Last year I made the mistake of placing my faith in the savior apparent of the Detroit Tigers, a man I lovingly referred to as my big, black baby Jesus. He rewarded my faith by issuing more free passes than a scalper outside a Washington Nationals game. But after some time in the minors and a stint on the DL for an “anxiety disorder,” Dontrelle Willis finally made it back to the big leagues last night. And didn’t do a whole lot to allay our fears.
It’s rare that we see our heroes crumble into dust and then reemerge as a better version of themselves. Al Gore and Andre Agassi are good examples of how that works out at it’s best but, unfortunately, the Dontrelle Willis route is much more common. Something happens, something disappears and suddenly the person is a shell of their former self. It’s like the final episode of Seinfeld. We recognize it as being Seinfeld but its essential Seinfeldness wasn’t there.
That’s why I especially appreciate it, though, when heroes of my childhood reemerge in a better if not stronger form. Sergei Fedorov leads the Red Wings for years and then plays his heart out for the Washington Capitals. Kirk Gibson lays it on the line for the ’84 Tigers and then comes back and provides the spark for the ’88 Dodgers as well. But if I have to choose only one hero who has come back better, stronger and faster, well, I think this video will explain:
Willie Tanner: a poor man’s Eraserhead.