Woods has the chance to re­write his legacy

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

As you click onto the web­site for the Tiger Woods Foun­da­tion, these words pop up: “Re­defin­ing what it means to be a cham­pion.” Tiger Woods has the chance to do just that.

He has a chance at a sec­ond act that would re­de­fine his legacy. He has a chance to find the di­rec­tion in his life that has been spin­ning out of con­trol since he drove down his drive­way five years ago to get away from an an­gry wife chas­ing him with a golf club af­ter dis­cov­er­ing text mes­sages from one of the golfer’s var­i­ous mis­tresses.

He has the op­por­tu­nity to change the nar­ra­tive from scandal to re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion.

Woods has a chance to be the face of the fight against the opi­oid epi­demic in Amer­ica.

One week be­fore the open­ing of Tiger Woods’ Quicken Loans Na­tional tour­na­ment at TPC Po­tomac, his agent, Mark Stein­berg, re­vealed that Woods has checked into a clinic to get help deal­ing with pain med­i­ca­tion.

Amer­ica, strug­gling with what has been called an “epi­demic” of abuse and ad­dic­tion of pain med­i­ca­tion, may need to do the same.

“The United States is in the midst of a pre­scrip­tion drug over­dose epi­demic,” ac­cord­ing to a re­lease by the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. “Since 1999, the amount of pre­scrip­tion drugs pre­scribed and sold in the United States has nearly quadru­pled, yet there has not been an over­all change in the amount of pain that Amer­i­cans re­port. Over­pre­scrib­ing leads to more abuse and more over­dose deaths.”

Woods was ar­rested May 29 in Jupiter, Florida, on a DUI charge af­ter be­ing found asleep in his Mercedes

on the side of the road with the car run­ning, The ve­hi­cle, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, ap­peared to have suf­fered dam­age. Woods had to be wo­ken up, and his speech was slurred, po­lice said.

Now, on the eve of his own golf tour­na­ment, Woods is at an undis­closed drug re­hab clinic, and will re­main there for an un­de­ter­mined amount of time, Stein­berg told the As­so­ci­ated Press.

When Woods emerges, there is a coun­try wait­ing for some­one with his power and pro­file to lead it out of this drug cri­sis — from those found asleep in their lux­ury cars to those passed out in their pickup trucks.

The opi­oid epi­demic is a dif­fer­ent kind of ma­jor than what Woods has tried to win in the past. This time Woods faces a ma­jor health prob­lem.

“Stem­ming the rise in opi­oid deaths,” read the June 18 New York Times head­line.

“Ohio sues 5 ma­jor drug com­pa­nies for fuel­ing opi­oid epi­demic” read the NPR head­line.

The Daily Mail had this Wed­nes­day: “Vic­tims of Amer­ica’s drug cri­sis: As the opi­ate epi­demic ‘wipes out a gen­er­a­tion,’ meet the sher­iff and his teacher wife who are rais­ing their grand­daugh­ter, three, af­ter her mother died of an over­dose.”

That was a story of one fam­ily try­ing to save a vic­tim of the drug cri­sis.

Woods has a chance to lead the public fight to save many more from the pain of pain ad­dic­tion.

First, he has to save him­self, and get the treat­ment he needs to con­trol his own pain man­age­ment prob­lems — the same is­sue fac­ing mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

Then, once Woods emerges from that cloud, he should do what his foun­da­tion pro­motes as its motto — “re­defin­ing what it means to be a cham­pion.”

It’s no longer about the golf course. That is over. He will never be that Tiger Woods again, and, while he cer­tainly can con­tinue his golf ca­reer if healthy, he has the chance to chase dif­fer­ent vic­to­ries, far more im­por­tant wins, and keep the spot­light on this cri­sis and how to ad­dress it.

To date, his foun­da­tion has been de­voted to help­ing chil­dren and ed­u­ca­tion. “We are un­wa­ver­ing ad­vo­cates for the trans­for­ma­tive power of ed­u­ca­tion,” the foun­da­tion states on its web­site.

There are chil­dren and fam­i­lies deal­ing with ad­dic­tion who need Woods’ help.

Woods has al­ways been vo­cal in his sup­port of vet­er­ans. His fa­ther Earl was a lieu­tenant in the Army, and Woods’ affin­ity for the mil­i­tary has been well doc­u­mented — he has par­tic­i­pated in Navy SEAL train­ing and, ac­cord­ing to his for­mer swing coach, Hank Haney, in­jured his knee do­ing so. His tour­na­ment fea­tures a “week-long cel­e­bra­tion of the D.C. re­gion, our troops and our coun­try,” with thou­sands of tick­ets dis­trib­uted to mem­bers of the armed forces.”

Well, now those vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies need more than tick­ets from Woods.

Mil­i­tary fam­i­lies — par­tic­u­larly those with vet­er­ans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — have been hit hard by opi­oid ad­dic­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to num­bers from the Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion, vets with an opi­oid-use dis­or­der rose 55 per­cent from 2010 to 2015, as pre­scrip­tions from VA doc­tors rose 270 per­cent over a 12-year pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for In­ves­tiga­tive Re­port­ing.

Woods could be an in­flu­en­tial fig­ure in the at­ten­tion and re­sources paid to this health catas­tro­phe. Be­fore he be­came a TMZ scandal star and ad­ver­tis­ers aban­doned him, Woods was one of the most in­flu­en­tial pitch­men on Madi­son Av­enue, sell­ing All­state In­sur­ance, Buicks, Amer­i­can Ex­press, Ac­cen­ture, and, of course, Nike.

A Tiger Woods coura­geously putting him­self out there as a sym­bol of the strug­gle fac­ing so many Amer­i­can fam­i­lies would be heard, as he was when he sold cars and credit cards. Peo­ple would lis­ten.

You can’t force some­one to take on this kind of fight. But Wood’s lat­est scandal, com­ing at the time when the coun­try is look­ing for a voice to ease the pain, is an op­por­tu­nity for him to pur­sue some­thing far greater than par.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

As his Quicken Loans Na­tional golf tour­na­ment at TPC Po­tomac nears, Tiger Woods is at an undis­closed drug re­hab clinic to re­ceive help to man­age his med­i­ca­tions and will re­main there for an un­de­ter­mined amount of time.

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