Is it good or bad news for Notre Dame that its famous linebacker's girlfriend didn't die?
"It was many and many a year ago, In a kingdom by the sea, That a maiden there lived whom you may know ..."
So Edgar Allan Poe said in "Annabel Lee," the last poem he ever wrote, one reportedly inspired by his late wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe. He died not long after it was written. Consequently, there was little opportunity to determine whether his tribute was based on a real person or whether he was fibbing when he said that "the moon never beams without bringing me dreams Of the beautiful Annabel Lee ..."
That is decidedly not the case with Notre Dame linebacker Manti T'eo and his fictional dream-girl Lennay Kekua. Notre Dame and T'eo have been spinning an incredibly gullible sports media for months with his story of love, death, heartbreak and, now, to the chagrin of Golden Domers everywhere, an amazing hoax.
She never lived, so she never died. T'eo claims he believed she was the real thing, apparently not bothered, according to one line of the story, that he actually never met her face to face before her purported death in September from cancer.
There will, no doubt, be more to this story, and the disclosures aren't likely to enhance the reputations of T'eo or his university.
But if the story wasn't true, it ought to have been. It fits so well within one of the news media's favorite storylines — the grief-stricken athlete throwing down dunks or blowing up quarterbacks while he fights back tears as his heart is breaking.
How else does one explain why so many news outlets simply accepted at face value this story of love with a nonexistent woman — a Stanford University student no less — who has a serious car accident, then is stricken with cancer and dies on the same day as T'eo's grandmother, but not before telling him to go out and win one for the Gipper, er, Lennay.
The real scandal here is not the hoax and whether T'eo was in on it. The real scandal is that the tale T'eo claims to have swallowed whole really was swallowed whole for months by a supposedly skeptical media and a public that enjoys a good story, true or not.