- - Thursday, April 18, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The parallels between two of sports greatest performers and pariahs remain remarkable, 43 years after they were born six months apart – Alex Rodriguez on June 27, 1975, and Tiger Woods on Dec. 30, 1975.

Their paths from celebrated historic icons, seemingly on a path to rewriting sports history, to shamed outcasts, have both come full circle to redemption, with Tiger’s dramatic win of last week’s Masters tournament, 14 years after his last win in this tournament and 11 years since his last major PGA victory.

A-Rod’s Masters win? J-Lo.

The connections between these two flawed athletes can be found throughout their lives, from the year they were born to the year they first burst on the scene. A-Rod, after two brief stays in the major leagues, played his first full season for the Seattle Mariners in 1996 – the same year Tiger made his professional debut.

From there, both of them became the biggest and richest stars in their sports, and were seemingly on their way to accomplishing the greatest achievements in their respective sports. Tiger, with 14 majors at the age of 32, seemed a lock to pass Jack Nicklaus’s hallowed record of 18 major tournament victories.



A-Rod had won three MVPs, was a 13-time All-Star, and, with 613 career home runs at the age of 35, looked like he was on his way to pass Hank Aaron’s career major league home run record of 755. Heck, the New York Yankees were counting on it, signing him to a 10-year, $275 million contract in 2007, with incentives built on planning on his record-breaking home run march.

And then the plans for both crumbled as their bodies broke down following the arrests of their Dr. Feelgood, and their personal lives crashed as well.

When Canadian doctor Anthony Galea was put out of commission — arrested in Canada in 2009 for allegedly providing athletes with illegal performance-enhancing drugs, the Canadian indicted in October on charges of distributing performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes, and then plead guilty in 2011 on federal charges of drug smuggling and conspiracy, among other charges – both A-Rod and Tiger began suffering from a series of physical problems that derailed their career.

A-Rod and Tiger were both questioned by federal authorities in their investigation into Galea.

Tiger said that Galea used blood-spinning therapy to help him recover from knee injuries and that Galea never gave him any illegal performance-enhancing substances. A-Rod said he did the same thing when he was recovering from hip surgery.

Tiger’s life, as has been well-documented, began to unravel in 2009 when his wife Elin found text messages on his phone suggesting he was having extramarital affairs, and allegedly chased him down the driveway of their home with a golf club, which led to an accident as Tiger was trying to drive away. This came a few days after the National Enquirer reported that Tiger had an affair with Rachel Uchitel — who, guess what — People magazine reported partied with A-Rod as well. It would later be reported there were multiple affairs.

There was much that followed after that — the claim of sex addiction, back problems, repeated embarrassing failures on the golf course, and then his 2017 arrest in Jupiter for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, sitting in his car around 3 a.m. in the road with the engine running. Tiger said he was taking prescription drugs and did not realize how they would interact. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving.

And now, with his Masters victory, Tiger Woods is redeemed, and celebrated throughout the land as if he was Fairway Jesus. President Trump wants to give him the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest award for civilians. Mother Teresa won the Medal of Freedom.

A-Rod’s redemption has come off the field. He became the poster boy for steroid use, admitting in a 2009 press conference after numerous reports that he had used performance-enhancing drugs earlier in his career. His wife, Cynthia, had divorced him in 2008, claiming infidelity and “other marital misconduct.”

As Tiger did, A-Rod suffered through injuries that diminished his performance on the field after Galea was put out of business, and his time in the lineup from 2011 to 2013, when he was named again as a steroid abuser in the Biogenesis scandal. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season. A-Rod would return for one last hurrah in 2015 to hit 33 home runs in 151 games, and would retire in 2016.

His comeback, though, would take place in front of the television camera, and the society pages.

A-Rod has become the face of baseball on their Fox telecasts. He appeared in a Super Bowl ad for Planters Peanuts. He has hosted a CNBC reality show called, “Back in the Game.” He has been a Tonight Show guest, where he revealed his engagement to actress and singer Jennifer Lopez two days after Tiger’s Masters triumph.

America just loves a redemption story.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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