All of the facts in the following post are completely true, except for most of the bits about me, and all the bits about Manti Te’o.
South Bend, Indiana, February 3 — “I thought we had a connection,” an exasperated Manti Te’o told a me in a recent interview. Evidently Te’o had formed a relationship that he had considered to be “very close” with the person known as the Tooth Fairy.
It began at an early age when Te’o was only two years old and had lost a tooth. His parents told him, if he placed it under his pillow before he went to bed, the Tooth Fairy would come that night. He placed the tooth under his pillow with eager anticipation. The next morning the tooth was gone and in its place he found a shiny silver dollar. His love affair with the Tooth Fairy had begun.
As the years progressed, so did Manti’s obsession with the Tooth Fairy. With the combination of his participation in football and his love of sugary snacks, he continued to lose teeth.
“I admired the gentle way in which she would remove the tooth from beneath my slumbering head,” Te’o told me, “I was one of the few kids who looked forward to going to the dentist to have a tooth pulled.” He then paused for a moment to wipe away a tear and compose himself. “I knew that it meant my beloved would be near that night.”
Te’o glared at me as I chuckled a bit too loudly. I apologized but then chuckled some more.
He explained how his relationship with the Tooth Fairy had intensified during his years at Notre Dame. He began leaving her love letters along with his teeth. She reciprocated by leaving him photos of herself and a phone number.
“We had magical conversations that lasted for hours,” Te’o told me.
“And you never suspected anything?” I asked him.
“Well, I did think it was a little strange that she sounded like an elderly Filipino man, but who’s to say how someone should sound,” he said as he showed me the phone number.
“This is a prefix from western New York,” I told him.
“My friends told me the Tooth Fairy was from Buffalo,” he explained.
I tried to get a statement from Te’o’s friends, but they were laughing to hard respond.
It seems, it was these friends that had played an elaborate joke on Te’o. A joke that brought his world crashing down around him.
It happened one fateful day while strolling through the electronics section in Walmart.
“I was walking through the electronic section of Walmart and I happened to glance over at the televisions. They were showing a movie. When I saw what was on the screen, I just froze in disbelief.”
Apparently the picture that Te’o had lovingly carried around with him in his wallet, and presumed to be the Tooth Fairy, was actually the Disney character Tinkerbell from the animated movie Peter Pan.
“It didn’t give you pause that there was a pirate with a hook for a hand in some of the pictures?” I asked.
“Not really,” he explained, “it’s common for Filipino immigrants from Buffalo to have hooks for hands…my friends told me.”
Not wanting to ire Te’o with further chuckling, I decided to move on.
“How did it make you feel when you found out that the woman you loved was actually a fictional cartoon character?”
“It was devastating,” he answered, “it’d be like finding out that Mrs. Butterworth isn’t real.”
“You know, that lovely woman who makes the delicious maple syrup. I have a photo of her in my wallet too.”
I explained to Te’o that not only was Mrs. Butterworth not a real person, but Mrs. Butterworth’s isn’t even real maple syrup; it’s just corn syrup with brown food coloring and maple flavoring.
Te’o buried his face in his hands and began to sob openly.
The interview was over; it was time for the healing to begin.