Every year on the first Monday in April, as the national champions brush confetti from their eyes, college-basketball fans revel in the musical phenomenon known as
The three-minute song-and-video production is a fast-paced, colorful affair. It is also one of the sappiest creations ever to grace modern television.
Not that this matters.
Featuring an ensemble cast of athletes -- with coaches, cheerleaders, and fans in supporting roles -- the video is cheesy, sentimental, and, for many fans, irresistible. It is a power ballad without peer, they say. It is the anthem of college basketball.
My introduction to
"But we have to wait for
I had no idea what they were talking about. I had always switched off the television as soon as the game was over. What else was there to see?
We stayed. I was not impressed. So unimpressed, in fact, that I remember nothing of the montage itself -- only surprise at my friends' obsession with a song performed by
After that, I managed to steer clear of
Stuck in traffic on the Interstate for nearly an hour, my bus-mates and I were a captive audience to the canon of
The song's opening verse is all about inspiration and hard work. As it unfolds, the montage shows plenty of scoring, breakaways, and the moxie of that year's Cinderella team. The second verse tackles adversity: Cue the missed shots, the injured players limping off the court, the bowed heads. But the bridge takes top honors for cheese. "Feel the beat of your heart" often accompanies a player thumping or tapping his chest; "Feel the wind in your face" is apparently a euphemism for a drive toward the basket or a charging foul, with the victim skidding backward across the court.
Of course the songwriter thinks his song is special. But what about the legions of fans who admittedly go weepy when they hear it? Why the obsession over lyrics that compare a basketball player to "a shooting star"?
I have a few theories. Maybe it's an invitation to look away from some of the more troubling aspects of college basketball, plagued as it is by seamy recruiting and dismal graduation rates. Perhaps it conjures memories of fans' own athletic exploits. It could be just one last guilty pleasure to top off three weeks of bracket-busting and cheap beer.
Or maybe it's just an excuse for grown men to cry. Why such reverence among men? Aren't women the usual targets of programming that tugs at the heartstrings? In this case, most of the gushing commentary on the Internet is from dudes: "
But women, too, have trouble resisting its saccharine charms. My friend
Shortly after Selection Sunday last month, when Kansas nabbed the overall No. 1 seed, Chiemi sent me an e-mail message to say that she had just watched, online in her New York office, the 2008 edition of the video, showing the Jayhawks defeating Memphis. "I'm now crying," she wrote. "Awesome!" (With Kansas' loss in the second round this year, she has since shed tears of a different sort.)
Still, even traditions, no matter how revered, get a face-lift every now and again. After seven years of Mr. Vandross as the voice of
As might be expected, the change has induced plenty of indignation. For me the announcement exposed an uncomfortable truth: One Shining Moment has grown on me. I've been humming it for weeks. And I'm a little apprehensive about the new rendition.
But maybe my unwitting affection isn't all that unusual. After last year's championship game, I went to a party in the hotel suite of another reporter. A couple of dozen sportswriters passed through as the night wore on. They drank beer and swapped stories -- as
The syrupy tune, it turns out, can hook even the saltiest of sportswriters.