Current Events

"One Shining Moment": Why This Song Sucks

Monday night, the college basketball season ends. Some team, either one led by the head coach of an embattled program or an underdog, with a combined total of one national championship between them, will climb a ladder and cut down the nets before eventually hoisting up college basketball’s ultimate prize. On the other end, a loser will be drowned in the confetti of the winner’s colors, all while “One Shining Moment” from David Barrett plays.

Think about it for a second. College basketball is so pretentious, so wrapped up in its own sense of importance that it has a theme song for when it’s all over. “One Shining Moment” has been in play every year since 1987, when Keith Smart beat Syracuse for Bob Knight’s third and final NCAA title at Indiana. Every year, fans either love hearing the song, wrapped in all his saccharine and melancholy glee about hard work and sacrifice, or hate the song because it's one sentimental ass taunt that your team couldn’t get the job done.

For thirty years, “One Shining Moment” has been a torturous record that deserved to have a shelf life next to St. Elmo’s Fire and “Man In Motion.” It’s the only song ever created where there’s more backlash about who sings it than about the actual lyrics of the song. Remember Jennifer Hudson’s version? Remember how people trashed Jennifer Hudson’s version so badly that it doesn’t even appear on the official “One Shining Moment” EP on iTunes? NCAA officials can wipe away victories and hand down sanctions on paper classes, but they’ll be damned if they’re embarrassed by Jennifer Hudson of all people; they’ve got money for themselves to make.

If no one is here to tell you the truth, I am. “One Shining Moment” needs to be retired. Why? Nobody wants cheesy ’80s movie-montage music to remind him that their bracket went up in flames after Michigan State couldn't pass the smell test against Middle Tennessee State. Why in the hell would you want to subject yourself to lyrics that are the equivalent of saying nice things to a kid before he receives a participation trophy after a soccer match?

Really, you think these future millionaires are going to think about a song that wasn’t even the best basketball-related song of the ’80s? (Say hello, Kurtis Blow and “Basketball.”) About a song where “win or lose, you always did your best” is considered a solid line? Somehow, “One Shining Moment” has played a part in the wussification of America. You know what you want to hear at the end of a tournament, win or lose? Something actually happy. Hell, any of the songs used in Rocky. Or Little Giants. Those are uplifting songs. Charles Barkley sitting at a piano attempting to sing “One Shining Moment” as promo for the tourney? Shameful, disrespectful and just as ignorant as any of his college basketball coverage at any point in life.

“One Shining Moment” is one of those 1980s relics that should have stayed there. But knowing CBS, with its love for all things corny, we’re going to be subjected to it forever. A song that was supposedly inspired by Larry Bird that isn’t a whole lot about basketball outside of the opening line has hijacked the waning moments of some kids’ basketball careers. That is torture. And we allowed it to happen. If the NCAA cared about its student-athletes, it would rebuke “One Shining Moment” to the depths of hell.

So, whoever CBS/TBS or the NCAA got to sing “One Shining Moment” this year after giving us Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass in recent years, I hope you know you’re an agent for crushing people’s dreams. I hope your soul is tainted and your body immediately convulses into realizing that you’re harming the future men of America who inspire the kids.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell