Friends, Family, Media Have Done Their Job; Now It's Up To The New York Baseball Hero To Make Next Move

By Ernie Palladino
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Everyone, it seems, has had their say about Dwight Gooden’s sobriety.

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From Darryl Strawberry’s concern over Doc’s missed WFAN appearance last week, to the Yankees’ reported offer to pay for Gooden’s cocaine rehab, from the open letters of his son and ex-girlfriend, we have heard it all. And we have all seen the pictures of the former Mets and Yankees flamethrower, now gaunt and sickly-looking at 51 as he proclaimed an end to both his friendship with Strawberry and his cocaine use.

Clearly, just about every angle of Gooden’s suspected relapse has been covered and dissected.

Fine.

Now it’s time we all step away.

Like any addiction issue, whether or not Gooden has returned for the umpteenth time to pushing the white powder up his nose is his problem. If and when he wants help, he must be the one to ask for it. And that doesn’t usually happen until the addict hits rock bottom.

That obviously hasn’t happened yet for Gooden. If what he says is true and he remains in a state of judge-like sobriety, rock bottom is a non-issue. And wouldn’t that be great?

If he’s lying to himself and the rest of us, the spiral downward hasn’t completed itself. The addict’s path of usage and denial has yet to lead him to death’s door. It’s too early for help.

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In the end, getting the requisite help will be Gooden’s decision alone. Which is exactly why all the talk must end now. This is not about preserving the privacy of an icon, or shunning those who publicly proclaim him a relapsed addict.

It’s about cutting him loose, just as so many everyday Joes have to do with friends and relatives deep in the grasp of drugs. When prodding and praying fail to work, there is no other choice.

This is a hard thing to do, of course. Doc was and still is a beloved figure. From the time he first wrapped the Mets’ colors around that exploding fastball and gorgeous, sweeping curve, Gooden entranced fans with performance and the media with friendliness and accessibility.

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When he missed the 1986 championship parade down the Canyon of Heroes, a sense of grief for a hero knocked so far off Olympus took its place right next to the curiosity as to why it had to happen at all.

But that was 30 years ago. Aside from the second chance George Steinbrenner engineered for him with the Yanks in 1996, Gooden’s self-authored story has been mostly about rehab, relapse, jail, more relapse, more rehab.

And now this.

Strawberry brought the situation to light on WFAN last week, and it cost him a friendship. The news organizations have once again beaten Gooden’s story into the ground. And Gooden has issued his denial.

The public side of the story has been covered on all angles. We who loved Gooden are all concerned.

But now it’s time to let him go.

If Gooden was being truthful, so much the better. Perhaps then, the next story we read about him will involve yet another honor, another celebration, another autograph signing.

That’s the hope.

If he’s deep in an addict’s denial, the next thing we read could be his obituary.

Either way, this is Gooden’s problem.

It’s time for everyone to back off and leave him to it in the hopes that, if rock bottom does rush up and slap him in the face, plenty of people will be there to help.

But not until he asks for it.

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