David Letterman Repped MACtion Before MACtion Existed


Tonight, David Letterman will take the stage as host of The Late Show on CBS for the final time. Tributes flooded the internet in the days and weeks leading up to Letterman’s retirement, and it’s well deserved: David Letterman was a comedy pioneer.

Letterman was also a pioneer for one of the college football blogosphere’s favorite movements: MACtion.

No, the popular mid-week hashtag was never uttered on any incarnation of Letterman’s show — maybe by Crispin Glover in one of his bizarre 1980s appearances, but I have no video evidence — but the Ball State alum proudly represented Mid-American football on a number of occasions.

In 2008, Ball State cracked the Top 25 with a perfect, 12-0 regular season.

For a Ball State graduate like David Letterman, the national attention on Cardinals football was cause for celebration. And Letterman used The Late Show to put a spotlight on the Cardinals’ success.

Here’s Brady Hoke delivering the Top 10 in December 2008:

The national exposure helped Ball State generate some modest BCS-busting buzz during a season with a crowded BCS picture. Those aspirations were faded in a MAC Championship loss to Buffalo, but for a few fleeting weeks, Letterman helped put Ball State on the college football map.

No one could accuse David Letterman of hopping on the bandwagon, however. The same can’t be said when it comes to some of you and MACtion; I’ve been following the Mid-American closely since the incredible Marshall-Toledo game of 2001. *sips craft beer, strokes handlebar mustache thoughtfully as a rare, vinyl recording of The Smiths plays in the background*

Where was I? Oh, yes!

David Letterman was faithful to the FIGHTING Cardinals, as he called them, even in bad times. Amid a 21-game losing streak, that spanned much of the 1998 season, all of 1999 and spilled into the new millennium, Letterman gave Ball State a pep talk — with an assist from Magic Johnson.

The Ball State Daily has a great story on how the 2000 pep talk and Letterman’s use of Ball State highlights became part of the show.

Letterman’s replacement, the great Stephen Colbert, is an alum of Northwestern, and has appeared in ads with Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Perhaps if Northwestern goes on a Rose Bowl run, we can expect some Big Ten propaganda living up to David Letterman’s repping of MACtion.