Gail Collins The Girl of My Dreams, Homage to Pauline Phillips
- Hi. This isn't what you'd expect, but in 1996, when columnist Bob Scheer
escorted Dear Abby into the Ash Grove on the Santa Monica pier, I was
dumbstruck. I'd relished her column since early college, but quitely, to
avoid hectoring by 'intellectual', radical or snobby new friends. She had
the rare ability to talk sense to regular folks; to a mass audience about
common, personal concerns, using humor, brevity and humane (progressive)
insights. I've known many now-famous folks; Dylan, Fonda, Jagger, et al- but
with Abby, my inner kid muffled me. I'd also long given up identifying my
'landsleutern' by sight (Lauren Bacall, eg), but with Abby, what went
through my mind was 'that's funny, you don't look Jewish". I didn't have the
chupzpah to say it; we chatted - mostly Bob, about the club - and then they
were seated. That's my Abby story. What a full life, and a gift to so many.
Alevai, shalom !
Just below, another brilliant candle light. -Ed
The Girl of My Dreams
NY Times: 1/19/2013
There is nothing the world loves more than an athlete whos playing the game
on behalf of a dying loved one.
Earl Wilson/The New York Times
In the land of sports, people who have terminal illnesses are always more
interested in the teams fortunes than in having their
son/brother/lover/best friend at their bedside. The storys been a staple
ever since the expiring Ronald Reagan told
ity_of_notre_dame/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Notre Dame to win just one for
the Gipper in Knute Rockne All American.
And now we have Manti Teo, the star linebacker for Notre Dame, whose dying
girlfriend turned out to be imaginary. But imaginary with a lot of team
spirit. Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise that youll stay there
and youll play and youll honor me through the way you play, she told him
when she was critically injured in a car crash, fell into a coma and then
emerged to learn she had leukemia. When she was conscious, she devoted much
of her time to writing inspirational letters to Teo before each game.
Such a girlfriend does not exist. Somebody made her up, and the sports world
is currently debating whether Teo was the victim of a hoax, or part of the
All I can say is, the story tells you a lot.
Fans cheered when Teo played through what he said was the day of the
funeral of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who died on the same day as his
actual grandmother. (I knew...that my girlfriend and my family would want
me to be out there. They wouldnt want me to be sulking over things, he
told Sports Illustrated.)
Its the American way. But as the story unfolded, it turned out that she
didnt ever require his presence. In an interview with Sports Illustrated,
Teo said that at one point, he was on his way home to Hawaii for summer
break when the comatose Lennay almost died in a hospital in California.
They were scheduled to pull the plug while I was in the air, he told
It didnt seem to occur to him that he might have dropped by. Do you think
this is a young-man fantasy a girlfriend so lacking in neediness that you
dont even have to visit her in the hospital while shes in a coma followed
In fact, there was apparently never any physical connection. They talked on
the phone. Texted all the time. But the star linebacker who reportedly saw
other flesh-and-blood girls on campus didnt seem to feel this special
romance was lacking anything simply because it had no three-dimensional
Maybe in an era when dating seems to mean send texts about whether to get
together later, this counts as a fulfilling relationship.
Its possible Teo was the credulous victim of an elaborate trick. But he
was surrounded by a veritable army of coaches, chaplains and mentors, who
were presumably privy to the Lennay saga from the start. Certainly they knew
all about it when the Notre Dame publicity machine made it a core part of
the football teams undefeated-until-the-championship-game season. But
nobody seemed to raise an eyebrow.
If you listened to the story while sitting next to Teo on a bus, you would
have warned him not to tell a national TV audience about this girlfriend
until he got some proof she actually existed. (We met just, ummmm, just she
knew my cousin. And kind of saw me there so. Just kind of regular, he told
But nobody at Notre Dame seems to have paid enough attention to figure out
that the girl at the center of their winning-season story existed in the
same universe as the Little Mermaid.
Right after Christmas, Teo told his coach that a woman who sounded like the
dead girlfriend had called him to say she wasnt deceased after all. The
coach told the higher ups, and Notre Dame hired an outside firm to
investigate the case. When an exposé broke on the Web site Deadspin, the
schools athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, held a press conference to
tearfully announce that the investigation showed that Teo was the victim of
a very elaborate, sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we cant fully
understand. But it had a cruelty at its core.
This all occurred a couple of years after the Notre Dame team was involved
in a genuine tragedy when a freshman from a neighboring girls college
reported she had been sexually assaulted by a football player. The school
did not order up an outside investigation. In fact, there appeared to be no
investigation at all. After a period of dead silence in which she received a
threatening text from another player, the girl died from an overdose of
medication. Nothing else happened. Writing this week in The Washington Post,
Melinda Henneberger, a Notre Dame graduate, noted that my alma mater held
the kind of emotional news conference for the fake dead girl they never held
for the real one, Lizzy Seeberg.
Games over. Notre Dame loses.
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