As Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick attempted to explain the elaborate hoax that caused star linebacker Manti Te’o to believe in the life, love and death of his online girlfriend Lennay Kekua, he referenced a movie called “Catfish.”
"Catfish" was a cult movie, one not a lot of people saw, but was turned into a reality TV show on MTV.
It also scared the few who did see it.
The premise of the movie, which premiered in 2010, was this: A man named Nev Schulman fell in love with a girl after establishing an online and telephonic relationship with her. He never meets her, knows only what she tells him and gleans the rest from photos and posts on Facebook.
Schulman’s cousin and friend make a documentary of the entire relationship. At some point, the relationship comes to a hilt and he decides to drive to her hometown to meet face-to-face. What he finds is not the woman he thought he knew.
Swarbrick said the relationship between Te’o and Kekua was exactly like this except Te’o never got a chance to meet his mystery woman. The perpetrators told Te’o his girlfriend had passed away after a short battle with leukemia. He never attended the funeral.
Swarbrick said Te’o had tried to meet Kekua several times and that she always had an excuse as to why she couldn’t.
In the movie, Schulman starts to uncover holes in his girlfriend’s story, which lead him and his friends to find her in Michigan.
Swarbrick said Te’o, believing the woman he loved was dead, received a phone call on Dec. 6 from the woman he knew as his girlfriend. She told him she had a story to explain the situation. Swarbrick said there were subsequent calls to restart the relationship. This, of course, was when Te’o knew something was amiss and went to his parents and coaches to explain the ordeal.
It’s almost unfathomable that a group of people - Swarbrick said there were many characters involved - would go to such elaborate lengths to fool someone like this. In the movie, (spoiler alert) we learn that the mother of the girl Nev thought he was speaking with was in charge of the hoax. The girl he thought he was talking to had cut off communication with her family long ago and the mother was trying to keep a piece of her with her.
It’s actually a sad revelation and it makes you feel bad for the mom. Nev ends up sympathizing with her in the end, even after she tries to keep up the ruse when he meets her.
Disclaimer: There is some debate as to whether the movie was a true story or a fake documentary. Regardless, the similarities between the movie and Te'o's story still apply.
Who knows what the story is surrounding Te’o’s Catfishers?
Schulman actually tweeted Wednesday evening, after Swarbrick’s news conference, that he had been in touch with the fake girlfriend and was going to get to the bottom of the story.
Until then, we’re all waiting to hear Te’o’s side of this bizarre story. Unfortunately, we don’t have the benefit of someone making a documentary on his behalf.
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