- - Thursday, June 22, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

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 story 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 in 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.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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