Manti Te'o speaks to the media Jan. 5 in advance of the BCS championship… (Reuters )
The Manti Te'o hoax girlfriend-who-died-of-leukemia story easily is the weirdest sports scandal of the past 10 years. I even feel somewhat bad for the guy. I'm not sure what kind of advice he's getting, but instead of giving that lame and suspect off-camera interview to ESPN, he should have just given a press conference, said he was living in the dream of a baby panda, faked a stroke and called it a day.
Like so many of you, I spent the weekend going over possible theories with my friends. Te'o conspiracy theories may someday rival the JFK assassination's, so in preparation for the Manti Te'o Truth Movement, here are the best outside-the-box theories I could come up with.
1. Lance Armstrong orchestrated the whole thing. Who has benefited more from the Te'o scandal than disgraced cyclist Armstrong, whose doping scandal now looks so run-of-the-mill boring it's like watching the third hour of "Les Miserables" on Valium. Oprah is pissed. (Side bet: Oprah's people are furiously dialing the Te'o household as you read this.)
2. Te'o is caught up in some weird time travel loop. This sounds outlandish, but what if the Notre Dame linebacker stumbled upon a time machine and attempted to go back and save his very real girlfriend who actually died of leukemia? Because I'm a time travel expert (I've seen "Looper" and the 2007 Spanish-language film "Timecrimes"), I can attest that something probably went wrong. Te'o inadvertently screwed with the space-time continuum and somehow deleted his girlfriend's existence while leaving behind the Manti Te'o who still remembers her. This would easily be the coolest explanation.
3. Te'o is doing me a favor. I originally wrote a column on reports that if the drought continued to empty Lake Michigan, the Chicago River might reverse itself and spill sewage into the lake. Then the stupid Metropolitan Water Reclamation District had to come out and say that those reports were wrong, and it almost certainly couldn't happen. (I'll see you in hell, MWRD.) This sucked because as an unreconstructed Ohioan, I had great jokes about sending my fecal matter right into Michigan's craw. That column became lost to the ages, and I had to come up with something at the last second. Te'o had concocted the strangest sports scandal in a generation in case I ever got into a tough spot with a column deadline.
4. The sheer volume of hack sports writers who used the pun headline "The Full Manti" drove him insane.
5. He really wanted to meet Oprah.
6. A self-satisfied young man learned that sports media devours any and all cliches that utilize simplistic narratives about overcoming adversity, so he cynically exploited (or outright invented) this situation in order to garner attention, and on some deeper level, fortify his grief over the passing of a close family member and the inescapable cosmic terror that his faith, the faith of his school, and all faiths are powerless to shut out that grief—that we will believe the malarkey we want to believe, but in the end we will all dive into a deep, black night devoid of meaning or purpose.
7. All of us are living in the dream of a baby panda.
RedEye special contributor Stephen Markley is the author of "The Great Dysmorphia" and "Publish This Book."