Redskins

Te'o not alone in claiming online wishful thinking

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Te'o not alone in claiming online wishful thinking

CHICAGO (AP) It started out a stunner: The Heisman Trophy runner-up had told heartbreaking stories about a dead girlfriend who didn't exist. Then it became unreal: The All-American linebacker said he had been duped, and theirs was a relationship that existed only in phone calls and Internet chats.

The reaction was predictable: Unbelievable. Couldn't happen.

People speculated he must be a straight-laced Mormon, naive and unfamiliar with modern-day dating hazards. Or he must be part of an elaborate hoax designed to bolster his image. Because no big-time college football player, beloved on campus and adored by millions, could have a girlfriend he's never ... actually ... met.

Yet even people who really ought to know better say what Notre Dame's Manti Te'o says happened to him has happened to them, and they believe it happens far more often than people care to admit.

``If we shake the tree, we would find hundreds of thousands of people falling out of the tree who are experiencing something like this,'' said Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the California-based American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.

It's just human nature, Epstein said, something known formally by psychologists as ``confirmation bias.'' We watch the news that matches our political beliefs. We discount viewpoints we don't like. We ignore good advice and miss red flags, so we can continue believing in something we want to be true.

In Epstein's case, it was believing he'd made a real connection with an attractive Russian woman named Ivana he met online. In fact, she was nothing more than a computer bot someone had set up to respond to queries on an online dating site.

``A lot of people still make fun of me,'' he said.

Today's social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, make it easy to ``meet'' someone without ever doing more than chatting online or exchanging emails. The same tools that allow for such casual contact also can be used by impostors to create intricate personas that exist only on the Internet.

All of it simply makes it that much easier to delude ourselves.

``After a generation of kids growing up with Facebook and decades of online life, you'd think we wouldn't be so easily duped, but I think these people who do the duping are more inventive than people who use the technology,'' said Steve Jones, a communications professor and online expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

It's been happening since people first began mingling in chat rooms more than 20 years ago. In 2006, one mom in Missouri, Lori Drew, created a MySpace page for non-existent teenage boy so she could ``romance'' - and strike back at - a girl she thought was spreading rumors about her daughter. Humiliated, the targeted girl later killed herself.

``As far back as the 1980s, men were impersonating women, kids were pretending to be adults, and all kinds of relationships with non-existent or phony people flourished online,'' says Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, who studies social media.

Now, he says, ``the rise of Twitter and Facebook have only made that easier.''

Those behind Te'o's imaginary girlfriend, for instance, created more than one Twitter account for her and appear to have used photos lifted from a California woman's Facebook page to make it look that much more real.

``In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious,'' Te'o said in a statement earlier in the week. ``If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.''

Te'o has company. As Notre Dame rose to No. 1 in the AP Top 25, sport writers nationwide recounted the story of the heroic, grieving athlete who persevered on the field after a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua was diagnosed with leukemia. Te'o and his family provided them with plenty of stories about the relationship, and no one figured out it was fiction until Deadspin.com broke that news this past week.

In his first interview since, Te'o told ESPN he had lied to his father about having met Kekua. To cover that up, he apparently lied to everyone else.

``That goes back to what I did with my dad. I knew that. I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet,'' Te'o said during the off-camera interview Friday. ``So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away.''

The fact is that many people don't like to admit that they find love online, let alone that they might be misled by someone they've met that way.

For a young woman in Chicago, it started last February when a potential love interest responded to a personal ad she'd posted in the Craigslist ``W4M'' section. They communicated for several months online, first by email, and then instant messaging and then online voice chat.

She sent him her photo. He delayed sending his, again and again, and put off meeting in person. He wasn't ready, he told her. It bothered her, but she was so taken with the ease and intimacy of their long, daily conversations - about their lives and their jobs, their family and friends, even sex.

After this went on for eight months, he abruptly deleted his email and Yahoo Messenger accounts, the only means she'd had to reach him. She didn't even know his last name and wouldn't know him if he passed her on the street.

``It all sounds ridiculous when you're not immersed in the situation, but when you are, it's incredibly easy to get sucked in and not want out,'' said the 23-year-old, a young professional who shared her story on the condition of anonymity, still hesitant to admit how truly heartbroken she was over a person she'd never met in person.

Te'o offered similar details Friday, telling ESPN he never met Kekua face-to-face and when he tried to speak with her via Skype and video phone calls, the picture was blocked. Still, he said he didn't figure out the ruse.

After he was told Kekua had died of leukemia in early September, Te'o admitted he misled the public about the nature of the ``relationship'' because he was uncomfortable saying it was purely an electronic romance. Skeptics remain, including some young adults accustomed to making connections on the Internet and by text message.

``Maybe I'd be more inclined to buy it if he was an everyday `Joe Schmoe,' but with his fame, I can't imagine it happening,'' said Jennifer Marcus, a 26-year-old New Yorker who blogs about dating and other topics. ``To me it seems like he did it for sympathy, or maybe has a few screws loose like a ton of people in this world. People go to great lengths to fit in.''

For the 23-year-old Chicagoan, her experience online hasn't led her to swear off using Craigslist and the OkCupid website to find dates. She has, however, started heeding the red flags she once ignored, she says, and cuts off communication with anyone who won't meet with her in person.

``I don't want my time wasted again with someone who isn't willing to give the same amount of transparency and availability that I am,'' she said. ``I'm planning a third date with someone who is very much the person he claimed to be.''

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Online:

Epstein's article:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=from-russia-with-love

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Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org or viahttp://twitter.com/irvineap

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Roundup: Who are the Redskins taking at 15?

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Roundup: Who are the Redskins taking at 15?

As the calendar turns toward spring, one thing consumes the NFL: mock drafts. Leading up to the NFL Draft on April 25, many will try to predict which players each of the 32 teams will select. Though no one will know for sure until the names are called, it's still interesting to see what potential directions teams might go in.

Let's take a look at what some people believe the Redskins will do with their first round pick.

ESPN's Mel Kiper's NFL Mock Draft 2.0: Drew Lock (QB, Missouri) Kiper currently has Washington taking a quarterback in the first-round, but maybe not the one people were expecting. While Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins are viewed as first-round locks by many, the Missouri product's placement in the draft is not as certain. In this scenario, Kiper has Murray and Haskins off the board before Washington gets on the clock, making Lock the best available passer remaining. In his senior seaosn, Lock finished with 3,498 passing yards and 28 touchdowns.

CBS Sports' R.J. White: Devin White (ILB, LSU) Not a quarterback here. White has the Redskins using a pick on the junior linebacker. With questions surrounding what will happen with Zach Brown as well as pass-rushing linebacker Preston Smith, White could fill a need for the Redskins. 

CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson and Chris Trapasso: Daniel Jones (QB, Duke) The Redskins take a passer in both of these mocks as well, just a different one. Jones, the junior from Duke, slides in at No. 15 behind both Murray and Haskins. However, Wilson also has Lock going before the Redskins pick, while Trapasso has him falling to No. 28. 

Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox: Daniel Jones (QB, Duke) More Jones here for the Redskins. The passer, who threw for 22 touchdowns in 2018, is the fourth quarterback off the board in this mock draft as Haskins, Murray and Lock all go in the top 10. 

USA Today's Luke Easterling: Daniel Jones (QB, Duke) Starting to see a theme here? Not only does this mock draft have the Redskins selecting Jones, but it has them moving up to No. 12 to make the selection. Easterling describes Jones as, "a raw but promising passer." 

NFL Analyst Charley Casserly: Daniel Jones (QB, Duke) Describing him as a passer with "excellent field vision, anticipation and accuracy," Casserly likes Jones in Washington.

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig: Montez Sweat (DE, Mississippi St.) As mentioned earlier, Preston Smith's time with the burgundy and gold could be coming to an end. Sweat, who recorded 11.5 sacks last season, impressed at the Senior Bowl and could make an impact from Day 1. While many see the Redskins taking a quarterback, Standig sees inside linebacker as a priority

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Manny Machado to the Padres is not a problem for one young Yankees fan

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Manny Machado to the Padres is not a problem for one young Yankees fan

On Tuesday, reports broke that prized free agent Manny Machado would be signing a record-breaking contract with the San Diego Padres. With the last few months playing out like a never-ending soap opera between Machado and his potential suitors, it's no surprise the news created a lot of buzz and numerous reactions from all types of baseball fans.

One of the best came from a young New York Yankees fan, who learned of Machado's decision while in Florida to watch his team during Spring Training. SNY was on the scene to catch his live reaction, and from it we received a beautiful viral video.

Dissecting this video, there are two important aspects: the passion and the actual take.

Passion-wise, this kid gets a 10/10. Has he most likely used 27 rings to try and win an argument before? Probably. But, he delivered his monologue with a fire that will most likely earn him a spot on a sports talk show in the years to come. In the heat of the moment, you have to respect his ability to construct an argument in defense of his team.

As for the take, it has its flaws. It's a struggle to really defend the idea that you wouldn't want a once-in-a-generation type player just because he played on a team in your division, especially when that team floated around 50 wins last season.

I can sort of understand not wanting Mookie Betts considering he plays for their biggest rival, but even that sounds crazy when you really think about it. With the likes of Johnny Damon and Babe Ruth coming from Boston to New York, it's hard to fully support this argument.

The kid also concluded by saying it's like Tom Brady going to the Dolphins. At this point, I think Miami would be more than happy to take Brady off the Patriots' hands.

Yet whether you agree or disagree with what was said, we can all appreciate the passion this young man shows. Now we'd like to see his thoughts on Bryce Harper. 

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