From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The person Manti Te'o says was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker "I love you" in voicemails that were played during his interview with Katie Couric.Taped earlier this week and broadcast Thursday, the hour-long talk show featured three voicemails that Te'o claims were left for him last year. Te'o said they were from the person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a woman he had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.After the first message was played, Te'o said: "It sounds like a girl, doesn't it?""It does," Couric responded.The interview was the All-American's first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in September unraveled as a bizarre hoax in an expose by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16.Te'o's parents appeared with him for part of the interview and backed up his claim that he wasn't involved in the fabrication, saying they, too, had spoken on the phone with a person they believed to be Kekua.Couric addressed speculation that the tale was concocted by Te'o as a way to cover up his sexual orientation. Asked if he were gay, Te'o said "no" with a laugh. "Far from it. Faaaar from that."He also said he was "scared" and "didn't know what to do" after receiving a call on Dec. 6 -- two days before the Heisman Trophy presentation -- from a person who claimed to be his "dead" girlfriend.The first voicemail, he said, was from what was supposed to be Kekua's first day of chemotherapy for leukemia."Hi, I am just letting you know I got here and I'm getting ready for my first session and, um, just want to call you to keep you posted. I miss you. I love you. Bye," the person said.In the second voicemail, the person was apparently upset by someone else answering Te'o's phone.The third voicemail was left on Sept. 11, according to Te'o, the day he believed Kekua was released from the hospital and the day before she "died.""Hey babe, I'm just calling to say goodnight," the person on the voicemail said. "I love you. I know that you're probably doing homework or you're with the boys. ... But I just wanted to say I love you and goodnight and I'll be ok tonight. I'll do my best. Um, yeah, so get your rest and I'll talk to you tomorrow. I love you so much, hon. Sweet dreams."Couric suggested the person who left those messages might have been Ronaiah Tuisasosopo, a 22-year-old man from California, who Te'o said has apologized to him for pulling the hoax."Do you think that could have been a man on the other end of the phone?" she asked."Well, it didn't sound like a man," Te'o said. "It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that's incredible. That's an incredible talent to do that. Especially every single day."Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since news of the hoax broke. The Associated Press has learned that a home in California where Te'o sent flowers to the Kekua family was once a residence of Tuiasosopo and has been in his family for decades.Also on Thursday, the woman whose pictures were used in fake online accounts for Kekua said Tuiasosopo confessed to her in a 45-minute phone conversation as the scheme unraveled.Diane O'Meara spoke with The Associated Press in a telephone interview. She said Tuiasosopo told her he'd been "stalking" her Facebook profile for five years and stealing photos.O'Meara's attorney, Jim Artiano, said they had not decided on whether to take any legal action.The 23-year-old O'Meara, of Long Beach, Calif., said she knew Tuiasosopo from high school and he contacted her through Facebook on Dec. 16. She said that, over the next three weeks, Tuiasosopo got in touch with her several times, attempting to get photos and video of O'Meara. She said he made up a story about wanting them to help cheer up a cousin who was injured in a car crash.O'Meara learned her identity had been stolen on Jan. 13 when she was contacted by Deadspin.com.The next day she got in touch with Tuiasosopo."When I contacted Ronaiah I got a very bizarre vibe from him, he became very nervous, he wasn't asking the questions I expected. He was asking Who contacted you? What did they say?'" O'Meara said.Later that day, he confessed, O'Meara said. She said she asked Tuiasosopo why he didn't simply stop the hoax."He told me he wanted to end the relationship," O'Meara said. "He said he wanted to stop the relationship between Lennay and Manti, but Manti didn't want Lennay to break up with him ... He said he tried to stop the game many times."When news of the hoax broke a few days later, O'Meara said she received a text from Tuiasosopo asking her to call him as soon as possible. O'Meara said she didn't respond.
On this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Seth Gruen and Ben Finfer join Chuck Garfien on the panel.
The Bulls win again. Do they dare think playoffs? Vincent Goodwill joins the guys to discuss.
Plus, they debate where the “Minneapolis Miracle” ranks amongst the greatest plays in NFL playoff history and if Tom Ricketts is right to say that Sammy Sosa needs to put everything on the table to rejoin the Cubs family.
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:
One of the best things about Cubs Convention is the access fans and media have to the team and the state of mind the players possess in mid-January.
At this point, they’ve had time away from the field to rest and relax with their family and friends and as Anthony Rizzo says “no one is oh for four yet.” While workouts are in full swing, few have started hitting or pitching at this point in their off-season schedule, so “baseball talk” is not always priority. Instead, this is when we get to hear fun stories and entertaining tidbits about these players.
It’s no secret this team genuinely enjoys being around one and other and that the camaraderie is on full display for fans as they interact and poke fun at one and other during the question and answer panels. So, for those that may have missed the weekend’s festivities here are a few humorous things we learned about the Cubs:
- When asked about a celebrity crushes, Anthony Rizzo coaxed Javier Baez into a J-Lo response while Kyle Schwarber weighed out his options before coming up with Katy Perry. That was “until she shaved her hair off and now looks like Eleven from Stranger Things!”
- Schwarber’s name has consumed the recent headlines following his physical transformation this winter, but he isn’t the only Cub who dropped some weight this off-season. Those that got a picture or autograph from Ian Happ over the weekend should have noticed a slimmer physique as well. Happ told me “you have to look and feel your best for your first full season.” And when it comes to all the trade rumors involving his name, he said he’s been too busy golfing and working out this offseason to pay any attention.
- During a one-on-one interview with new Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood, he gave us his best scouting report on himself, “four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, I’ll throw my curveball a lot more. That’s always been my best pitch and I kind of got away from it a little bit, but I’m going to be throwing that a lot more. Cutter and a changeup, too. So, you know, try to trick them with something.” And when asked which Cubs player he’s most interested in meeting, his response was Kris Bryant. “Just watching him it seems like he does everything cool.”
- Addison Russell recalled his favorite memory or most funny moment of 2017 as the exchange with Nacho Man. Bringing Cubs and Cardinals fans together over nacho cheese and selfies. The All-Star shortstop also informed us that if he weren’t playing major league baseball, his fallback would be, a dart player. That’s right.
- After being left off the panel of last year’s Kids Only Press Conference, Anthony Rizzo asked to be the host this year. “It’s my favorite event of the weekend,” Rizzo said. The Cubs first baseman did a tremendous job, toeing the line between appropriate parent/child humor. And after a few minutes of trash talking with Kris Bryant, Rizzo conceded that the younger Bryzzo partner would likely beat him in a one-on-one pickup game. Something I’m sure we’ll see a few weeks from now in Mesa at Spring Training.
- And last, but certainly not least, Willson Contreras stole the weekend as he recalled the best defensive play of 2017 being Jon Lester’s pickoff of Tommy Pham. “I went out there and said hey motherfu**** throw the ball to first.” A moment that left his teammates on stage shaking their heads in disbelief. But our takeaway: the young, fiery catcher is not intimidated working with the veteran lefty, and he’s just the guy you want behind the plate for this experienced rotation.
After an easy going weekend full of laughs and selfies, the players now buckle in and turn their attention to spring training, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa in less than a month.