ALL BALL NERVE CENTER –A few weeks ago, a friend of mine turned up with a couple of tickets to a taping of Late Show with David Letterman. Now, I grew up on Dave, staying up way too late throughout middle and high school to watch his NBC show. When he bounced to CBS, I bounced with him. When I started interviewing people for a living, I watched Dave and appreciated just how good he is at talking to his guests — getting them to comment on sensitive subjects, making the conversation relevant and interesting all the while sprinkling in humor and jokes. As I grew up I stopped watching as often, but I can not understate how profound and effect Dave, and particularly his sense of humor, had upon making me, me.
I moved to New York City a little over a decade ago and have walked past the Ed Sullivan Theater in midtown Manhattan hundreds of times, but I’d never gone in, never made an attempt to go to a taping. And then the opportunity fell into my lap — and with the legendary “Jungle” Jack Hanna as the guest, no less. I was all in.
We got there early and were seated in the balcony, and I was so excited I was nearly buzzing. As Paul Schaffer and the CBS Orchestra warmed up the audience with The Police’s “Synchronicity II,” in my head I allowed myself to play out elaborate scenarios as to what might happen if Dave ended up doing something involving the audience and I got to meet him. Just in case, I tried to think of one question I could ask Dave if I found myself face-to-face, so I wouldn’t totally freeze up and be comedy fodder for Dave. It didn’t take me long to decide that I would ask Dave how he felt about the title chances of the Indiana Pacers.
I never got anywhere close to Dave that night, which was fine, because the entire experience was so perfect and true to what I hoped it would be like that I have no complaints. But I still think my question would have been a hit. As anyone who watches Late Show with David Letterman every night can tell you, Dave’s favorite NBA team is the Indiana Pacers — Letterman was born in Indianapolis and went to nearby Ball State University. Dave’s given us his Top Ten Reasons he love the Pacers — “4. It’s still fun to say Detlef Schrempf.” — and Pacers legend Reggie Miller has been a frequent guest.
So perhaps it’s only fitting that current Pacers coach Frank Vogel appeared on the Letterman show before he actually got the gig with the Pacers. Way back in 1986, as the TNT crew recently pointed out, Vogel was a contestant on Stupid Human Tricks, where he showed off some fancy ballhandling.
As Dave might have said, “Remember, this is not an exhibition, it is a competition. Wagering is encouraged.”