The Comeback of Dennis Tietje

"I can weather the storm ..."

Dateline: A Dining Room Table Story

When you are tumbling,

it may not seem like it,

but it is this,

it’s not the falling that matters.

What matters,

is the getting up.

It is the getting up, that you find in our soul. 

It is the belief, in oneself, that has brung us here.

It is unfurling the sails, and letting the wind take us to the horizon because in our soul we knew there was a whole world out there beyond the edge.

It is the belief in oneself, that turns tears into the pillow, to tears of joy.

And it is in our soul to get up,

even when we can’t.

“…I'll never quit…”

I want you to take a moment and look at that picture over there, the one of Dennis Tietje coming in his boat to weigh-in.

Go look, blow it up big like if you can.

Look at the look on his face, that’s the face of, falling.

“db, man it was horrible, just unbearable.”

It was April 6th, 2011…Pickwick Lake, Florence Alabama…Day 1, coming in for weigh-in,

now look at this picture, same day, same place, it’s TJ’s wife, Trudy, she is in the crowd, and Trudy is looking for TJ…look at her face…that is the face of a wife, who knows her husband is falling.

..his wife Trudy, that look tells it all..

“…I'll never lay down…”

“I had a herniation in the L-4 and L-5 part of my spine.”

To climb into a boat, and hit the waves of an all day Elite tournament, with basically your back coming apart, is to me, what makes humans, magical.

It is not your brain that allows that, it is your being.

We are all made of stardust, and it is at times like this, when the stars shine through.

“One tournament in the 1st 5 minutes of practice my back went out, I spent the next 3 days in bed.”

The stars come out, “Dave Wolack (used to fish the Elites) would come into my room and pull on my dirty stinky feet trying to relieve the pain in my back, like some sort of buddy traction thing.”

Try fishing with the best in the world like this,  “I couldn’t run with the boat, couldn’t hit waves, couldn’t lift the fish out of the water, had to have someone lift the bag onto the scales for me.”

And yet, TJ fished on.

“Finished the whole season on pain pills and prayers.”

“…see I've promised myself…”

Check out that picture over there of TJ…fast forward now to February 24th, The Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, Louisiana…as I’m walking through the EXPO…I hear this, “db…db…DB.”

And when I turn around, there is TJ standing all proud like in the Nitro/BassPro booth, and the dude is smiling…not what he was doing the last time I saw him.

...and in 2012, when the getting up began.

“It was back in Oct last year (2011) I went in for back surgery and they removed the partial disc, I took a risk to get it done, but it had to be fixed.”

And then he told me, “I’m taking 2012 season with the Elites off, have to, have to heal, have to heal, but I’ll be back, you’ll see.”

And then we hugged.

And as I left I told him I would miss him, we had become fast buds, and I pointed to my heart, and then his.

I’m sure TJ had no idea what it meant, it meant TJ what I couldn’t tell you in person, couldn’t get the words out to a friend,

Dennis it meant this,

it’s not the fall my friend, it’s the get up,

and I know that’s in your soul.

In here my friend, in here.

“…that I'd never let me down, so…”

Monday, March 11th, 2012…it’s late at night, TJ had just gotten off the water…he’s back, one year off to recuperate and back…”Hey db, you up,” he says to me…I was, sort of.

I’m in bed, in a brace, drugged out somewhat on pain meds, laying there mad that I can’t fight through the two stress fractures in my knee and be at the Elite event on the Sabine River in Orange, TX.

It is now my turn for falling.

“I’m awake dude, so what’s it like to come back and do it basically on your home water.”

“Man oh man, I born and raised not far from Orange…tons of family and friends coming everyday…man I’m getting all jacked up, it’s like even though I haven’t competed I feel that I’ve already won.”

“Good dude, but how you feeling brotha.”

“Never once thought about it to you just asked there.  I’m feeling no pain.  No question I did the right thing.  I’m as close to perfect as you can get, can sleep all night, my attitude is much better without the pain, every aspect of life is better.”

You may not know this, but TJ, and now I realize this, that we both have 100 brothers out there who care for us, and each other.

“Night dude, good luck out there.”

“Goodnight db, miss you.”

And when I hit the off button on the phone and turned out the light, in the dark room I looked up at the ceiling and mouthed, Thank You,

for TJ,

for giving us a soul, that gets up.

“…I'll never give up, never give in

never let a ray of doubt slip in…”

This is for TJ, ya’ll can read it though.

TJ I believe, your Elite career…started today.

Yep my friend, today.  Day 2 of the Sabine River Elite event.

In every athletes career, there comes a defining moment, comes way before you hoist the Lombardi Trophy, way before you have Lord Stanley’s Cup in your living room.

It comes on the banked turn three, when you hold your line and gun it through the smoke.

It comes when you are being chased out of bounds, and with both feet in the air you twist and throw the ball to a gold helmet in the endzone…and never see The Catch happen.

It comes when you have two badly hurt legs, and still hobble up to bat because it’s the World Series…and you plant one in the seats.

It comes, when on day one, you catch one fish, for two-something pounds and go to bed in 67th place, only to the next day catch a 5 fish limit, 13-some pounds, and end up making the cut in 18th place.

I envy you and this moment.

And I wonder, was it your back, was it your pain, was it that fall, and get up, that gave you today.

I was home watching the weigh-in when you came out, and before you handed the bag off, I knew, that once again, you got back up.

Someday, you will hoist the trophy, but today my friend, you showed me,

a champion’s soul.

A soul that will always get up,

even when it can’t.

“…and if I fall, I'll never fail

I'll just get up and try again.”


Brian McKnight



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