I am a proud citizen of Hugo, Colorado.

Before today, when I would tell people that I’m from Hugo, they’d offer up a blank stare. Where the hell is Hugo?

But this morning, everyone knows about Hugo. After all, the town was the No. 1 trending story on Facebook last night. Heck, even People Magazine found my favorite, practically hidden place in Colorado. Why? Apparently, Hugo’s water supply was somehow contaminated by THC, the principal psychoactive constituent in marijuana.

How “Only in Colorado” is that?

Hugo, which 99.999999 percent of Americans previously knew nothing about, is today’s buzzword. Any news story that contains the words “marijuana” and “Colorado” gets national attention. The rest of the U.S. of A. sure is inquisitive about the sticky icky, and this was a new and exciting headline.

So when the story broke, and the town that I know – a sleepy little place of roughly 700 damn fine people and 10 times more cattle – was all over the news, my cell phone began to blow up. After all, I’m the only person from Hugo they know.

“Bet your cows are happy.”

Very good. Although the cows belonging to my family aren’t sipping from town water. Too bad; they’d presumably become hungrier, and thus pack on more pounds.

“Now what exactly is it that your family grows out there?”

Clever. I think my mom has a small planter filled with herbs but not herb. We don’t even grow our own wheat, much less weed (no judgement, Colorado; it’s just that we’re ranchers, not farmers).

“Did your mom (who lives south of Hugo) drink the water?”

No, but that sounds like a great t-shirt – I DRANK THE WATER…Hugo, Colorado. (Note to self: Call my screenprinting guy).

My good friend Maye Gene Lee, a former town mayor who’s been drinking Hugo’s water since 1948, said she had some in her iced tea yesterday. When she talked to news reporters yesterday she seemed, just as she always has, sharp as a tack. My friend Tom Lee, a baseball aficionado and the town’s current mayor, says within 48 hours, all will be well with the well (see what I did there?), and my buddy Michael Yowell, who’s now the Lincoln Country Sheriff – although I know him better as the little kid who could run a solid post route in a game of touch football in the yard – explained how they even found out at all about this THC situation. It’s a wacky story, ripe for headlines and national news, no doubt. Like I said, only in Colorado.

Hugo is my friend, and my friends are in Hugo. And that’s why I think I can offer some advice, wisdom that I’ve gained over 14 years in the sports business – not the cattle business or – gasp! – the pot business. As the editor of Mile High Sports Magazine, I’ve learned how plenty of folks have survived similar situations.

Hugo, like it or not, we’re in the spotlight. But fear not, here’s how we should handle this mess going forward – at least, this is how we’d do it in the sports world. Read carefully and repeat after me. If we all just follow these steps, all will be well and certainly forgiven.

  1. It was secondary smoke. It works every time an athlete gets busted. They might still be in trouble, but at least they’re letting everyone know it surely wasn’t them. With all the fires going on this summer in Colorado, it’s pretty conceivable that one of them burned up a blunt or two and – doggonit – that smoke blew all the way to Hugo and into our well. THC in Hugo? No way. It blew there.
  2. Tampering was involved. In fact, the well site just south of town is currently being treated like a crime scene. That’s right, yellow tape, officers on guard, the whole bit. But the theory of tampering has gotten a lot of people off the hook. Hugo didn’t do it, someone just wants you to think Hugo did it. That person? Well, we’re not sure who he or she might be, but no question, he or she is a tamperer.
  3. Someone else’s water. If you’re a guilty professional athlete, and you really want to pass a drug test, submit the urine of someone who doesn’t use drugs. Simple right? You might be pregnant. You might be a horse or a dog or a giraffe from the zoo. You might be peeing at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But, most importantly, you’re clean. Let’s just apply this theory to Hugo – but do it the opposite. It had to be someone else’s water. Just had to be. Come to think of it, I may or may not have seen someone dumping buckets of ice cold H2O in and around that darn well last weekend. I say we blame it on Limon or Stratton or Karval (betcha don’t know where Karval is, do you?).
  4. Improper procedure. When the Brewers Ryan Braun finally got busted by Major League Baseball for performance enhancing drugs, it was actually the second time he failed a test. The first time? He got off because of how FedEX handled the test. Did that have anything to do with the results? Um, well, probably not. But hey, it worked! At one point, the Pony Express delivered the mail in Hugo. These days, UPS and FedEX handle the job. Surely they screwed something up. Surely, someone did. Thus, the water is fine.
  5. Hugo just didn’t know. An extremely popular alibi, especially in the modern NFL, is that an athlete simply didn’t realize he was taking what his test revealed. Basically, the athlete who’s just failed a drug test, comes out and says, “Look, I bought a bottle of stuff from the local GNC store and – hey guess what – it was full of illegal stuff.” Now, they may still take a short suspension (that’s what happened to the Broncos’ Derek Wolfe last year), but their image is totally safe. Do you read the label of everything you eat? Neither do I. Everyone can empathize with this classic blunder. You want a little protein powder in your nightly malt, and low and behold, the darn manufacturer slipped some high-quality steroids in there – unbeknownst to you, of course. Well, the same thing probably happened in Hugo. Maybe the fella who helps to keep Hugo’s water supply clean and sterile was trying out a new brand of chlorine tablet, and that particular tablet just happened to have a little THC in it – you, know, just for good measure. Heck, how would we know? But rest assured, that guy is fired and it will never happen again.
  6. Just apologize and move on. Perhaps my favorite method of modern crisis management in professional sports. When something bad happens (insert whatever crime you’d like here), you have your PR agent compose an oh-so-sincere apology. You then read it at a press conference (cry for effect – that really helps). And then you apologize and ask for total forgiveness. After all, you’re just a person, and people make mistakes. This is just one of the many life lessons that make us all great, right? Towns aren’t people, but they’re made up of them. So, it goes something like this: “We’re very sorry. We’re learning from this mistake. We realize we’re a role model of a town, and we’re sorry to disappoint all of the towns that look up to us, and we know there are many. We’re spending time with our families and look forward to moving on. Again, we’d like to offer our sincerest apology.” Hey, I know, and you know, Hugo, that we didn’t do anything wrong, but this – in my experience – is just the quickest way to get past anything that’s making news. It’s sort of the “mic-drop” of problematic situations. Say you’re sorry. Resume being a great athlete. Then go win the Super Bowl. Everyone will still love you. Actually, do this, and the Genoa-Hugo High Schoool Pirates might win state football this fall. What a story!
  7. Let due process take its course. Do what every coach, GM or owner does when one of their guys gets in trouble. First, play dumb – “We’re looking into it, but unfortunately, we just don’t have the details.” Second, stand by your guy (or in this case, your water) – “He’s always been a model citizen for us, so we’re not going to pass judgement. That’s not for us to decide.” See how that works? Here’s how it works for us, Hugo: “We’re looking into it, but our water has always been better than Perrier, Aquafina or anything that’s ever run through one of those silly Brita filters. If it’s contaminated, that’s news to us. We’ll let due process take its place, and in the meantime, we’ll keep drinking it like always.” Hey, looky there. Our water? Never!
  8. Embrace it. Former Broncos Jake Plummer and Nate Jackson have been outspoken about the potential health and rehabilitation benefits of marijuana for former NFL players. These are two pretty sharp guys and their ideas aren’t without merit. Perhaps Hugo could become one of the most progressive towns on the Eastern Plains. THC in the water? You bet we put it there! It’s all part of a highly sophisticated experiment. The jobs in and around Hugo can be pretty physical at times – there are plenty of cowboys walking (or riding) around with concussion-like symptoms. Well pardner, just drink some water (wink, wink); it might actually help. You can thank your city council members later.

That should about do it. I think we’re going to be just fine, Hugo. Do what the sports pros do when confronted by media types from near and far.

And for the record, I’m not afraid to drink the water.

Bottoms up.