Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o's heart-wrenching personal tragedy-turned-hoax story is making waves among sports fans and the media lately. The linebacker's relationship with a leukemia-stricken young woman tugged at the heart strings of sports reporters leading into the game against Michigan State, and was revealed on Wednesday to have been a bizarre fabrication.
Te'o maintained in a statement that he was as much a victim as anyone, saying, "To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
While some may be doubtful that Te'o did not play a role in the elaborate story, Nev Schulman, host of MTV's "Catfish" and subject of the documentary film of the same name, weighed in as a victim himself of a fake online relationship. "My reaction is, quite frankly, no different from my reaction on the show. It doesn't really change anything for me that this victim is a high-profile football player. I think it can and obviously does happen to anyone," he said.
Schulman speaks from experience, as his own online relationship was chronicled in the 2010 documentary film.
"I very much got sucked into a relationship — it wasn't my intention, but it happened to me — and it happens slowly over time," he said. "And, of course, when you read an article all at once where it reveals all these stories and all these details, it seems crazy, but in the process of it, as it happens very slowly, things don't seem so crazy. And then, of course, when you look at it all in one snapshot, it does sort of seem kind of unbelievable."
Similar to Schulman's experience, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick claimed that the linebacker never met his online girlfriend in person, but did interact with her apparent friends and family by phone and online.