Deep, dark secret: I watch a lot of CNN. While at theScore’s world-wide headquarters in Toronto, I fight with fellow bloggers Drew Fairservice, Andrew Stoeten, Dustin Parkes and Sean Tomlinson for the remote that controls the television in our shared work space in order to throw the Cable News Network on in the afternoon. And when I’m working from the official Goal-Line Stand world headquarters (my 600-sq. ft condo), it is always jockeying with NFL network for what gets to serve as background noise as I blog away.
Lately, there’s been no need for a debate between national sports coverage and national news coverage, because over the last month, sports has bled into network news like I’ve never seen before. Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Fine, Barry Bonds and now Sam Hurd.
Although it does make for less channel changing for those who enjoy news and sports, this is not a good thing.
The Hurd story is the only one from the world of professional football to make mainstream headlines for the wrong reasons, and I wonder if it might be timed perfectly from the NFL’s standpoint. The Sandusky story is seemingly getting worse by the day, which is eclipsing the horrid Fine story. Both of those involve alleged pedophilia. Next to Sandusky and Fine, Bonds and Hurd look like characters on Sesame Street.
It’s like we’ve been desensitized to revolting sports stories. They don’t even sink in anymore.
It took about 24 hours for me to fully absorb this Hurd story, which is probably a little too long for someone whose job it is to capitalize on a 24-hour news cycle with quick reaction. But I wanted to let it simmer before formulating an opinion.
The (now former) Chicago Bears receiver has been charged with accepting a kilogram of cocaine from an undercover cop, allegedly telling the officer that he needed 5-10 pounds of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana every week. That, and everything else alleged, appears to be quite damming. Still, we’ll do our best not to draw conclusions. So allow me to emphasis the word if.
If Sam Hurd was dealing drugs in large quantities across state lines, this is a big story. And it’s a fascinating one. After all, Hurd had a $2 million salary with the Bears. He didn’t have to resort to dealing drugs, as is so often the case. If Hurd acted alone and didn’t involve fellow NFL players, I’d be interested to hear his motivation. Or, like Michael Vick with dog fighting, was this just something he’ll claim he was born into?
If Sam Hurd was dealing drugs in large quantities across state lines to — or with — NFL players, this is a massive story. One of the biggest scandals in NFL history, right Michael Freeman? It could truly damage a seemingly infallible sports league. The football world is panicking right now over a list of Hurd’s NFL clients that may or may not exist. If it’s not an isolated act from a rogue and fairly anonymous player — one of over 2,000 in the NFL — it’ll have the punch to blacken one of the league’s eyes. Football fans could begin to reconsider their allegiances.
And if Sam Hurd was using his football career as his “front,” this could be the biggest scandal in NFL history. This hasn’t been alleged, primarily because we’re too early in the process. But think about it — being a pro athlete would make it a hell of a lot easier to deal drugs. As ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio pointed out last night, the criminal complaint against Hurd claims that he was looking to take cocaine from Texas to “a northern destination” on July 27. Three days later, Hurd started training camp with the Bears in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
This year, Hurd and the Bears have traveled to St. Louis, New York, Nashville, New Orleans, Detroit, Tampa, Philadelphia, Oakland and Denver. Nine different cities in nine different states, plus Chicago, and trips to Wisconsin and Minnesota forthcoming.
Keep in mind that NFL team personnel don’t go through airport security in the same manner we do. Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post had video of Tim Tebow leaving Sun Life Stadium after the Broncos beat the Dolphins in late October. In the video, you see Tebow and his teammates going through airport security as they load onto the team’s charter. The video was removed due to NFL rules, but take my word — it’s not quite as rigorous as what you and I go through.
We’re yet to see evidence that Hurd used team road trips to distribute illicit drugs, but you get the feeling we’ve only scratched the surface. The official criminal complaint documents very little between September and December, despite Hurd’s alleged kingpin talk to an undercover agent. And it sure would make a lot of sense for Hurd to take advantage of lax security and free flights.
If there’s any chance that the National Football League was acting as a blind enabler by flying Hurd around the country to sell drugs (regardless of who he’s selling to) this will be super-scandalous, and could change the way athletes are permitted to travel with their teams. I’d also expect it to ramp up the emphasis on testing for recreational, non-performance-enhancing drugs. The league would have a whole new PR battle on its hands.
Let’s hope that, assuming this isn’t some hilarious case of mistaken identity or bad luck and Hurd was in fact dealing drugs, it was just him and him alone, in one area at a time and without the knowledge of teammates and anyone connected to the sport. If that is the case, this would actually be kind of a cool story.
Hurd is a former recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, which goes to “models of inspiration, sportsmanship and courage.” He’s a God-fearing man with good manners and a shy personality. On CNN today, Bears beat writer Sean Jensen opined that there were probably 30 players on the team he’d put ahead of Hurd on a list of potential drug dealers.
“Of all the players I’ve met in 17 seasons of covering the Cowboys,” wrote Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN Dallas, “Hurd never, ever would’ve popped up on my radar as an alleged drug dealer.”
It’s straight out of Breaking Bad or The Wire, isn’t it? I mean, if these allegations are true, Sam Hurd is football’s Gustavo Fring. And I don’t know if this makes me a horrible person, but so long as the Bears weren’t his Los Pollos Hermanos, I’m okay with that.
It’ll make one hell of a made-for-TV movie. Is The Wire‘s Jamie Hector free for a new role?