Contacts are a writer's life blood.
They feed you valuable information, help you break stories, gain access, and are good copy.
It's a tenuous relationship based on trust and mutual respect while knowing when to back off. They are contacts, acquaintances, but they're not your pal.
I find those ground rules work best in straight news reporting, though not in sports where it's so competitive among media today, and where you may have to criticize that individual.
Most don't understand you're doing your job and will give you that "I thought we were FRIENDS" speech.
I never had that problem with former NFL star Jared Tomich, whom I covered during his playing career at Lake Central, the University of Nebraska and with the New Orleans Saints.
He was a friend, a contact, but we didn't hang out or vacation together.
Lately, Tomich has been in the news regarding legal action being taken against him by several parties for alleged business malpractice, an arrest in February in connection with the theft of gym equipment, and mounting financial difficulties that threaten his local empire of Fuel Fitness centers.
It's all very shocking to those who know Tomich well.
How? Why? Can this really be happening to one of Northwest Indiana's most generous, community-minded leaders?
You quickly learn many heroes and leaders in sports, politics, entertainment and education have clay feet. You watch promising careers crumble for reasons of greed. You shake your head in disbelief and feel betrayed.
I don't know the whole story on Tomich's legal problems, only that it came straight out of the blue for many of us. Guilty or not, I can't say.
This I do know: He is a husband, a father, and was widely respected for the charitable work he's done in fighting children's cancer and helping special needs individuals.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Tomich loaded a truck with food, water, building materials and drove to New Orleans where many of his former Saints teammates had been hit hard by the devastation.
I wrote about that.
He founded the Jared Tomich Halo of Hope Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing emotional, financial and educational support to children with life threatening illnesses and their families in Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area.
We've written about that.
The organization also raises funds for these children to attend week-long Circle of Friends Camps across the United States twice a year. The camps bring together children with cancer or blood disease from 11 hospitals nationwide, including Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
I wrote about that.
Tomich's once-bright future is anyone's guess. His reputation has taken a beating it may never recover from. His fate will be decided, hopefully soon.
Maybe one day we'll learn the whole truth. Maybe one day Jared Tomich will clear the air publicly and settle this disturbing series of events.
I am not angry, only disappointed.
It's not the first time, nor will it be the last.