In 1982 I was in high school in Carmel, Indiana, just outside Indianapolis. And David Letterman, a local, former weatherman started his late night TV show right after Johnny Carson. I didn’t really pay attention to Letterman at first. Like I said, I was in high school. And the only thing that matters to high school kids is, well, other stuff.
But high school graduation was coming and I had to pick a college. I chose Ball State University. Originally I didn’t want to go to Ball State because it wasn’t a highly regarded college. But then I remembered; that local kid Letterman went there and he seemed pretty successful. So I went. And that’s when I started watching Letterman. Every night we watched him. He seemed to be channeling my inner child and I loved his humor.
At first I thought that all the students at Ball State watched him only because he was a Ball State grad. But when I visited other schools, I discovered EVERYONE was watching Dave. He was a huge success and I felt a part of it. I especially felt an affinity to him because we are both Sigma Chis from Ball State.
I grew into an adult watching Dave. He was there for me through college, first job, marriage, divorce, marriage, career and kids. Along the way I stopped watching regularly. I tried recording it but there was never enough time in the day to catch up. Then I stopped watching. Life got in the way. But I always made a point to watch him for momentous occasions; After 9/11 was a big one that I’ll always remember. Which made watching Dave an even more integral part of my life.
Then one night a couple of years ago I was up for Dave. He looked really old and tired but still youthful in spirit. What the hell happened? Then I caught a glimpse of me in the mirror. Dammit, I was older too. I’m finding it really hard with him retiring because I feel like I’m saying goodbye to my youth. He’s been one of my heroes since I was 18; “Indy kid finds fame and success being a goofball.”
I’ll miss Dave like I miss my youth. It’s times like these that one of the lines from the Sigma Chi creed seems really appropriate: I will endeavor to retain the spirit of youth.
UPDATE: Dave’s Netflix series is some of his finest work. But I still miss him on Late Night.