SAPAKOFF COLUMN: The lessons from Michael Roth's catfish tale go beyond Manti Te'o
So it turns out Manti Te'o isn't the only one, that at least one prominent athlete from our own state has fallen victim to a social media seduction scam.
Former South Carolina Gamecocks star pitcher Michael Roth reveals in his blog that he, like Te'o, was sought out by an apparently young, attractive woman seeking to develop a relationship.
Unlike the embattled Notre Dame linebacker, Roth didn't fully buy in and didn't go public with dramatic details.
“I was letting my ego get the best of me,” writes Roth, who was initially reached via text message while playing summer ball in Maine following the 2010 College World Series. “I was thinking this random smoking hot babe (I hadn't seen photos of her yet!) somehow got my number and wanted me.”
Roth, a month away from starting his second minor league baseball season with the Angels, said the woman claimed to be Hope Porter, a blonde University of Texas student who got his number from a Gamecock fan in Omaha. They maintained contact for over a year.
“She sent me some pictures that (first) day. ... and she was very attractive.”
And eventually very fake.
Roth's tale shouldn't be a surprise. If you have email, Twitter, Facebook or other accounts, you probably receive investment proposals from foreign guys named Udo and physiological improvement ideas ready to arrive in small packages.
For college kids, the ol' bait and switch trick is “catfishing” with an empty hook.
Answers to this tawdry trend are indirectly found in most of the buildings on a given university campus.
Journalism 101: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
Basic economics: There's no such thing as a free lunch.
Fraternity and sorority houses: “Seriously?”
The still unconfirmed and much stranger Te'o story, underscored by Roth's experience, shows how easy it is to reach top-level college athletes.
Surely, a gambling alarm went off at the NCAA and colleges this week.
One of these days, catfish hunters will find a bookie posing as a brunette and threatening to embarrass a star player right before the big game.
It helps when the star player is a smart pitcher/honor student.
Roth was properly skeptical, unlike Te'o, Notre Dame administrators and journalists.
He investigated: “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 Texas? Not that I could find.”
Eventually, Roth looked up the woman's phone number via Google. He learned it was linked to similar hoaxes.
“The guys in the chat room said they had confronted her about it,” Roth writes. “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.”
Good-natured social media pranks are fun, though not as much when teens bully teens, senior citizens are duped and famous athletes fall in love with four debt-ridden cousins who look remarkably like Miss Texas.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.