Is Herschel perfect?” the man in an American-flag suit and long white hair asks.
We gather together this Election Night, November 8, 2022, on the ballroom floor of the Omni Hotel, in Cobb County, outside Atlanta, to await the results: Senator Raphael Warnock versus Herschel Walker. The country keeps one eye on Georgia tonight. I’m anchored near the podium, next to the roped-off VIPs and Don Knobler in his red, white, and blue. Everybody wants pictures with Don. The VIP of the VIPs. The VIP for the People. Imagine if Santa collided midair with Evel Knievel and from the smoke and wreckage emerged a gregarious Dallas real-estate mogul.
Don says he and Herschel ride motorcycles together back in Texas.
“Am I perfect?” Don says and laughs wistfully.
Don was once ejected courtside from a Mavs game for telling Patrick Beverly to go fuck his mother.
“Are you perfect?” he asks and puts a hand on my shoulder.
Don squeezes my shoulder and raises a finger to his lips.
“But Jesus?” Don says and arches his eyebrows over his star-spangled glasses. “Jesus is good.”
No argument here, but I did want to hear more about those motorcycles as Don is whisked back to the podium, where a portly couple patiently wait.
I am the only one here with a tattered copy of Herschel Walker: From the Georgia Backwoods and the Heisman Trophy to the Pros, by Jeff Prugh. It is a child’s book. I did untold book reports on it at DeKalb Christian Academy (the Crusaders), an extinct evangelical private school in Atlanta.
My lifelong Herschel fandom is not enough to bring me to the podium tonight. When Walker was thirty-nine, he received a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder and spent three weeks at Del Amo psychiatric hospital in Torrance, California. In 2016, I spent three days at Wesley Woods Hospital at Emory University for depression and suicidality. I was thirty-nine years old.
I wanted to hang with Herschel today, as improbable as it might seem. A long shot. Miracle required. But Herschel Junior Walker is a long shot, a miracle, too. I want to talk about mental health and profile this historic night. I’ve called, emailed, and texted Walker’s Deputy Campaign Manager, using the name of this magazine, but no luck. (Mallory, your voice-mailbox is full.)
Near the podium, I’m asked by families, groups of friends to take pictures. I oblige. No prompting required. Everyone smiles big. Thumbs up. The podium bears the sign: HERSCHEL.
Herschel Walker is a pioneer in American politics. He is the first Senate candidate to admit to a mental illness and provide a narrative of his own cognitive chaos.