There were more important stories in 2013, but nothing was more unbelievable than the Manti Te'o girlfirend hoax story. CREDIT: Hoosierguy Jeff/Flickr
As someone who is addicted to the news and is constantly consuming it, very rarely is a story so shocking that I yell "Oh my God!" after I read a headline.
But that's exactly what I did in the first month of 2013. I was sitting in a Starbucks, working remotely for my job, when I saw the Deadspin headline, "Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax."
It was the most unbelievable story I had read this year and probably for much longer than that.
To remind you, Manti Te'o was the star linebacker for Notre Dame, considered the best defensive player in college football and was second in the Heisman Trophy voting.
What made Te'o's season that much more impressive was that he overcame the death of his grandmother and girlfriend, who both died on the same day in September. It was an incredible story of perseverance.
The problem was, as that headlines says, it wasn't true.
Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, didn't exist. Instead, a young man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo pretended to be Kekua, and seduced Te'o through phone calls, text messages and social media to believe he was a girl and, supposedly, Te'o fell for it. Then, in September 2012, Te'o was told that Kekua (who didn't exist!) died of cancer.
Nearly a year later, just writing the above paragraph feels too ridiculous to be real. That a football star could fall in love with someone who he had never met (or at least had a Skype conversation with) still doesn't seem believable. At first, I thought Te'o had to be in on the hoax, but as the weeks went on it seemed increasingly likely Te'o was the victim a cruel prank. He was catfished, which is when someone pretends to be someone else on the Internet and tricks a real person into a romantic relationship.
The entire story made you feel sick about the human race. I understand humans have been doing terrible things to each other since the beginning of time, but there was something about using 21st century technology to emotionally terrorize a naive individual that seemed especially disgusting. At first the story felt unbelievably crazy, but then it became unbelievably troubling.
Te'o went on to be drafted by the San Diego Chargers and had a decent rookie season in the NFL.
Unfortunately, though, years from now we might not remember much from Te'o's football career, but we'll certainly remember the hoax that captivated the country. We don't forget "Oh my God!" stories.
What do you think was the most unbelievable story of 2013? Tell us in the comments section.