While the media and public like have obsessed over the case of former Heisman candidate Manti Te’o ill-fated online relationship, I’m not without sympathy for the Notre Dame linebacker. When I was not much older than Te’o, I had my own series of intensely personal correspondence via the then-cutting edge CompuServe platform. Eventually, I came to learn I’d not been chatting with an 18 year-old self-described Kelly Bundy lookalike, but instead, a middle-aged GNC clerk named Irving. Even worse, when Irv found out he wasn’t chatting with the real Joan Jett, there were hurt feelings all over the place. On the bright side, neither one of us was asked to deliver any packages to Buenos Aries.
But I disgress. Te’o’s embarrassing experience has led to a greater appreciation of the modern phenomenon known as “Catfishing”, and Angels pitching prospect Michael Roth (above) tells the LA Times’ Bill Shankin, he could barely believe his good fortune when he received a text from a stranger reading, “aren’t you the cute Michael that I met?”, shortly after the 2010 College World Series.
That started a stream of flattering texts and alluring phone calls from a woman Roth never had met, including the requisite visits that inevitably were canceled at the last minute.
Roth said he sensed something fishy within a few weeks. He played along for a year, in the process discovering that three of his college teammates also had been in touch with the same woman, who claimed her name was Hope Porter.
“As athletes, you’re a target in general,” Roth said Friday. “I think it’s part of the problem with a guy being a guy, when you’re younger. You see an attractive girl that tweets at you or texts at you or whatever, and you’re somewhat intrigued.
“It’s hard being a guy and not using your brain at times.”
So, as a fellow victim of the so-called “Catfish” phenomenon, could Roth sympathize with Te’o?
“To an extent,” Roth said, laughing. “You can’t fall in love over a phone. … I wasn’t sleeping with a phone, that’s for sure.”