Cruel hoax played out online

How could anyone in their right mind be so in love and in a relationship where they had never supposedly met the other person? This is what many are asking after the bizarre revelations about American college football star Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend who may or may not exist.

Confused? You're not the only one.

Earlier this week, sports blog DeadSpin released a 4000-word expose into the Notre Dame linebacker's "girlfriend" Lennay Kekua whom they were unable to find any record of ever existing.

Te'o made sports headlines last year after Kekua "died" of leukaemia on the same day as Te'o's grandmother.

Days later he went on to play out of his skin in his next game, dedicating his performance to the two dearly departed women, and prompting Te'o to be dubbed the Cinderella of the college football season.

Te'o released a statement in which he said it was "incredibly embarrassing to talk about" but that over an extended period of time, he had developed an emotional relationship with a woman he met online.

"We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

"To realise that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."

While there is much more to this story - and new chapters appear each day - there is a singular theme here, which is nothing so new even in our digital day and age.

Many of us may scoff at the situation - or at least Te'o's side of the story - as we sit high on our horse, but it's worth remembering that scams like this happen among us every day.

Men and women around the world right now are engaged in relationships that they deem to be loving and meaningful through digital-only communication.

Sometimes, these are legitimate and go on to become wonderful relationships; other times they turn into the horror stories of life-savings being lost when the trust extends to lending money or booking international travel to meet up with no-one.

In his statement, Te'o said: "If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was."

It proves the old adage, if it's too good to be true, it probably is, doesn't discriminate against anyone - rising football star, or not.

Have a safe and relaxing long weekend. Even though it hasn't been long since we've returned from our summer holidays, an extra day off to recharge the batteries is always welcome.

Manawatu Standard