One of our nation's most eloquent wordsmiths, George Walker Bush, said it best:
“There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee...that says, fool me once, shame on..shame on you. Fool me...you...you can't get fooled again.”
While some thought these were merely bumbling fragments uttered by the most gaping simpleton to hold America's highest office, Bush was actually utilizing one of poetry's most complicated meters, known as Villanelle, a form made up of five tercets followed by a quatrain.
Just seeing if you're paying attention. The first and third lines of the opening tercet are definitely not repeated alternately, so yeah, the guy is most definitely a colossal clodpate after all.
But in my opinion, the gist of the fur ball he was struggling to cough up is accurate. When someone tries to fool us, to hoax us or to coax us, they may free-skate on the rink of deception for a while, but eventually we'll catch on to their wheedling ways. Right?
Well, usually, but not all of us.
By now, even the most distant observer of the American sporting landscape has heard the strange tale of Manti Te'O, All-American linebacker from the University of Notre Dame. Te'O garnered worldwide sympathy after revealing the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend within mere hours of each other.
But it didn't take long for a few big, juicy bugs to splatter on the windshield of his pitymobile. You see, although Manti claimed to have lost the love of his life, he'd never met this "girlfriend" face-to-face; they'd only corresponded over the phone and through emails and texts. Even when notified that she'd been involved in a horrific automobile accident and was subsequently diagnosed with Leukemia, Te'O maintained a two time zone buffer from his dying soul mate.
And after being told that she'd succumbed to her illness in September, he dodged her funeral to play in a football game, thus sticking a fork in a relationship that contained as much eye contact as a Stevie Wonder-Helen Keller stare down.
As a show of hometown support for Te'O and his native state, leis were distributed to all who attended the game that sad Saturday. Te'O cried and gesticulated on the field of battle, pointing skyward, kneeling groundward and dislocating his opponents' cranial connective tissue in between. He left the field emotionally spent yet basking in the bristly buzz of public compassion.
His saga, portrayed in countless interviews and even a Sports Illustrated cover story, propelled him into a runner-up finish for college football's premier award, the Heisman Trophy.
And that's when things got weird.
Remember the girlfriend? Uh, yeah, she never existed. And neither did any of the drama surrounding her—the car wreck, the leukemia, her tragic death—hogwash, hooey, a hoax. Manti Te'O had been bamboozled, and now the world knew it.
We Americans are indeed a strange lot. We love any story of an individual or team who faces insurmountable obstacles, yet emerges victorious. We devour the accomplishments of a 1980 U.S. hockey team or a pilots who lands planes on rivers.
Heroes? Yes, I'll take a four-pack and supersize it, please.
But when one of our idols slips up, watch the hell out. Based on what's happened to Lance Armstrong, as long as he maintains residence in the U S of A, he's got himself a useful little skill set in being able to run really fast and super far.
We're instantly distrustful. Was Manti Te'O an earnest young man whose naivete rendered him the victim of the cruelest of pranks or a devious co-conspirator whose complicity in the hoax was aimed at maximizing public sympathy and hence personal earning potential?
We'll probably never know. Sure, it's highly bizarre that some dude is convinced that he deeply loves a person whom he's never met. But do you remember when you were twenty-two? I do. That was right around the time I got rid of a bunch of satanically-messaged rock albums based on some cable access show I'd watched at three in the morning.
I also had a girlfriend so insane that I gladly would've traded her for an online version, even if she were actually a thirty-seven-year-old vacuum repairman named Lars.
Am I simpatico with his version of events, that he was hoodwinked by an opportunistic sociopath whose motives will never truly be known?
Do I believe Manti Te'O?
I think I do.