Wow. Manti Te’o. I don’t even know where to begin. Was it a hoax? Well, we know it was a hoax. But, choreographed by whom? Himself? His friends? Or was it someone else? Either way, the term “Catfish” has sprung into the vocabulary of the masses, even those not tuned into the MTV series. The question that follows is often, “How could someone let this happen? How can you be fooled like this?” Now that I have had time to digest the whole story and “catfishing,” I realize I have two examples in my life.
True Life: I Was a Target for a Catfisher
First, I’ll start with my own personal story because, obviously, I know all of the details. After winning the 2010 College World Series at the end of June, I headed out to Sanford, Maine to play summer baseball in the NECBL (summer college league). My third day in Maine, I got a random text message. It said, “Are you the cute Michael I met?” That was all. So simple. Yet, interesting. I responded with my normal assured self, “Well, I am Michael, and I am cute, but I don’t think I’ve met you.” Ok… stop the hating now. I was trying to be smooth haha. Anyways, the conversation continued. She asked me if I played baseball. Of course, with my newfound “fame” and being on ESPN, I was like duh!!! I was letting my ego get the best of me. I was thinking this random smoking hot babe (I hadn’t seen photos of her yet!) somehow got my number and wanted me. I know, ladies, a guy’s mind just doesn’t make sense sometimes. We really do stop thinking sometimes. When I asked her how she got my number, she said she got it from some guy in a Gamecocks shirt in Omaha. Initially, I thought it was my brother so I called him. He had no recollection of that.
She eventually told me her name; Hope Porter, a blonde from Texas. Born and raised in Austin and went to the University of Texas. She brought up the College World Series, and how she had seen me pitch. Another stroke to the ego. She was playing it perfectly. Drawing me in. She sent me some pictures that day. No, guys, not nudes. All were pictures of her face, and she was very attractive. The text conversation continued for the next few days. My baseball guys understand, when you are on the road it gets lonely, and text messaging becomes your best friend. Then, the phone calls began. She would call me all of the time. Most of the time I didn’t answer because 1) I hate talking on the phone and 2) I was busy. Some of you may be thinking, “Why didn’t I go and check Facebook immediately?” And, that is wonderful question that I have an exceptional answer for! I was staying with a host family that summer, and they had dial up internet. YES, IN 2010 THEY HAD DIAL UP INTERNET!!! Also, I was not yet on the smartphone train. So my ability to access the internet was limited. Back to the phone calls. I would talk to her. It was definitely a girl. She had a southern accent, which matched well with the Texas location. Some of you are probably wondering what we would talk about? Just basic stuff. Like….what was her major and blah, blah, blah. Soon, she would start to say stuff like, “I like talking to you” and then “I like you.” I was like, “Uhh, you don’t even know me?!?!?!” I mean, my ego can be stroked, but then there is creepy stuff. Eventually, I was able to hit up a Dunkin Donuts and get on some real internet. I did some research. Was this chick on Facebook? No. Did she have a MySpace(it was still only 2010)? Nope. Was she a student at UT? Not that I could find. She was nowhere. Did not exist. At least not on the internet. The area code matched the Austin area, but other than that, I found nothing.
By this time, I figured she was probably some homely chick trying to pose as a hot girl. I mean, her story was interesting. She went to Texas, and her parents were divorced. She used to date a player on the baseball team (cleat chaser). The details go on and on. All along, I knew something was up. But, at the same time, I was intrigued and willing to play along. After all, my girlfriend and I had just broken up, and again, I had 4 hour bus rides and time to kill. I called my best friend Adam and filled him in. Immediately, like me, he thought “dude, maybe she’s some hot girl!” After the story began to unfold though, he was very skeptical. We agreed I should continue to text her just to screw around. Summer baseball ended, and I was back at school. The text messaging waned. I just couldn’t handle a phone relationship. Too much commitment haha. Upon my return to school, I told all of my roommates, and we decided to call her. We called her on speaker phone and grilled her. We were all so confused. She had answers to everything. The only one she couldn’t answer was how she got my number. I tried to think of how she would have gotten my number off of the internet. She claimed she couldn’t remember because she was drunk. Once I had told all of my buddies, we found another guy who was going through the same exact thing. The same girl was talking to him. Oddly enough, his name was Michael also. So, Michael and I called Hope again to try and stump her, but this chick was a professional. Nevertheless, the texting and calling dropped off considerably. I had normal people to talk to, and being back at school, I was never bored. Communication nearly stopped. She called out of the blue one day and said she was coming to Columbia for a football game. I was drawn back in. I wanted to find out if this girl really existed. Apparently, she knew some guy that played for Arkansas and that’s why she was making the trip. Of course, something happened and she never showed up. I wasn’t surprised, but just interested in how crazy and weird this whole thing was. I would get the occasional text and would just ignore it. She would keep texting, and I would keep ignoring. Did this girl not get the message? I thought she was gone until the night before the opening game of the 2011 season when she texted me, “Good Luck!!! ” I was thinking “WHAT?!?!?!?!?” After the game, I got a “How did it go?” We exchanged a few texts. The same thing happened the next weekend. And the next. It was like clockwork. And, I was pitching well. Because baseball players are superstitious, I stuck with it. It is shameful some of the things we will do to play well, isn’t it? It continued throughout the season. We made it back to the CWS, and she said she was coming. This time Texas was actually in the CWS and she supposedly dated one of their pitchers. Seemed like a legit excuse, right? Of course the CWS came and went, and she could never meet up. Adam and I would literally sit in our hotel rooms talking about how weird this was and what could we say to catch her haha. I know, I know…we are easily entertained. I left for Spain, and clearly most of my communication was cut from those in the US. I returned stateside in August for my senior year. I had not talked to Hope, nor had she crossed my mind since she wanted to “meet” at the CWS. Adam and I were driving down the street one day, and she called. After two months of zero communication. Finally, we lost it. “Who the hell are you?” “How did you get my number?” “Why do you never show up when you say you do?” “What game are you playing?” She got mad because we weren’t exactly nice so she hung up and said she would never contact me again. And, I was completely content with that. A month goes by. I was sitting in the business building library in between classes and my phone rang. Sure enough, it was Hope. I didn’t answer and went straight to Google. I wanted this madness to end. I googled her number and some awesome results popped up. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? I have no clue. I literally had never thought of googling her phone number. The number was in a few chat rooms. All of which had the same story. Girl from Texas. Hope Porter. On and on. Her number was tied to some man in Texas, but not with the last name of Porter. The guys in the chat room said they had confronted her about it. She said it was her Uncle. They pushed her further. Finally, she said she was initially doing a project to see if someone could fall in love over the phone. She was supposed to end it after a few months, but after talking with them for a while, she enjoyed it so much that she just kept doing it. Armed with this information, I made the phone call. It was expertly rehearsed. Same script. With who knows how many people. I told her to never call me or text me again. And that was the end. I have yet to hear from her since. I wish I had kept the number and some of the pictures so I could post them up here. Man, what an experience it was! I was never emotionally involved whatsoever. It was always a form of entertainment. Like I tweeted earlier this week, I have fallen in love at the club before but never on twitter. Or the phone.
I never planned on typing this much so Part Two: True Life: My Teammate was Catfished will be published soon. Be on the lookout.