David Barrett's inspiration for the song that has since become the anthem for the NCAA tournament was a beautiful waitress, a clumsy pick-up attempt and the dominance of Larry Bird in his prime.
A few minutes after he'd performed at the Varsity Inn in East Lansing, Mich., in spring 1986, Barrett ordered a beer when the most attractive waitress in the now-defunct bar sat down on the stool beside him. Barrett, then 31, was so nervous that the only subject the soft-spoken folk singer could think to talk about with her were the Boston Celtics highlights airing on TV at the bar, a poor attempt at making conversation that predictably went nowhere.
"I was trying to explain to her how magnificent Larry Bird was, how he was at a unique moment in his life where he could do almost anything he wanted on a basketball court," Barrett said. "Eventually I turned around for a second and she just walked away without a word. She was so beautiful there wasn't a point in talking to her because you might as well have been talking to a Victoria's Secret model."
Barrett's stammering attempt to win over the waitress may not have landed him a date, but it did become the origin for one of the most enduring songs in sports today. The next morning Barrett was still inspired by Bird being at the pinnacle of his basketball career, so he scribbled the lyrics for "One Shining Moment" on a napkin in 20 minutes while waiting for a friend to meet him for brunch.
Although Barrett liked his new song enough to lay down music to go with it later that day, the Michigan resident had no inkling how popular it would one day become. For 25 years, CBS has made "One Shining Moment" synonymous with college basketball's championship game, playing it over a montage of highlights from the NCAA tournament as the winning team's players cut down the nets.
"I'm still amazed by the impact the song has had," Barrett said. "Every once in a while, I'll sit down and play it on the piano because I like the song. I would have liked the song even if none of this happened. It's a song that I wrote and I think it's pretty darn good."
The process of "One Shining Moment" getting from a napkin at an East Lansing cafe to a cassette in the hands of CBS Sports executives required some good fortune.
When Barrett bumped into high school friend and then-Sports Illustrated writer Armen Keteyian at a party in New York in June 1986, he happened to mention the song about basketball he'd just recorded. Barrett sent Keteyian a copy of the song a few months later and didn't think much of it again until CBS Sports' Doug Towey called Barrett's home phone later that winter.