On Manti Te'o and imaginary girlfriends

(CBS News) Many Americans scratched their heads when they heard football star Manti Te'o had fallen in love with a woman over the Internet who turned out to be, well, imaginary. Why would someone want a relationship with a person they couldn't touch, talk to, or spend any actual time with in real life? Well, commentator Luke Burbank can think of some reasons:


Manti Te'o became a national laughingstock when it turned out his girlfriend -- the woman he told the media had been the love of his life -- was made up, an invention of social media, and an obsessed fan.

The whole thing seemed at first look like a travesty. I mean, Manti and this imaginary girl had never even met, never been in the same room together, never fallen asleep in each other's arms. What on Earth could the appeal be?

But then I started thinking about it, and I realized there are also some other things they'd never done.

They'd never fought over which TV show they were going to watch.

They never sat awkwardly at a restaurant, wracking their brains for something to chat about.

They never had to pretend the other person's morning breath wasn't bordering on medically worrisome.

You see where I'm going here?

I can still remember my Imaginary Girlfriend. It was middle school, and she lived, naturally, in Canada. Her name was Tiffany. She did gymnastics.

She was amazing. She could be anything I wanted her to be, and in her eyes I was just the coolest. Who knew a beautiful Canadian gymnast would be drawn to pimples and an obsession with unicycling?

Of course I had to imbue her with these qualities, since I'd made her up out of whole cloth. But Manti Te'o was actually talking to another person -- a person who did a pretty spot-on impression of an attractive young lady. I mean, have you heard the voicemails?

Who wouldn't want to come home to a message containing THAT kind of love and support after a hard day of smashmouth college footballing?

My point is this: Every relationship has its pros and its cons. We put up with all kinds of stuff from the people we love because, well, they're the people we love.

What we're all looking for is a person who cares about us, who listens to our stories, even though we've told them a hundred times. Someone who makes our good days better, and our bad days a little more bearable. And when we find that person, we cling to them, whether they're real . . . or imaginary.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go call Tiffany. She'll want to hear all about how this commentary went.

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