By Jason Keidel
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While we wait for Rod Serling to part the curtain, stroll into our room and drop some knowledge on us, we grasp at symbolic straws, scratch our heads and speculate on what the hell Manti Te’o was thinking. And what the hell he’s doing right now.
No one can tender the truth behind the Te’o scandal, because the only man who has the answers won’t share them. With this story every bottom has trap doors, from obscure former Cardinals saying they met the missing woman to mutating identities to flowers sent to a dead woman to endless pillow talk with a woman who has no pulse to car crashes to leukemia.
And with every hour that Te’o refuses to speak, his silence deafens his defense. An innocent man flexes his forefinger at his accuser, pulls the sword from the sheath and charges toward the truth. Particularly men of his heritage, who view themselves in a warrior’s visage. Men like Te’o are cut from an ancient cloth; they are men who heed their deeds with quiet dignity. There’s no time for talk while you’re kicking butt all the time.
Unless, of course, you’ve concocted a fable of unprecedented contours and used it to extract our sympathy and exact revenge on some perceived slights, using fictitious death as a funnel for the Heisman Trophy. Or he got hustled to start and then hustled to finish. Or not.
But while we wait for Mr. Serling — signature cigarette jutting from his hand — to enlighten us, let’s keep the ball in bounds, please. There have been some remarks that warrant a few flags.
The only unfair commentary surrounding Te’o is this deluge of cynical, sexual-orientation speculation. It would seem that Te’o is not only a self-absorbed, serial liar, but also a gay one. Listening to WFAN host Mike Francesa on Thursday andFriday, the callers’ collective homophobia is stunning. The idea that a man fabricates a girlfriend to cloak his homosexuality is an alarming leap in logic.
“He don’t wanna say he’s light in da sneakers!” someone actually said to Mike on Friday afternoon.
Really? New Yorkers, normally an enlightened bunch from sports to politics, are using the gay slur as a spear. Sure, there are gay men in football uniforms from high school to the Pro Bowl, and there’s a reason they won’t reveal their sexual preferences in public. But Te’o is in a thorny portal that is entirely unrelated to matters of sexual orientation.
Lord knows that there’s enough stench around this story to warrant a hazmat suit. There’s no need to resort to gratuitous, bigoted barbs that can only dumb down the dialogue and reboot the rampant progress we’ve made as a society. A few months ago, former Jet Kris Jenkins chatted with Boomer & Carton about the possible reception that a gay man may get in an NFL locker room. And I followed with a column on the culture in NYC in the 1980s, when I was in high school. Even a city as enlightened as New York had a barbaric bent. We can’t repeat the words used to describe gay men (and women) back then, or the way homophobic words were used to assault someone on the hardwood, diamond or gridiron. But suffice it to say the words were as ugly as the sentiments.
I was sure that those days had long faded, that homophobia has gone the way of pinstriped Lee jeans, shell-toe Adidas and boom boxes.
There are enough problems with Te’o or his story, or both, upon which we can feast without the bile and bigotry we’ve heard on WFAN the last two days. Serling is dead. So is a certain woman who never existed.
And so should the hatred of anyone whose only sin is sexual orientation, which isn’t a sin at all.
Are you uneasy about how Manti’s sexual orientation has suddenly dominated the conversation? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…