Manti Te’o or Ray Lewis?

Which football player would you rather have date your daughter, Manti Te’o or Ray Lewis?

Both are linebackers. One is being portrayed as a villain in the national media. The other is perceived as a good guy and a warrior.

The villain, of course, is Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker who supposedly was duped into thinking he had a long-term relationship with a girl on the internet.

At best, Te’o is a door-to-door salesman’s dream. He fell hook, line and sinker for a cruel practical joke that makes him look like a buffoon.

Te’o gained great national attention and probably some Heisman votes because the story of this girl succumbing to leukemia was well-placed during the college football season. That girl who never existed just so happened to fake dying within six hours of when his real grandma died which made him a national sympathetic figure.

Te’o, who should never be allowed to make a major purchase — like, say, a bridge — without an adult holding his hand, said he wasn’t in on the hoax.

At his worst, Te’o is a fraud. He took part in on the hoax for his own personal gain that goes along with becoming a household name.

If he made up a girlfriend and her death just so he could play on the emotions of the fringe college football fans, it certainly worked. He was the talk of all of college football. He was a real-life Lifetime Movie of the Week.

Maybe he was a Star Trek fan and couldn’t get a real girlfriend. Then he was forced to kill her off when people started to wonder why they never ever see the love of his life in person.

Perhaps he was pulling a George Costanza and showing off pictures of a model with “man hands” in an attempt to score chicks. Having game on the field doesn’t necessarily translate to game off it.

In the end, though, nobody was hurt by this scandal more than Te’o. His NFL draft stock will certainly fall, and he will be the butt of jokes for a decade or more.

Te’o could be a Hall of Fame linebacker in the NFL, but for the rest of his life he will be the guy with a fake girlfriend. He’ll probably never be hired by ESPN for its Sunday NFL Countdown show.

Still, who would you rather drink a beer with, Manti Te’o or Ray Lewis?

While Te’o is involved in the biggest media-sports scandal since Tonya Harding, Ray Lewis is making his NFL swan song in Super Bowl 47.

Even though he’s impacted this year’s playoffs as much as you or I have, Lewis is the feel-good story of the Super Bowl. The washed-up linebacker is being compared to the likes of John Elway and Jerome Bettis because he has the chance to end his career with a Super Bowl win.

He’s on TV more than Ryan Seacrest.

Lewis, who was hired to be a personality on Sunday NFL Countdown next season, didn’t need to make up any fake girlfriends. He fathered six children from four women he never married, and that’s among his more noble accomplishments.

As the national anthem played before the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, CBS gave us an extreme close up of Lewis crying as he sang along. After the game, he cried as he thanked God for the victory.

He didn’t say if he was so religious and patriotic as he instructed his posse not to speak with police as his limo sped away from the crime scene where someone (or ones) in his group stabbed Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar to death after a Super Bowl party early in the morning of Jan. 31, 2000, in Atlanta.

Atlanta’s mayor, Bill Campbell, almost cried, though, at a press conference announcing that Lewis and two of his buddies were charged with murder in the deaths of Baker and Lollar.

“We will not allow wealth or fame or celebrity to pervert justice,” Campbell said. “That is a commitment that is fundamental, and we will keep it.”

Campbell surely cried when fame, wealth and celebrity did indeed prevent justice in Atlanta.

Lewis pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice and testified against Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting. Of course, you really can’t call Lewis a “rat” for turning on his friends because he never really turned on them.

It is widely believed that Lewis funded the defense of Oakley and Sweeting as he took the stand. Then the testimony that was supposed to send his friends to the big house allowed them to walk instead.

It is surely no coincidence that the jury found Lewis so unbelievable that it acquitted his friends, suspecting that Lewis, not Oakley and Sweeting, actually stabbed Baker and Lollar.

O.J. Simpson was acquitted of his double murder charge in a trial. Lewis weaseled his way out of his in a way that would have made Johnnie Cochran cringe. He was not acquitted, and he was certainly not exonerated.

Atlanta police never arrested anybody else for the murder because they know they got the right guys in the first place.

Yet not only does the national media refuse to ask Lewis questions about the murders, they prop him up on a pedestal like he’s a hero. He’s a man of God. He’s a man of the people. Those two dead guys don’t matter.

As it turns out, Manti Ta’o’s mistake wasn’t faking a death. It was not causing a real one.

Who would you rather meet in a dark alley, Manti Te’o or Ray Lewis?

— Sportswriter Bill Foley, who hasn’t had a fake girlfriend in nearly a decade, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays.