The Super Bowl has a super-sized problem. It's in danger of being upstaged.
Never mind how much you like brother acts. Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh can't compete with Te'o vs. the Tuiasosopos. And even if Baltimore's Ray Lewis tells us he heard from a burning bush that God hates the 49ers, he won't be the most talked-about linebacker leading up to Super Bowl XLVII.
Have you heard? Notre Dame All-American linebacker Manti Te'o will appear on Katie Couric's television show Thursday.
Unfortunately for the Super Bowl, you can't wrap up the Te'o tale in a single show. This isn't Lance Armstrong meets Oprah. There are too many characters, fictional and nonfictional, and too little time. I would just as soon explain "Game of Thrones" during a coffee break as to try and make sense of this modern-day, boy-meets-girl — or at least thinks he does — story. David Lynch's movies have more clarity.
Here's the lead from an ESPN.com account of last weeks's interview between Te'o and Jeremy Schapp: "Manti Te'o denied being part of a hoax involving a relationship with a person whom he considered his girlfriend during an interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schapp on Friday night, but he did say he 'tailored' his stories so people would think he 'met her before she passed away.' "
Girlfriend or not? Alive or dead? Duped or duper?
If one paragraph of a news story can raise that many questions, what chance does the Super Bowl have of reclaiming its rightful place in the boldest and biggest of headlines? The tabloids can't even keep up. I checked.
The National Enquirer currently gives us: "Demi's Weird, Wrinkly Belly," and "Hillary Clinton Is Going Blind."
That can't compete with a star football player who had an online love affair with a girl who later died — or so he thought — only to discover that he was the victim of an elaborate scam, which supposedly involves the Tuiasosopo family and perhaps others (I keep waiting for an Art Schlichter connection) who have yet to be introduced to a confused and captivated audience.
School affiliation adds to the intrigue. If Te'o were a Fresno State Bulldog, the story wouldn't have the same legs. But he played for the same hallowed program that gave us "Rudy" and "The Gipper." Before last week, Notre Dame thought its worst nightmare was as straight forward as Alabama's Eddie Lacy.
Like Lacy, the Te'o story keeps running. Six of the 11 top news stories on ESPN.com's college football section Monday were related to Te'o, and the Tuiasosopos have yet to give their side. What's a Super Bowl to do?
The 49ers-Ravens Super Bowl actually has more compelling story lines than many of its predecessors'. As you might have heard, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Ravens coach John Harbaugh are brothers.
For those of you who join the NFL only at Super Bowl time, Jim is the one with the crazy eyes.
Lewis is the one with the crazy dance, which, as Super Bowl buffs will tell you, preceded his MVP performance in Super Bowl XXXV. His involvement in the previous Super Bowl was more sensational and almost as mysterious as the Te'o love affair.
What began as a routine Super Bowl eve party at an Atlanta nightclub ended with two people dead. Lewis subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice, two men in his party were later acquitted of murder charges, and the white suit Lewis was wearing remains as missing as Te'o's girlfriend.
Lewis has since become a born-again Christian and a revered NFL player, whom the networks can't wait to hire as an analyst when his playing career ends with this game.
But Lewis isn't the linebacker CBS needs for its Super Bowl production. It needs Te'o.
And if the mystery girlfriend will sing a halftime duet with Beyoncé, so much the better.