By Lenn Robbins
The biggest mistake fans make, especially young ones, is to affix labels such as “hero” to a favorite athlete.
Those sports stars possess the same foibles and face the same demons as any of us. When you throw in the megabucks, pressure to perform, social media nonsense, media attention, it’s a wonder more star athletes don’t succumb to the pitfalls that is being human.
Still, it hurts when one of your favorite athletes, one of the stars, and a truly decent human being, trips. Again and again and again.
The latest revelation, reported by the New York Post, is that Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden had once again been arrested for possession of cocaine and driving under the influence on June 7th in New Jersey.
It’s hard to be a Mets fan in this town but Gooden was the player fans of the Amazins could hold up and stare down the Yankees. Until of course he threw his only no hitter for the Yankees in 1996.
That was about the only accomplishment he didn’t record for the Mets. He led them to the World Series championship in 1986, a year after becoming the youngest winner of the Cy Young at age of 20.
In that magical season of 1985, before he first tasted the drug that haunts him to this day, he went 24-4 with 268 strikeouts and a 1.53 ERA in the live ball era. He won the pitching version of the Triple Crown by throwing a National League best 16 complete games (yes, starters threw complete games once upon a time) and 276 and two-thirds innings.
Doc owned this city like few athletes before or after.
If you looked up in Midtown (I know, redundant) you couldn’t miss the 102-foot-tall Sports Illustrated cover mural of Gooden with the caption, “How does it feel to look down the barrel of a loaded gun?”
Tabloid headline writers had a blast with Gooden: Doc Operates. Doc Makes a House. The Doc is in.
But the Doc also was out.
He missed the team’s ticker tape parade on Oct. 28, 1986 because he spent the previous night after the Mets won the World Series in a drug dealer’s apartment, cocaine reducing him to zombie. He watched the parade from his home on Long Island.
Win the World Series. Miss the parade.
“As my teammates rode through the Canyon of Heroes, I was alone in my bed in Roslyn, Long Island, with the curtains closed and the TV on, missing what should have been the greatest morning of my life,’’ Gooden wrote in his autobiography, “Doc: A Memoir.”
It was the beginning of a lifelong battle for Gooden, one he apparently has not won.
Doc was in rehab by 1987 after testing positive for cocaine. He was suspended for the 1995 season after failing another drug test. He was under the influence of drugs when he crashed his car in 2010 when driving his 5-year-old son, Dylan, to school. He was jailed for eight months in 2006 when met his probation officer high on coke.
Isn’t that the epitome of addiction? You go to your probation appointment high on the very stuff that landed you on probation?
Here’s my mistake. When he wrote that memoir in 2013, it seemed as if Doc had exorcised the ghosts. The memoir has been described as brutally honest.
“Warning: It is not an easy read,” wrote one reader. “Honestly it made my head spin to listen to all his relapses,” wrote another.
Heads are spinning again. Gooden is sick again.
Doc said one thing about cocaine in an E60 interview in 2011 that could make him heroic.
“It was love at first sight, unfortunately,” he said of the white power.
If one young fan reads that and opts not to try cocaine, then yes, we can say Gooden is heroic if not a hero.