When Jim Nantz sat down next to me at the NFL on CBS Media Luncheon in Mid-town Manhattan last week he greeted the table by saying “friends.” Therefore, he said half of his trademark saying “hello friends.” I’m assuming he was addressing Dan Marino, Dan Fouts and Dan Dierdorf (yes, there was an excessive amount of Dans at my table) but I’d like to think I could be considered a friend now.
After all, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. Jim Nantz was as cordial, friendly and accommodating as one could be when I conducted this interview and he sounded excited to be coming here to Chicago when the Bears open the season versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Nantz joins Phil Simms to form the CBS lead announce team and they’ll call Bears-Bengals in the national game Sunday.
Nantz really needs no more introduction as he’s in an elite group with Curt Gowdy, Kevin Harlan, and Dick Enberg as the only play-by-play announcers to ever call both a Super Bowl and an NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game. Jim Nantz is also one of two men to host a Super Bowl, announce an NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game, and host coverage of The Masters from Butler Cabin with Brent Musburger being the other.
“One Shining Moment” was written by David Barrett. He was the original artist (1987-1993, 2000-2002), but CBS has also broadcast remakes by Teddy Pendergrass (1994–1999) and Luther Vandross (2003–2009, 2011–). It is believed to be the last song Vandross recorded before his stroke and subsequent death. A version by Jennifer Hudson was in 2010. The format of the Hudson video deviated from prior years by cutting away from the tournament highlight montage on several occasions to show footage of Hudson singing with a recording studio backdrop, drawing criticism from some fans and viewers.
The next year, CBS announced that they would be reinstating the Vandross version for the 2011 Tournament, and have continued to use it ever since. This past April, a sequence of it, when combined with the lyrics, seemed to celebrate the firing of Coaches Ben Howland and Tubby Smith.
CBS Sports Creative Director Doug Towey decided to use “One Shining Moment” to close CBS’s coverage of the 1987 Tournament. The positive public response led to it becoming an annual feature. Doug Towey died on March 11, 2009 and was remembered with a tribute on CBS.
“Doug heard it and thought this could be our going off the air piece in the Final Four, and we’ve played it every year since,” Jim Nantz said.
“I’ve led to it on a number of occasions, Greg Gumbel now leads to it and it brings closure to a three week festival. The building still has thousands of people lingering, standing still for that three minutes,” he continued.
Nantz saved OSM from being cut in 1992.
“The sixth year it ran, it was going to be the last time we were going to run it. They thought it was getting stale already. And I said guys, I beg to differ,”Jim Nantz said.
“There’s a whole audience out there that waits to see that at the end, you can’t dispense with it. You can’t bring another one in,” Nantz continues.
“In ’92 we already ran credits over One Shining Moment, so it was already bastardized, if you will, but as I was on the floor with Billy Packer and we were interviewing Dean Smith after the Championship win over Michigan, I heard a kid from North Carolina, his name was Pat Sullivan, singing One Shining Moment over my shoulder as the players were all huddled around,” Jim Nantz explained.
While cut to commercial Nantz asked Sullivan if he would sing a lyric or two if he were to stick a microphone in front of him upon returning from the commercial break.
“Absolutely! Yeah Yeah Yeah,” Sullivan and his teammates exclaimed.
“Waiting for the cue, back in five and go. Here with Dean Smith and Billy Packer, congratulations on another national championship and all of a sudden he starts singing and as soon as Dean finished, I said hey, Pat Sullivan what is that you’re singing?” Jim Nantz told me.
“One Shining Moment,” sang Sullivan.
And the rest is history. Nantz knew at that moment he took OSM off of life support and made it more popular than ever. It’s been a college hoops “tradition unlike any other” since that night.
And Jim Nantz taught me a lot about the art of story-telling in the process of relaying this tale to me.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan, he also writes on Chicago sports media for Chicago Now. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)Follow paulmbanks