, its better to be honest and upfront with someone as a friend and let it grow from there because a relationship makes you wanna hide things the other person might not wanna deal with.

    but you dont have to hide anything from friends. especially not in private.