John Stevens is a featured columnist for Rush The Court.
On the news feed tonight the information has come down that Doug Towey, the CBS Sports executive who was responsible for the playing of the song “One Shining Moment” at the end of the network’s men’s NCAA Tournament coverage (that is, the song that plays over the highlight montage after coverage of the championship game), has died at age 61.
Evidently, the story of the song’s emergence goes like this: the song was written on the back of a napkin by a man named David Barrett, who actually wrote it after watching Larry Bird play for Indiana State in the 1979 version of the Dance. Barrett passed the song on to a friend at CBS (rumored to be Armen Keteyian) who in turn passed in on to Mr. Towey. The original plan was to air it after Super Bowl XXI (1987). Time constraints didn’t allow it, so the song was eventually aired after the 1987 NCAA Tournament final (Indiana 74, Syracuse 73, aka the Keith Smart game). I, for one, say thank God for the long interviews after Super Bowl XXI.
I recall the first-ever spin of the song after that IU-Syracuse game. As happy as I was to hear Teddy Pendergrass, with the first few notes I remember thinking that this was going to be some worthless attempt at tear-jerking, wondering why they would choose to end their coverage in this manner. By the end of the song, I had already called a fellow hoops fan who I knew would be watching and we agreed — it was perfect. The song itself can stand alone, especially because it was written with our beloved game in mind. But when you pair it with the highlight montage… well, you indeed have perfection.
The late great Luther Vandross has had the honor since 2003. And I’m not afraid to say that whether it’s Pendergrass or Vandross singing it, when I hear it, the ol’ eyes still well up to this day. Maybe it’s because of what it symbolizes — you know, another season’s end. Or maybe it’s because it’s just a great song.
So with nods to Messrs. Barrett, Pendergrass and Vandross, today we at RTC offer special thanks to Mr. Towey for pairing this song up with our game. In that spirit, here are a couple of samples of what Mike Krzyzewski (and countless others) calls “the national anthem of college basketball.”