Final Four: Many Shining Moments

By David Scott - April 02, 2007


ATLANTA - Leave it to the 16-year-old daughter of the folk singer who was on her way to see the rapper Ludacris perform on the big stage at Centennial Park to put her father's March Madness anthem in perspective.

"People light up when they hear that song," said Esther Barrett, 16, the older sister of 14-year-old Claire and the daughter of David and Tracy Barrett.

Tonight, after Florida either repeats or Ohio State defeats, Esther's father's song will once again light up a nation as it accompanies - for the 21st year - an end-of-Tournament highlight package on CBS's coverage of the National Title game between the Gators and the Buckeyes.

As he has been for the past few years, Barrett will be in the arena when the montage is played for both the remaining crowd in the Dome and the national TV audience. In St. Louis a couple of years ago, announcer Jim Nantz made it a point to go into the crowd near where Barrett was sitting and tell people around him, "This is the guy who wrote 'One Shining Moment.'"

He’s more than just that guy, of course - he’s an accomplished composer and songwriter (and now author) who has won Emmys and scored music for several shows and movies. But Barrett's own one shining moment emanates from the song that was born in little bar over 20 years ago. With two real life, teenage daughters - "They are my living art," he says - Barrett's third girl, OSM, is all grown up.

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OSM was born, for all intents and purposes, in 1986 at the Varsity Inn in East Lansing, Michigan after Barrett had just finished another set on his acoustic guitar in front of another cover song-loving group of bar hounds.

On that cold, Midwestern night Barrett (he was single at the time) bellied up to the bar for a post-game refresher and the chance to maybe flirt a bit with an angelic waitress he had been eyeing throughout his set, Jan.

But even Jan couldn't keep Barrett’s undivided attention that night because there was a basketball game on the tube and none other than Larry Joe Bird was flickering to and fro, dipping and diving, shooting and swishing.

"The guy’s unreal," Barrett remembers saying to Jan. But even Barrett's bar beauty wasn't able to comprehend what he was boasting about. So on the next day he found himself being stood up for lunch by a tardy friend, Barrett did what he's always done.

"I started writing," said Barrett, now 52 years old. "I was unconscious when I wrote it. That’s sort of the parallel between music and sports - I was in that 'zone.'

"I got done writing it," he said, "and I was shaking."

After playing the song for a junior high school friend, she convinced Barrett that he needed to record "One Shining Moment." Eventually another old pal, Armen Keteyian, provided the link to CBS (Keteyian, now at CBS, was at Sports Illustrated at the time and offers the foreword to Barrett’s book.)

"[That junior high friend] is the reason I'm here," said Barrett from behind a table at Hoops City on Saturday afternoon. "If I was left to my own devices I would have just recorded some depressing art song. She’s a Northern Star to me."

In recent years, the NCAA has embraced the song and has guided Barrett - and his daughters - to several Final Fours.

"You know, I still play the song and the song is still 'right,'" said Barrett, who has opened for Art Garfunkel and has four albums to his credit. "It sounds right to me.

"I've written all sorts of songs for all sorts of reasons but they just didn't attach themselves to the one of the largest sporting events in America," said Barrett, who noted that the song was orginally intended to air at the end of a Super Bowl, but got cut due to time constraints. "This song has and it has gained celebrity."

But it's also gained something else. Something that every artist hopes for - but rarely achieves.

"There was just a woman here 20 minutes ago who came over to tell me a story of her son who was in a coma and they played the song for him, hoping it would bring him out," said Barrett softly, in his folksy sort of way. "What do you say to that?"

You say exactly what Barrett's daughter Esther said.

"People light up when they hear that song."

In a couple of hours, a whole lot of folks will be lighting up again for that "One Shining Moment," the fitting end to the most magical three weeks on the sports calendar.

Posted by David Scott at 09:13 PM on April 02, 2007
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