The Tragic Art of “Catfishing”

Ah yes, the catfish.

This bottom dwelling aquatic is known by the white costs types  and nerdier game wardens as  a Siluriform.   They’re called ‘catfish” because of their barbels, which are whisker-like tactile organs near the mouth which house the fish’s sense of taste and have something to do with its ability to move and hunt for food through the murkiest bodies of water.  Their binge eating also adds to their size and their size and their size can make them an absolute pain to reel in.  They’re fighters.

On the dinner table, a catfish also has the potential to be  one of the greasiest critters with fins.   I grew up Catholic and back in the early 60′s, this meant I had to endure plenty of Friday nights being force- fed this fish because this was pre-Vatican II and eating meat on Fridays was verboten.     Something about sacrifice and its correlation to Jesus’ 40 days and nights of fasting before he met his fate high atop Calvary..the old Golgotha.

Well, I guess I owe Mr. Catfish an apology because I learned later in life that some of the greasiness can be controlled by allowing the Crisco in the frying pan to reach the correct temperature.  It’s got to be hot enough.    The hotter the temp, the less greasy it’ll be.   So as it turns out, I’ve spent a lifetime lambasting a fish for being greasy, when it was really the fault of a bunch of bad cooks.

But the term’ catfish’ is one we’ve been hearing a lot about lately, not because it’s a fighting fish.

It’s because of The Fighting Irish.

More specifically, the team’s All-American/Heisman/Lombardi finalist, Manti Te’o.    The linebacker is the victim of an apparent catfishing hoax.   A man posed as a woman to lure Manti into an online relationship.    As a result, one of this past football season’s kings of the collegiate grid iron fell in love with a woman he frequently spoke to on the phone…texted…..emailed, but never met.

Instead, he spent four months falling love via talking.     A lot of talking..

According to ESPN, more than a thousand calls totaling more than 500 hours in length either came from or were dialed to the same number which originated from the 661 area code, which covers a part of Los Angeles County.  Of these calls, 110 were more than 60 minutes in length, including several that were several hundred minutes long. Te’o said he was on the phone “every single night” with a person he believed to be Lennay Kekua,

She sent a photo, but wouldn’t Skype.    She’d claim her undying love for, but wouldn’t meet him in person.  Every time a face-to-face was arranged, something always fell through.

And then, Ms. Kekua had a serious car accident,  then she developed leukemia and died in a very short amount of time.  Is there no better way of ending one of these things?  Death has a tendency to be so….so….final and what better way for a narcissist to go out than in an emotional blaze of cyber glory.

We have since learned the hoax was perpetrated by a guy who’s mom had to have been in love with vowels:   Ronaiah Tuiasosopo admitted he was Lennay.   He even created a fake Twitter account for her and it’s also my understanding that somewhere along the way, Manti and Ronaiah knew each other.

The timing of this tangled web interest me.   All of this went down right before the Heisman was awarded and just a few weeks before Notre Dame met Alabama in the National Championship game.   “Bama won–handily–but even so, it’s presumed that Te’o will be drafted in one of the higher rounds for the NFL.

But for me personally, this story isn’t about Manti, as much as it’s about the hoax itself.   What happened to Manti (whether he’s an innocent victim or willing participant) happens all the time.  It’s just that when it happens to you and me, Katie Couric,  ESPN and a 60 Minutes camera crew don’t get involved.

We live in a world where the computer screen is everything.   It’s our source of news, shopping, communication, entertainment, education, job hunting….it’s all encompassing.    It has opened up the world in ways that Magellan, Columbus and Alexander Graham Bell could only dream of.     Online predators are located all over this big blue marble and no,  they’re not all big, sweaty, no goodniks  in chat rooms posing as someone else with the hopes that  some love starved sapling will fall victim to their wiles.   Very often, they’re just big, run of the mill people with very boring lives, or a disability or physical deformity of some sort, or  an ever-expanding waistline.

We can be anything we want to be online.   A lowly part-time mechanic can be a hunky male model.    An under-developed socially awkward young woman can be an attorney with an extremely successful practice.     A well-read paraplegic with an imagination can be a CIA agent or say someone with MI-5… maybe even a double agent with the Mossad (all popular career choices among trolls because these positions are next to impossible to verify).   A James Bond type is always a very popular choice among the male of this species, but catfishing knows no gender boundaries.  Women do it, too.

Perhaps the goal is sex,  maybe even usury for fiscal purposes, but I think more often than not, it’s all about control and manipulation.   Nothing gives power to the powerless more than being able to control ALL the pieces on the chessboard.   And the love starved victim goes along with it, accepting whatever crumbs he or she allows us to have.   Some have maintained a ‘relationship” for years with a nebulous voice, and little else.

Why would someone do that, airou ask?    Why would someone mastermind and maintain a hoax like this?   Why would intelligent men or women fall for it?

Chances are, when this happens, the victim is well aware that there are  more red flags present than outside the Kremlin, but the idea of love and being in a relationship–even the cyber ones, is all we want.  This need; this desire trumps our own sense of  reality.   Honesty.

And really, that’s not all that hard to understand.   Hell, fashion magazines sell volumes because they airbrush photos in their layouts.   So does Playboy.   Beauty, whatever that’s perceived to be, has to have an air of perfection about it.   Madonna’s gap teeth may not be all that becoming to some, but that 28th crow’s foot forming near her 54-year-old left eye can be damn  well dealt with, thank you very much.   Bad dentition perhaps, but bad skin???????

Never.    

We need to present imagery of being younger thinner, wealthier, more handsome, more worldly, more popular, better educated, more alluring and sensual versions of who we are.   We airbrush our lives.  We Photoshop our existences.  We pad our resumes.   We tell lies (whoppers and baby ones) all the time.   The truth, or I should say ‘authenticity’, ends up on the cutting room floor, like yards of celluloid.

And it’s because of this that the glaringly apparent ‘red flags’  are ignored because the distance between the catfisher and his/her prey is beneficial.    That solves a whole array of potential problems.   And the miles also puts the kibosh on true intimacy, the physical AND the emotional kind.   That’s often a plus for both parties.  You see, sometimes, the victim often has as much to hide as the hoaxer.

In my opinion, Manti Te’o is either a liar with a really bad PR machine on his team and the ruse got way out of hand and instead of helping the would be pro-baller, it might end up causing him to lose pre-draft stock.

OR….

He’s a just  lonely, rather naive, 255 pound, Mormon linebacker playing for a very Catholic university and desperately looking for the kind of love that neither his parents, the legacy of Ara Parseghian or the ghost of The Gipper could provide.

The trouble is, he won’t find that kind of love on the internet, either.

I know some very intelligent, very well-educated people who have fallen for the lovely ideal phantom who’s texting and phoning them constantly, making them feel all a twitter from the safety of  being miles away.   ‘In your ear’, can be so much more convenient than ‘in your face’.    And while these bags o’ artiface might work for a while,  eventually, they all grow old.    The rut of being constantly disappointed and dissatisfied has that effect.    Catfish relationships are always….ALWAYS one-sided.   That’s a vital part of the manipulation.    One person tries harder, does all the work and in the end, the hoaxer exits ‘the relationship either because the victim finally wises up or the hoaxer just stops calling or…as in Manti’s case, the non-existent girlfriend conveniently dies.  But, how it ends or even why it ends doesn’t matter.   The destruction of ‘the relationship” is still one sided.   One person is devastated while the other runs off with pilfered trust, hopes and affection.   He or she then compiles all these amorphous trophies under some gigantic but very precise scoreboard that exists only in the ego.

We are toyed with just as a kitten plays with a skein of wool.    

Yes, but deception can still hurt, even if some part of us knew intellectually,  it was a sham all along.   We never want to confront our gullibility.  We never want to admit we’re vulnerable.    There’s a certain amount of pride at stake here, but as painful and embarrsing as it can be in the end, it’s also  one helluva life lesson.    That’s why most people who’ve been “Manti Te’o’d” once, can never be Manti Te’o’d twice.

If properly fortified by heartache, emotional scar tissue is impervious.  It simply won’t allow it.

At least, mine will never let it ever happen to me…..again.

It’s Here….Almost

I’m talking about football season.   In fact, it’s just hours away.

You can always tell that it’s time for the first football game of the season.   There’s something in the air. Sure, it’s early September and here in Texas, still hotter than a crotch, but it’s as though you can feel an underlying coolness.  OK, maybe not coolness per se, but there’s something different about the atmosphere.  It’s palpable, like a density that you can run your fingers through and actually feel something…like resistance.   And not only that, but the days are already starting to get noticeably shorter while shadows get longer.   Soon, fallen leaves, sweaters and declining deodorant sales will become a part of the vista of which we are all a part. 

I love college football.  And if you’ve been reading this blog for any of the three football seasons it’s been alive, then you know I am a dyed in the wool Texas Longhorn fan and have been since the Horns beat Arkansas in the Big Shootout on December 6, 1969. Yes, I remember the date  They won the National Championship that year.     I was ten and enamored with the Longhorns and this happened to be Texas’ last all Anglo football team.    

Aside from their social irresponsibility,  Longhorn football has meant and continues to mean a great deal to me.   I don’t know why–I suppose it’s because I’m a native Texan; I went to UT for a while ( graduated from a smaller university not far from Austin, but never lost my Longhorn allegiance) and well, let’s face it;  so few people outside Texas look good in burnt orange.   And like other devoted and loyal fanatics of sports teams, I have supported the Horns through great seasons (such as the BCS Championship one of 2005, courtesy of a pigskin clutching Harry Potteresque wizard named Vince Young)  and not so great seasons which would be any that didn’t include a finely tuned Vince,  Colt McCoy or Ricky “Blunt” Williams.   2010 comes to mind.

I know they’ll have a blemished seasoned.  2011 is going to be yt another  rebuilding year for the team.  Garrett “Noodle Arm” Gilbert  as he became known in the Kendrick Household in 2010, played admirably when he was forced into action after Colt bruised his shoulder in Texas’ initial drive in the National Championship game at the Rose Bowl against Alabama  two years ago. 

The uh…the Horns, well, uh…the Horns lost that game.

Sigh

But unfortunately, Gilbert fell short so many times last year…I saw leadership and poise issues.  But Mack Brown insists he’ll start this year.   Oh well…I wish my favorite team well.   This year, they’ll need it. 

Sigh²

Well, love ‘em or hate ‘em,  the Texas Longhorns are one of true powerhouses in college football.  And this year proves it  with the newly created Longhorn Network, the much-hyped and ballyhooed controversial partnership between ESPN and the University which  features a channel dedicated 24/7 to nothing but UT sports.   Discussions for the idea for an ALL UT, ALL THE TIME  network began in ernest five years ago after a perceived lack of exposure for the Longhorns’ non-revenue sports,  meaning everything NOT football.   Well, forget the words “non revenue generating”  from this point on, folks.  That’s a thing of the past.    Check out the particulars of the deal:  we’re talking a  20-year, $300 million partnership with ESPN.  And from what I’m  hearing, this has VEXED every other team in the  Big 12.   And not only that, it’s created concerns within the whole of college football that one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful programs just got a whole lot richer.

Color Texas A&M maroon, white AND vexed.  In fact, they’re so pissed over this and other issues I would imagine,  they want out of the Big 12 entirely.  Their new home conference in 2012?   The storied SEC.  (I mean seriously people, can they really be considered a legitimate contender in the conference going up against the likes of LSU, ‘Bama and even Auburn on occasion?)  I don’t think this is a wise move  at all for the Ags.  It’s almost like this move is a  big, childish temper tantrum.  They’re   just gonna get up and take their toys with them.  But why?  It’s my understanding that Texas Athletic Potentate, Deloss Dodds offered the Aggies a piece of the action several years ago, but they claimed they weren’t interested.   Back then, the concept seemed like a lark.   Neither school had a clue as to the revenue generator this could be.  Eventually, the Ags changed their minds when they saw the dollar signs written on the wall, but when they went to Austin  to express an interest in a partnership, Texas told them  it was too late.  The Longhorns were  convinced a  University of Texas-only network would be viable….and very, very profitable.    And apparently, ESPN agreed.

Now, here’s what I don’t understand.  Criticism for this all-Texas sports network has been staggering.    Deloss Dodds has been vilified.  He’s been called Satan….Hitler with a drawl…Dick Cheney….the Destroyer of the Big 12 and very, very greedy by fans and other schools.    Greedy???  Oh really?  That ‘s the pot calling the kettle black because for university coffers, the name of the game isn’t football itself;   it’s getting as many games televised as they can.   College athletics, particularly football has always been a massive revenue generator.   And yes, TV is the reason.   If A&M or Ohio State or Slippery Rock or any other college on the planet had been offered this oppprtunity they would have jumped at the chance, but that would never have happened.  Simply put, few other schools have  the following UT has to pull it off and lets face it, Disney, who owns ESPN, isn’t in the business of making bad business decisions.  Walt’s company has 300 million reasons to believe The Longhorn Network will fly fast and far. 

So with this in mind, I guess an autopsy on the stomach contents of the Aggie’s body of work in the Big 12 (especially where this network is concerned) would consist of sour grapes and bitter pills, which is probably the main reason they’re heading to the Southeast Conference,  a move I feel sure they’re going to regret. 

Well, be that as it may, The Longhorn Network will ONLY be good as the hordes of viewers it can rally and therein lies the rough.    As of  early Friday, officials at ESPN and Texas hadn’t announced whether  a major cable or satellite provider will carry the Longhorn Network.  As it stands, the biggest carrier so far is Verizon, which will include TLN on its FiOS-TV sports package.  This will have a potential reach of about four-million subscribers in about a dozen states, including Texas.  Something better happen STAT.  The Horns season opener is Saturday….against Rice.  Didn’t UT and ESPN secure all this head of time?   Seems completely foolhardy to me if they didn’t.

But  the point I’m trying to make is that a school couldn’t make that kind of massive deal without having power.  And a lot of it and yes,  UT does.    And I don’t care who you root for; even if you hate the Steers, Texas’ power is undeniable.    And not just on the field (in good years).  

CASE IN POINT:   Texas getting to play Michigan in the Rose Bowl in 2005 without REALLY deserving to be there.  Mack  politicked is way into getting that berth.  He promised and he delivered.  UT equals money.   A lot of it.  Nobody is going to say no to pure profit.  The Rose Bowl Committe knew this and welcomed the Horns into their pigskin bosom.  Does that mean Texas bought its way into the 2005 Rose Bowl?    Well,  I prefer to say they rented their way in and I say this as a Longhorn devotee AND as a staunch critic of BCS partisan politics, especially where elite teams are concerned, and yes, UT is one of the most elite , thanks in part to wealthy and generous alumni, wise investments, tuition ready students who want to attend  UT and live the Austin experience at all costs and of course, the Permanent University Fund.  As this university has proven time and time again, money talks–loudly and Texas has loads of it.   This means Texas can afford the best speech coaches.

Look, here’s the deal:  I’m a fiercely loyal Longhorn fan, but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize my beloved Horns–because I do.   That doesn’t mean I can’t poke a little good-natured fun at them, which I will do in this blogpost–AFTER I  harass and harangue a few other college teams first.  So, here are a few funny football related videos and jokes to help get you in the mood for the College Grid-Iron: Version 2011.   

Let’s begin with USC. 

The Beach Boys said California girls were cute.  And it is undeniable.  By and large they are–and I say that as a tried and true heterosexual woman, but apparently (and OK, OK… I’m strictly referring to the California girls who cheer for USC)  they’re just not that bright when they don maroon and gold cheerleading uniforms.  Either that or they’re extremely specious and accommodating when it comes to the cheering on the opposing team on their scoring drives.    

What exactly is this all about?  What’s with the cheerleader?  A hidden trampoline? Springs instead of  femurs, maybe???    An idiotic frog impersonation??? 

YOU DECIDE!!!  

Remember this embarrassing moment?   The bench clearing fisticuffs you’re about to see, ensued after some strange play or something.  It all went down in the game between Miami and Florida International University a few years ago.

One fan said of this brawl, “I thought this was sickening and an embarrassment to the sport.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I was angered and mortified for both teams.  I was stunned at the levels to which these teams sank.   Then, I saw the body slam…..that was freakin’ AWESOME!!!

Well, there you have it.  I’ll leave you with these tried and true college football jokes.  Feel free to use them and interchange the teams as you see fit–I did.  

Happy college football season 2011, ya’ll.   May A&M get a fitting send off from the Big 12 this November with a big burnt orange footprint on “they’s ass”; may Notre Dame lose often; may Boise & TCU get the respect they deserve; may USC receive an additional Death Penalty for the next 20 years, and may the Sooners see the errors of their ways.  I mean they are from Oklahomo after all.

And as always, GO HORNS!!!!!

Q: What do you get when you put 32 Arkansas cheerleaders in one room?
A: A full set of teeth.

Q: How do you get an Alabama cheerleader into your dorm room?
A: Grease her hips and push.

Q: How do you get an LSU graduate off your porch?
A: Pay him for the pizza.

Q:  If you see a  UCLA fan on a bike, why should you not swerve to hit him?
A:  Because it could be YOUR  bike

 Q: Why is the Baylor football team like a possum?
A: Because they play dead at home and get killed on the road.

 Q: What do you do if you get an Ohio State player buried up to his neck in sand?
A:  You get more  sand!!!

Q: What are the longest three years of a Oklahoma football player’s life?
A: His freshman year.

Q: How many Nebraska freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. That’s a sophomore course.

Q: Where was O.J. headed in the white Bronco all those years ago?
A: College Station, TX.  He knew that the police would never look there for a Heisman Trophy winner.

Q:  What did the average USC quarterback get on his SAT test?
A:   Drool. 

And here’s further proof that I can make fun of my own:

Q: Why did Texas choose orange as their team color?
A: You can wear it for the game on Saturday, hunting on Sunday and then for picking up trash along the highways the rest of the week.