Reusse's Reality Script: Episode 5 (Te'o)
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I happened to watch on cable the purported documentary "Catfish'' a couple of years ago. It was the tale of an on-line romance, where the woman involved turns out to be sad and lonely, rather than the gorgeous gal the man thought he was romancing in Cyberspace.
Trouble was, the male party never came off as sincere, and it was more of a putdown of the sad woman than the man alleged to be duped.
Apparently, enough people thought the woman's embarrassment to be high enough on the humor meter that "Catfish'' filmmaker Yaniv Schulman helped to develop a series for MTV that goes by that name: Catfish.
I'm told we get more sad sacks who think they in an on-line relationship being led along until they are revealed as saps at the end.
The Internet name for this is now "catfishing'' and today we have new heroes in this field: The people behind the on-line romance of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and a fictional Stanford coed torn from his social media grasp _ first with a serious car accident, then through tragic death from leukemia.
This story is a humiliation for Te'o, for Notre Dame and for prominent journalists who reported the story of the non-existent woman's death. I don't know what the hell is going on here _ maybe Te'o knew what was happening all along _ but I'm guessing it was some miserable young people having the time of their lives tormenting a big-name, naïve athlete.
Why did Te'o and Notre Dame allow the tragic narrative of his girlfriend's death to continue all the way through the national championship game on Jan. 7, even after his family notified the school on Dec. 26 that the whole thing about the dead girlfriend was a hoax?
I'm guessing for exactly that reason: Notre Dame soon would be headed for Miami for final preparations for the title game, and it would've been media chaos for Te'o and his teammates if the scam had been revealed.
Also: Notre Dame had hired an investigator to find out what in the name of Touchdown Jesus was going on, and school officials weren't going to be talking until they had some results from that investigation.
What I find asinine in all of this is how innovative the people behind "catfishing'' think they are, when better pranks were being played out in the media for decades before the Internet _ and without the need for humiliation of the subject.
My favorite such yarn always has been one revealed by Gary Cartwright, a great Texas writer and former sportswriter, in his Harper's Magazine essay of April 1968: "Confessions of a Washed Up Sportswriter.''
In this grand treatise, which you can find by Googling (as opposed to catfishing), Cartwright offered this passage:
"Boredom is the reason why at the Dallas Times Herald in 1960 we came to invent the mythical football power from Metcalf R. The name honors the late newspaper poet James J. Metcalf (the R. stands for nothing in particular, it just sounded better than Metcalf U. or Metcalf Poly).
"On any Sunday among the agate lines of type telling who won, a Times Herald reader was privileged to find the results of the Metcalf R. game. Metcalf R. scheduled such worthies as Indiana McGruder and Southeastern Oklahoma Central and always won by three points.
"Do not suppose this went unchallenged. On one occasion, when the Metcalf R. score was accidently lost on the composing-room floor, a neighbor of the city editor complained. This complaint was the inspiration for our next move: the invention of the Corbet Comets, a small high school football power of unspecified classification.
"The Comets streaked along on the energies of their twin halfbacks, Dickie Don and Rickie Ron Yewbet _ named for TCU football coach Abe Martin's speech pattern ("We gonna play some foobuhl, yewbet we are!'').
"Every Friday night we inserted under a 14-point headline a paragraph celebrating Corbet's newest triumph. Corbet did not lose for two seasons, in which time Rickie Ron got mumps and died ...''
Rickie Ron Yewbet died a half-century ago, and in much funnier fashion than the demise of Manti Te'o's fictional girlfriend.