One of the oddest stories leading up to the this year’s NFL Draft has been the possible positive drug tests of former Boston College DT B.J. Raji and several other high-profile NFL prospects, as reported earlier by SI.COM and NFLDRAFTBIBLE.COM. While coverage of the story has been muted from, say, the front page of ESPN.COM, it’s been the cause of intense speculation on the part of columnists, bloggers, and NFL draftniks. Could it really be that such high-profile players screwed up so monumentally as to test positive for performance-enhancing or other drugs, so close to the NFL Draft?
Well, no. Mike Florio of PRO FOOTBALL TALK reports that the list of positive drug tests is out, and none of the players whose names have been thrown around in recent weeks — Raji, Vontae Davis, Clay Matthews, or Brian Cushing — are on it. How did so many media outlets, including and especially the august SI.COM, get it wrong?
Well, it’s pretty simple. At one time, newspapers and magazines like SPORTS ILLUSTRATED had the luxury of sitting on stories for days or weeks before they broke them. There were fewer sources, fewer writers, and much less pressure to jump on a breaking story. As PFT puts it:
…[NFL Draft Bible’s] retraction also demonstrates the recklessness of [their] reporting on this issue. No one should rely on information being “circulated” when it comes to important questions regarding the use of illegal drugs or other prohibited substances. It’s one thing to be wrong about a trade or a free-agent signing, it’s quite another to incorrectly report information that can harm a player’s reputation in the community, his draft stock, and/or his endorsement opportunities. Bottom line? It’s not enough to rely on whispers and rumors when it comes to matters of this nature. When in doubt, the prudent course is not to go with it unless and until you’re damn sure of it.
Damn right. It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger, columnist, or reporter - failure to check sources and the desire to chase a story are surefire ways to blow up one’s hard-fought credibility in an instant. Best just to never leave mom’s basement.