The barman’s tipped. There they are.
David Barrett decides he’s going to take his shot in this Midwestern bar.
It is a moment, Barrett, a songwriter from Michigan later recalls, that led to his masterpiece. Barrett is the creator of “One Shining Moment,” the song and highlight-reel package played after each year’s national championship game.
This year, for the first time, the title game will move to cable. “One Shining Moment” is moving there, too.
Barrett’s song describes the glory of competition and giving it your all. Literally, it is about basketball. But it was created from an ill-fated love story.
Barrett tells it like this: He has just finished a gig at a local bar. He has played there often.
“There’s a waitress there who is too lovely for words,” Barrett said. “You’ve met them before and you didn’t bother talking to them because you wouldn’t talk to Helen of Troy.”
Barrett sits down at the bar.
“Out of the darkness,” Barrett said, “she sits down right next to me.”
He decides to spark a conversation. Problem is, Barrett is at a loss for words. All he can think of is the Boston Celtics game on the television screen above the bar. So he decides to talk about the majesty of Larry Bird.
“I try to explain to her — this is the gospel truth — the poetry of basketball,” Barrett said.
But Barrett realizes he might have something. On a napkin, he scribbles the words “one shining moment.” The next morning, while waiting for a friend to show up for brunch, he writes the rest of the lyrics on a second napkin.
“They just come pouring out,” he said.
His creation is entering its 30th year with CBS Sports and, now, Turner. It has persevered past the age of power ballads, past the heyday of rap and auto-tune. Even supporters concede to its schmaltz. But that is part of what has made it so popular. Its plain-spoken lyrics and tinkling piano are so earnest they are endearing.
The song has become a highlight of each tournament. In the lobby of Villanova’s basketball center, a video screen plays the song, along with clips of its 1985 title.
Once, two parents told Barrett they played the song at their son’s funeral. Engaged couples have told him they planned to play it as they walked down the aisle.
“I always say, ‘Well, this will test your marriage right here,’” Barrett said.
And it will come with an update to “One Shining Moment.” The last time CBS changed the artist, using Jennifer Hudson, fans were incensed, and CBS returned to Luther Vandross’ version the following season. This time, a rendition by singer Ne-Yo will air on Turner’s ancillary broadcasts, on TNT and truTV.
Barrett said he was given a recording of the new version before Turner’s announcement, and he said he enjoyed it.
Barrett has continued to work in music, mostly scoring television shows and movies. One of his scores won an Emmy. But he never expected this much to come of “One Shining Moment.”
A year ago, he bumped into an old acquaintance. It was the waitress. They caught up briefly.
Turns out, the waitress taught writing to high school students. One lesson: the poetry of athletics. She based it on their conversation.
That one moment, it seemed, had some staying power.