Archive | May, 2013

Vanity Fair Rebecca by David Kamp

24 May

How Rebecca, Broadway’s Hot Mess of a Musical, Managed One Day of Rehearsal
by David Kamp

The defunct musical’s poster.
The Tony Awards will be distributed on Sunday, June 9, but one show that won’t be in the running in any category is Rebecca, the Musical. That’s because Rebecca, which is based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel and is already a hit in foreign-language versions overseas, has experienced one calamity after another on its tortuous path to Broadway. For the June issue of V.F., I wrote a story, “The Road to Manderley,” that chronicles the misadventures of the theater producer Ben Sprecher as he struggled to make his dream of Rebecca—a show he believes is the “next Phantom of the Opera”—a reality.

The tsuris that has befallen Sprecher and the production is the stuff of dark Coen Brothers comedy. After one fat-cat investor rolls back the amount of his investment, another fat-cat investor steps in to save the show . . . and then dies of malaria . . . and then turns out to have been the invention of an alleged con man. A third fat-cat investor steps in to re-save the show, only to be scared off by a pseudonymous e-mail tipster who calls herself “Sarah Finkelstein.” As all of this is unfolding, F.B.I. agents present themselves at Sprecher’s door, thereby lowering a cloud of suspicion over the producer himself. And when the identity of “Sarah Finkelstein” is revealed, the saga gets more Coens-absurd still. Cue lawsuits, federal indictments, and much ridicule of Sprecher in the press.

Yet Rebecca’s failure to launch isn’t so funny when you consider that it has left a large number of actors and other theater professionals bereft, deeply disappointed that they are not currently a part of a major Broadway musical. There’s a poignant scene that didn’t make the final article in which the cast and crew, having received word for the third time in 2012 that Rebecca would not be going into rehearsals—due, yet again, to a lack of money—decided to hold a “first day of rehearsals” anyway, unpaid.

This was on Monday, October 1, just a few days after the “Sarah Finkelstein” episode. It was the idea of Michael Blakemore, Rebecca’s distinguished, 84-year-old would-be director, to have everyone meet up at the rehearsal facility where they were to have met up for work: the New 42nd Street Studios.

“It was like a scene in A Chorus Line,” Sylvester Levay, the show’s composer, told me. “Everyone crying, everyone hugging, asking, ‘Why is this happening?’” For all of Rebecca’s longish life as a theoretical Broadway show, this meeting marked the first and only meeting, to date, of the full company and creative team.

Sprecher was there, too—broken down and baggy-eyed, barely holding himself together. (He does a lot of crying in the piece, both in his recounted tales of misfortune and in person, right in front of me.) While there are those in the theater community who harbor beliefs that Sprecher was somehow complicit in the cons and intrigues that have cursed his show, it’s clear that his cast and creative team regard him as a benevolent dupe, not a malevolent deceiver. “I can’t see,” Blakemore told me, “how it would be in any way to Ben’s advantage to carry on a misconception.”

And so, on October 1, there were many hugs exchanged, songs sung, and home-baked goods proffered. “We really needed to be with each other,” said Karen Mason, the actress cast in the plum role of Mrs. Danvers. “It was definitely mourning something. And with all the press that was going on around it—a lot of mean-spirited, nasty conjecture—we needed to be with each other. We needed to see Ben. I think, more than anything, everybody needed to see Ben.”

Walter Perlmutter 1926 – 2013

23 May

WALTER M. PERLMUTTER (1926 – 2013)
PERLMUTTER–Walter Marc, died on Thursday, April 12th in Highland Park, Illinois. He was 86 years old. Walter was born to Grace and Arthur Perlmutter of Long Beach, New York on October 26, 1926, and is survived by his brother David Perlmutter, his three children, Amy Frankel, Nell Kisiel and Andrew Perlmutter and his three grandchildren, Grace, Arthur, and Jane Frankel. Walter served in the US Navy during WWII. He graduated from Utica College and enjoyed a long and successful career in the toy business. In his retirement, Walter returned to his long time loves of boating and journalism. Memorial donations can be directed to the Grace and Arthur Perlmutter Scholarship Fund (Utica College Office of Advancement, 1600 Burrstone Road, Utica, NY 13502.)
Published in The New York Times on April 16, 2013

Vanity Fair by Ned Zeman

17 May

By Ned Zeman Vanitry Fair June 2013

The story is a classic of the genre. It opens on February 4, 2009—with an event that is, in the world of college football, the biggest day of the
year that doesn’t involve tackling. This is National Signing Day, when the nation’s top high-school players officially commit to their chosen
colleges. Among the most publicized and coveted recruits of 2009 is our protagonist, Manti Te’o, an explosive linebacker from the Hawaiian
island of Oahu.

That Te’o happens to be of Hawaiian-Samoan descent—and Mormon, to boot—burnishes his star appeal. One of the N.F.L.’s biggest stars, Troy
Polamalu, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, comes from a long line of Samoans. Pacific Islanders routinely play at the University of Southern
California (because of its proximity) and Utah’s Brigham Young University (because it’s Mormon). And one extended family of Samoans with a
large presence in Hawaii—the Tuiasosopos—has produced a steady stream of collegiate and professional stars.

Te’o, being the country’s top linebacker recruit, is primed to sign with U.S.C., the country’s top program. Everyone agrees they’re the ideal
match—right up until the minute Te’o faxes in his commitment letter.

To Notre Dame.

This reversal rocks the college-football universe, which can’t fathom why a devoutly Mormon kid from Hawaii would select a devoutly Catholic
university in frigid, landlocked South Bend, Indiana. “A matter of faith,” Te’o explained. “I closed my eyes and said a prayer. And after I said that
prayer, everything just lined up.”

This divine intervention plays rather well at Notre Dame, a school with 105 winning seasons in 124 years that marries piety and public
relationship better than any other. Inevitably our soul warrior makes 63 tackles and wins Freshman All-American honors. Over the next two
seasons, he leads the Irish in tackles and becomes, in addition to an All-American and an Academic All-American, the most famous player on
the most famous team in America’s second-most-popular spectator team sport (after professional football). Although Te’o is sure to be
selected in the first round of the 2012 N.F.L. Draft, he surprises everyone by eschewing seven-figure riches in favor of one last season in the
warm embrace of his school. There he determines to reverse three years of his team’s recent mediocrity, underscored by its 1–6 record against
its storied rivals—U.S.C. and Michigan. Heading into the 2012 senior season, the Irish are unranked, facing the toughest schedule in America.

And guess what?

The team scraps its way to an undefeated regular season in which it combines several truly impressive wins with a few lucky escapes born of
the fortuitous bounces and cowed officiating that can be endemic to Notre Dame Stadium.

But the driving force, in every win, is Manti Te’o, whose legend reaches full flower on September 15, in the aftermath of Notre Dame’s upset
victory over the Michigan State Spartans. On national TV, an awestruck sideline reporter asks Te’o how he managed to play such inspired
football—12 tackles—given that he was just a few days removed from a six-hour period in which he lost both his grandmother Annette Santiago,
to complications stemming from diabetes, and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, to leukemia. “They were with me,” Te’o replied. “I’m just so happy
that I had a chance to honor my grandmother and my girlfriend and my family.”

One week later, Te’o records two interceptions and eight tackles during a big win over the Michigan Wolverines. Afterward, he explains why he
spent the day at Notre Dame Stadium rather than at his girlfriend’s funeral in California: Kekua, he says, made him promise he wouldn’t miss a
game. “All she wanted was some white roses,” Te’o adds. “So I sent her roses and sent her two picks [interceptions] along with that.”

From this point forward he’s basically Manti Tebow—a less preening, more sympathetic version of last year’s self-styled football Christ figure. By
the end of the regular season, which is punctuated by a win over U.S.C., Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 and is preparing to play the University of
Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game. And Te’o is the only defensive player selected as a finalist for the
Heisman Trophy.

Act II
In Which Manti Te’o Is a Fraudulent Scoundrel
The plot devolves into an ongoing riot of multiple story lines written and re-written by multiple authors: the media, Notre Dame, the College
Football Industrial Complex—and, not least, by Manti Te’o, an elusive figure who becomes a kind of tabula rasa for all that is right and wrong with
college football.

Since its founding, in 2005, the Web site Deadspin has been the hockey goon of the sports-media world. Foulmouthed and down-and-dirty, it
goes straight at all the phonies, narcissists, and boneheads who inhabit the dark universe of big-time jock-dom, although its worst vituperation
is reserved for the practitioners of “traditional” sports journalism, whom it views as corrupt, lazy, and slavish. That Deadspin itself sometimes
seems devoid of any standards of taste or ethics—it has practiced checkbook journalism and has published alleged “dong shots” Brett Favre
reportedly texted to a woman—is, by its light, just a way of keeping it real.

Deadspin’s biggest story was born on January 11—just four days after the 2012 college-football season ended with Alabama’s violent defeat of
Notre Dame, by a score of 42–14. The loss proved especially humbling for Te’o.

In the game, as in the voting for the Heisman Trophy awarded to quarterback Johnny Manziel one month prior, he finished second.

The story arrived at Deadspin via an e-mail from an anonymous tipster who claimed to be from Laie, Hawaii. The e-mail read, in part:

I know you guys get thousands of tips that are “out there” or crazy. This is one that should really be looked into. . . . While Manti Teo is a loved
native son here in Hawaii he is also a fraud. The story about his girlfriend dying is completely made up. . . . The story floating around the island is
this: Manti was [duped] by a man online pretending to be this girl, Lennay Kekua. Once Manti found out he had been tricked he made up the
story that she died in order to ensure that no one asked questions and he never looked foolish.

The lucky reporter who fielded the tip was Jack Dickey, a 23-year-old wunderkind who was splitting his time between Deadspin and Columbia
University, where he was halfway through his senior year. Within an hour of Deadspin’s receiving the tip, Dickey called dibs on the story and
received a go-ahead from his editor, who teamed him with a second reporter, Timothy Burke, 34, a newcomer to the reporting game, having
spent most of his journalistic career as a Ph.D. candidate in the field of “critical media theory.”

When Burke plugged “Lennay Kekua” into search engines, he found nothing but news stories about Manti Te’o and his dead girlfriend. Most of
the stories, including those in The New York Times and on ESPN, rehashed the basics: 2012 was, to Lennay Kekua, the best of years and the
worst of years. First she was in a car accident that left her “on the brink of death,” as Sports Illustrated put it. Months later, she was diagnosed
with terminal leukemia—a prospect that would have proved devastating had it not been for the love of a good man.

The South Bend Tribune, having interviewed Te’o, detailed the moment young love had first bloomed, on November 28, 2009, after a tough
road loss at Stanford: “Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful
eyes.”

In Sports Illustrated, a writer named Pete Thamel reported that, as Lennay lay dying in a hospital, Te’o routinely spent all night comforting her
by phone from Indiana: “Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would
increase at the sound of his voice.”

Increasingly, a couple of things jumped out at Burke. For starters, news accounts rarely agreed on even the most basic details pertaining to
Lennay’s life and death: the date of her accident, the location of her funeral. Also, Lennay seemed to exist only within the context of Manti Te’o
stories; otherwise, she was a person without any digital footprint of her own aside from the one thumbnail avatar photo that appeared in every
news story.

PHOTOGRAPH BY PATRICK ECCLESINE.
HAWAII FIVE-O The Te’os, from left: sisters Tiare and Eden, parents Brian and Ottilia, sisters BriAnne and Maya with brother Manasseh, on
Oahu.
Over the next five days, Team Deadspin assembled a bombshell so explosive that it would relegate to outlier status Lance Armstrong’s
mid-January Oprah confessional about his use of blood doping. On January 16, Deadspin published the story, whose headline said it all: manti
te’o’s dead girlfriend, the most heartbreaking and inspirational story of the college football season, is a hoax.

The article correctly pinned blame on a 22-year-old enigma named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a former high-school quarterback born and raised just
north of Los Angeles. Starting in 2008, Deadspin reported, Tuiasosopo created a fake virtual persona—that of Lennay Kekua—by exploiting
multiple social-media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. And the doe-eyed beauty seen in the avatar photo? Although Diane O’Meara did
know Tuiasosopo from high school, she was neither Lennay Kekua nor a party to the hoax. Tuiasosopo had conned her into sending him a
photo she thought would be used to cheer up a cousin injured in a car accident.

That Lennay was a fictive character raised questions about the veracity of Manti Te’o’s version of events. Obviously, there was no starry-eyed
meeting in Palo Alto.

Also, Deadspin reported, “Te’o and Tuiasosopo definitely know each other.” As evidence, the publication cited friendly Twitter exchanges
between the two. Te’o wished Tuiasosopo a happy birthday; Tuiasosopo addressed Te’o as sole—Samoan for “brother.”

Then came the money shot: “A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was ‘80 percent sure’ that Manti Te’o was ‘in on it,’ and that the two
perpetrated Lennay Kekua’s death with publicity in mind.”

The sentiment was widely shared. That afternoon, ESPN’s on-air news ticker shrank the story to a headline: deadspin reports: 80 percent
chance te’o involved in hoax. The ticker failed to mention that the claim was based on speculation by an unnamed source who proved to be
wrong. Given that ESPN is to sports media what tass was to the Soviet Union, nightfall brought a riot of screaming media attacks on Te’o.

Act III
In Which Manti Te’o Is College Football®
That college football is a professional sport masquerading as an amateur one has been a given since the 1980s, when top-tier football schools
began making millions from ticket receipts, merchandising, donors, and TV revenue. By the 2000s, coaches of A-list teams—Alabama, Louisiana
State University, U.S.C., Texas—earned upwards of $3 million a year. In 2012 the teams mentioned above made, on average, $45 million in
profits. The figure would have been significantly higher but for the precipitous drop-offs in revenue at U.S.C. and Penn State, both of which are
in N.C.A.A. prison—the former for alleged major recruiting violations, the latter for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. And, really, these are merely the
two headliners in a period of widespread corruption wrought by the various moneyed forces—boosters, coaches, universities, media—who
together compose the College Football Industrial Complex.

The Penn State scandal, being a textbook case of how not to handle an internal problem, also marked a sea change in the way both schools
and players dealt with impending crises. To wit: Even before Deadspin revealed the hoax, both Notre Dame and Te’o determined to, in the
words of Brian Te’o, Manti’s father, “get out in front of the story.” They had the advantage of time. On Christmas Day—three weeks before the
piece was published—Te’o returned to Hawaii and told his parents, Brian and Ottilia Te’o, that his dead girlfriend had called to inform him that
she was not really dead, that she’d faked her demise in order to fool murderous drug dealers out to get her. Also, Te’o told them, he strongly
suspected that perhaps the girlfriend was neither dead nor alive, except in someone’s imagination. Or maybe not. At this point, according to
Manti, he was as confused as they were.

The parents told him they wanted the hoax exposed, no matter what. They instructed Manti to lay it all out there to Notre Dame and to Tom
Condon, a football superagent with whom Manti planned to sign immediately after the Bowl Championship Series National Championship
Game. According to the family, Condon, who works for the Creative Artists Agency and represents New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew
Brees and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, told them, “We’ll talk to our legal and P.R. departments, and we’re going to
coordinate with Notre Dame. We’re going to come out with a statement and then we’ll see where this goes.”

For nearly three weeks, though, the story went nowhere. That this silence happened to coincide with the lead-up to Notre Dame’s biggest
game in decades was, at the very least, noteworthy.

Only after the Deadspin story broke, on January 16, did Te’o and Notre Dame publicly acknowledge LennayGate. Te’o issued a written
statement saying that he’d been duped and that he was embarrassed. Notre Dame’s athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, discussed the matter at
a press conference. Fighting tears, Swarbrick called Te’o the blameless victim of a complex “catfishing” scam. But the press conference raised
more questions than it answered. Most notably, Swarbrick’s time line seemed at odds with the one Te’o would provide two days later, to ESPN.
He told the network that Fake Lennay had revealed herself on December 6; Swarbrick said Te’o hadn’t told Notre Dame until the 26th.

If the hoax had been revealed to Te’o on the 6th, and if Te’o purported to be a blameless victim, why did he say two days later, on December 8,
to a group of journalists, “I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer.” It seemed suspicious, given that this was the day of the
Heisman Trophy ceremony, when the winner was announced. And, not least, why the hell did the kid never once visit—or even Skype—a woman
he had described as “the love of my life.”

If nothing else it was a new chapter in Notre Dame’s long history of self-mythologizing malarkey. (That I happen to be a diehard fan of
Michigan—and therefore weary of all things Notre Dame, especially their dancing leprechaun mascot—makes this assertion pointed but no less
true.) That “win one for the Gipper” speech in the 1940 Ronald Reagan film Knute Rockne All-American? Fictitious. Rudy, the 1993 hit about a
tiny walk-on player who sees the field in the final game, a) was loose with the truth, and b) immortalized a guy, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who
was later accused of being complicit in a scam involving penny stocks. (Ruettiger admitted no wrongdoing and settled with the S.E.C.) In recent
years, Notre Dame has stood accused of downplaying criminal offenses committed by its football players. In 2011 a star receiver convicted of
multiple D.U.I.’s was quickly reinstated on the team. A year earlier, the Chicago Tribune had reported that a young woman, having accused an
unnamed Fighting Irish player of sexual assault, faced a gauntlet of harassment and institutional resistance. (Notre Dame strongly denied that
they were slow to act or that there was any cover-up.)

Manti Te’o to ESPN on January 18, 2013: “I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away.”

Act IV
In Which Manti Te’o Is Here but Not
The Te’o family lives on the North Shore of Oahu, the Hawaiian vacationland famed for its beach houses, five-star resorts, and the surfing
mecca known as “the Banzai Pipeline.” But trying to find the Te’os is to hear directions like “O.K., just keep heading east out of town, past the
shrimp trucks, the pineapple plantation, and the cow pasture.”

There you will find Laie, a tiny coastal town with one stoplight and four houses of worship affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints, Laie being among the first beachheads established by Mormon missionaries in 1865.

Laie is also home to a small, one-story house stocked with large Hawaiian-Samoan Te’os.

“This isn’t Honolulu,” says Brian Te’o, a gregarious bear of a man who works as an educational coordinator at the Punahou School, the private
college-prep academy where Manti became a high-school all-American. Brian, too, is a former high-school football player. So are his three
brothers.

“No liquor. On Sunday, nothing’s open except church, fishing, and our garage,” Brian explains.

Inside the garage is a typical Sunday luau populated by 20 or so of the Te’os’ closest relatives and friends. The group digs into a potluck feast
of pork ribs, sushi rolls, poi doughnuts, and PowerAde sports drink. Everyone here believes the media coverage of the scandal is born of a
fundamental ignorance about Samoans. “They don’t understand our culture,” says Manti’s uncle Ephraim Te’o. “This is the part we’re having a
hard time with.”

“He’s a typical local kid,” says Manti’s mother, Ottilia, a tall, powerfully built woman who played volleyball at the University of Hawaii. She adds,
“Fake Facebook profiles? Within our community, it’s not how our kids operate. They don’t set up a fake person. I don’t think that ever crosses
their minds.”

The hoaxer, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, knew that Manti, being a traditional Hawaiian-Samoan, would trust anyone who came with the blessing of a
close friend or family member. When Lennay first contacted Manti, she mentioned her connection to two people—a cousin and a football
acquaintance—Manti knew and trusted. Both vouched for Lennay (even though, as it turns out, they’d met her only on Facebook).

That Manti never actually laid eyes on Lennay makes sense. Throughout most of their “relationship,” they were just casual friends. The actual
romance lasted less than a year—during which Manti had only two opportunities to visit the West Coast. One of the opportunities fell by the
wayside when Lennay abruptly canceled; Manti canceled the other. His parents had wanted him home, and Samoan sons do not disobey their
parents.

“Our kids are raised to be obedient,” says Ephraim Te’o, Manti’s uncle. “They’re not raised to be skeptical. When you’re asked to do something,
there’s very little to discuss.”

At great length, they describe the degree to which Lennay infiltrated not only Manti’s life but their own. On multiple occasions, they received
calls or texts from her and/or one of her many siblings. After Lennay supposedly died, her “older brother” cried to Ottilia, “I don’t know how I’m
going to handle this!” Notwithstanding Tuiasosopo’s claim that he alone perpetrated the hoax, the Te’os remain certain that they were hearing
the voices of three distinct people.

“I talked to Lennay several times,” says Manti’s friend and former teammate Roby Toma. “She’d be talking to Manti on speakerphone, and
she’d say, ‘How’s it going, Roby?’ Her voice was definitely female-sounding. I didn’t doubt her for a second.” He adds, “She called me to tell me
Manti’s grandmother had died. I guess one of Manti’s family members had texted her. So she told me to go find him.”

When the subject turns to all those articles and interviews in which Manti’s relationship with Lennay was described in false detail, Brian says,
“Manti didn’t give reporters that information. I did. And I told them because that’s what Manti told me. And he told me that because he was
afraid to tell me he’d never met Lennay in person. He thought I wouldn’t approve. And I’m not a father you want to disappoint.” He pauses to
gather himself. “In the end, he didn’t lie to anyone except me.”

While Tuiasosopo never showed up to a pre-arranged interview with Vanity Fair, he told his side of the story to Dr. Phil, network television’s
resident celebrity therapist, in interviews that aired over two days, on January 31 and February 1. According to his version of events, Te’o, not
he, initiated their Facebook friendship; Te’o and Kekua broke up two weeks before Kekua died because Te’o had been “Skyping and seeing”
other girls (can you blame him?); he “fell deeply, romantically in love” with Te’o, even though he was trying to “recover” from homosexuality. (A
source close to Tuiasosopo, TMZ reported, said that he had invented the persona of Kekua to normalize his feelings about men.) After much
prodding, Dr. Phil persuaded Tuiasosopo to speak in Kekua’s voice. Standing behind some kind of iconostasis, Tuiasosopo loosed a
miraculous—if not entirely persuasive—replica of the voice, with the original taken from a voicemail left on Te’o’s phone. F.B.I. experts hired by Dr.
Phil ventured that the voices were a match.

Tuiasosopo verified Te’o’s claim that he and Te’o had met only once, at the Irish’s final regular-season game of 2012, at the University of
Southern California. Tuiasosopo’s family lives a few hours north of the school, in Palmdale. There he works as a musician at the fundamentalist
Oasis Christian Church of the Antelope Valley, where his father, Titus, serves as pastor.

Tuiasosopo’s assertion that he had feelings for Te’o fueled the existing rumors that the hoax was meant to disguise Te’o’s homosexuality.
Those rumors are strongly disputed by Teo’s family and friends, including his most recent girlfriend, Alexandra del Pilar, a student at St. Mary’s
College, located just a few miles from the Notre Dame campus. They dated from November until December. “He’s not gay,” she says. “His
feelings about her were so strong. He talked about what a strong faith she had. She was different than the girls he’d meet at Notre Dame and
more like the girls he grew up with.”

Dénouement
In Which Manti Te’o Is Manti Te’o
The erstwhile media darling is now a reluctant interviewee content to let his “people” do the talking. He’s sick of the media circus. On ABC,
Katie Couric asked whether he was gay, then scolded him with that wincing facial expression she reserves for guests she holds in contempt. At
the N.F.L. Scouting Combine, on February 25, 2013, where teams put prospective draftees through their paces, Te’o’s disappointing
40-yard-dash time was loudly questioned and scrutinized. By most accounts, his stock is sliding fast.

“To be honest, I don’t know exactly what they’re saying because I don’t look at it,” Te’o says. “I didn’t see the Katie Couric interview or the other
stories. I’m definitely curious about what they say, but this is just a way of keeping myself sane. . . . I mean, I can’t wait till the day I can turn on
the TV again or read the sports page without seeing this story about me.”

It’s been this way since the story broke. “My lowest moments were those first days,” he says. “I just went home, got in bed, and tried to sleep it
off so I’d be rested to deal with it. But then, when I went out and around, I could tell people were looking at me. I could hear them whispering
and talking about me. And that’s when I really started to know how bad this was. And I didn’t know what to do with that.”

At a different point, Te’o says: “You have someone you love die. And you find out the person isn’t real—that it’s all a big prank. You still go
through the feelings of losing that person. The relationship, to me, was real. The illness, the accident, her dying—these were all real to me. So my
feelings about them were real.

“I dealt with it by being mad. Very mad. I was angry at myself. I was angry at Ronaiah. I was angry that I was bringing this on my family and my
team. And I stayed mad. And I’m still mad sometimes.”

His tone of voice, which normally evinces a benign flatness, sharpens when discussing Tuiasosopo. “He texted me an apology,” says Te’o. “It
was weak.”

By the time the N.F.L. Combine ended, Te’o says, “I thought, There, I answered all the questions. It’s over.” He says he started feeling
something like normal. “Honestly, I’d say I’m never going to be completely normal,” he says. “Never. It’s still with me now. It’s always going to be
something that’s just there all the time, in the back of my head. Every day, in every situation with people—conversations, getting Facebook
messages—I’m thinking about all the angles. What does that mean? Wait, stop, who really is this person? What should I be thinking? What
should I be doing now?”

The only time he wasn’t completely honest, Te’o says, was when he spoke to the group of journalists on December 8. “Put yourself in my
position,” he says. “I’ve just found out my girlfriend is a big prank. And I think she’s just died and people are asking me about her. And I’m just a
21-year-old guy getting this question on a national stage just two days after it happens.”

Yes, he has regrets and embarrassment—but only up to a point. As he puts it, “I would say I was naïve and I was just unlucky. I was naïve in that
I trusted this ‘person.’ But a lot of things just happened, all together, to make this just a case of bad luck.”

But still. A football game over a funeral? Really?

Te’o takes a deep breath. “You have to understand,” he says. “This is a person I’ve never seen before. So I didn’t want to be seeing her for the
first time dead in a casket. I didn’t want to see that. I wanted the first time I was seeing her to be the first time I see her. In the kingdom of
heaven.”

Then, silence.