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Te’o Joins Notre Dame’s Long Tradition Of Hooey

Bloomberg View Memo Pad Sports

Te’o Joins Notre Dame’s Long Tradition Of Hooey


Whatever else Manti Te’o manages to accomplish in his interview with Katie Couric, the humiliated Notre Dame linebacker will at least be proving Karl Marx right: All historical events really do occur twice, first as tragedy, then as farce.

Last year, we watched a mythic college football program — Joe Paterno’s Penn State — unravel in a horrific child-sex-abuse scandal. Now we’re watching another unravel in a screwball comedy that could have been scripted by Mel Brooks.

As singularly ridiculous as the Te’o story may seem — that his incredible season was inspired by the phony death of an imaginary woman — the only real difference between it and the rest of the horsepucky generated in South Bend, Indiana, is that his heartwarming story of triumph over tragedy was exposed more or less in real time, before it had a chance to set as myth.

As lore has it, an obscure Fighting Irish team revolutionized college football in 1913 by using the forward pass to beat Army. In reality, as Murray Sperber details in his book Shake Down the Thunder, Notre Dame was already a well- known football school at that point, and the forward pass didn’t catch on until many years later, not even in South Bend.

Sports myths don’t create themselves. They feed off the bloated copy of rapturous sportswriters, and Notre Dame’s were nourished by the very best of the very worst. Before Pete Thamel, the author of Sports Illustrated’s now-infamous Oct. 1 cover story on Te’o, there was the great, purple-prosed monster of the post-World War I press box, Grantland Rice, who famously compared the Irish’s 1924 backfield — average weight: 158 pounds — to the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” (While we’re deconstructing myths, it’s worth noting that Rice didn’t even dream up this image himself. According to Sperber, he got the idea from a student press assistant.)

The story of Notre Dame football was so good that Hollywood had to tell it. And so it did, in the 1940 biopic Knute Rockne, All American, which, on the eve of the nation’s entry into World War II, turned a good football coach into a Great American. Never mind Rockne’s enduring battle with Notre Dame to lower admission standards for football players, his advice column for college-football gamblers and his fixation on money. The movie is vague about Rockne’s final, fatal plane trip to California. In case you ever wondered, he was on his way to Los Angeles to sign a big deal for the rights to his life story.


  1. bpai99 January 25, 2013

    Thank you for a nice summary of the lies, fabrications and hypocrisy that are the essence of Notre Dame football. It’s only a matter of time before they abandon even the pretense of having an academic institution as an appendage to the football program.

  2. Lynda January 25, 2013

    That boy needs help. I could not help but remember comments made about President Ford having played too much football without a helmet. Lets hope the young man has family and friends that are there for him. Very sad.

    1. bpai99 January 25, 2013

      Don’t blame him – it’s the corrupting influence of Notre Dame football, which puts these kids on a pedestal and severs their connection with the real world until the day they are cast aside.

      1. Lynda January 25, 2013

        I wish I could agree with you. Certainly young jocks are coddled from the first time they show any ability until the day their careers end. That is true at ND and probably all major universities and certainly the pro’s. However, it is clear that this young man has ‘issues’ that he has to learn to deal with.

  3. Mike January 26, 2013

    This bunch is a collection of the finest, last to be picked, kids on the playground. I always find it humorous, when so much time is devoted to whining about what in the end is just a game, albeit a game that most have never played today.

    To suggest that Notre Dame, known for far more than its football team in the halls of academia, will some day just admit that it exists to train, would be, professional athletes, is laughable on its face and I might add, smacks of anti Catholicism.

    The author and this crowd needs to get a life and embrace the fact that they just weren’t popular or athletic. Just saying.

    1. Kurt February 14, 2013

      You follow a cult of pedophiles and homosexuals…just saying.

  4. m8lsem January 26, 2013

    Who cares? Why are media obsessing over some football player’s psyche? What difference does it make to the life of America in the world? Are there no wars? No crusades for health? Is the economy well? Is Congress or the UN or the UK Parliament or the Bundestag or the Peoples Republic of China up to anything? How is the Flu epidemic and how about that stomach bug? If I see one more reference to Te-O I may barf.

    1. Mikey7a January 26, 2013

      That’s just to the point m8lsem! In times where all the things you mention are bringing us down, America searches for a hero, a winner, a champion, to lift
      our spirits, and to give us hope, and courage to carry on! Sadly, we find more often than not, that the person we put upon the pedestal, was indeed only human afterall.

  5. dtgraham January 27, 2013

    The best line that I heard about Beyonce lip synching the national anthem was a reference to Manti Te’o releasing a statement saying that the anthem seemed very real to him, so it might possibly not have been faked.


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