Football helmets are an obsession for CBS executive Barrow
September 10, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Lance Barrow has accumulated around 450 helmets in his more than 40 years with CBS. (Courtesy of Barrow)
Once upon a time, the room had windows.
But that was before Lance Barrow’s collection of football helmets took on a life of its own.
Over the last two decades or so, Barrow, the Emmy-winning executive producer of golf coverage for CBS, has accumulated around 450 of those helmets. He keeps the bulk of them in a room in his house that now has floor-to-ceiling shelves on all the walls. The overflow sits on coffee tables and in his office.
“There's no room in the inn as they would say,” Barrow says with a chuckle. “But we'll find it if we get another helmet.”
The hobby started accidentally. Years ago, Barrow had gotten tickets to the Shell Houston Open for the equipment manager at Texas A&M, Matt Watson, and several other Aggies. They spent time in the TV compound and even sat up in the 18th tower with CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Lanny Wadkins.
After the exclusive behind-the-scenes experience, Jones wanted to send Barrow something to say thank you. Barrow said there was no need, but Jones insisted.
So, Barrow told him that his oldest daughter, who was a sixth-grader at the time, had a crush on Vance Smith, an Aggie quarterback who had gone to high school at Fort Worth Christian in the town where they lived. What about sending an autographed jersey and a helmet?
And so, the collection began.
“It was just an accident,” Barrow says. “It was like kind of a perfect storm how I started this because I was like, nah, don't send me anything, I don't need any of that stuff, but it ended up being a good deal.”
In his more than 40 years at CBS, Barrow had never really collected anything. He only has one or two photos of himself with his mentor, Frank Chirkinian. Ditto for pictures with CBS producer Chuck Will and football-great-turned-announcer Pat Summerall or his good friend Davis Love III.
The helmets, though, now that’s different.
“I’m obsessed with asking people for helmets,” Barrow says with a grin.
He has some remarkable ones, too.What began as an accident has now become an obsession for Barrow. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
Barrow’s youngest daughter, Caroline, was a cheerleader at Oklahoma, and he became good friends with athletic director Joe Castiglione. He gave Barrow a half-Oklahoma, half-Nebraska helmet with autographs on the appropriate side from Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne.
“And they drew up their favorite play,” Barrow says.
There’s also a New England Patriots helmet signed by Tom Brady, Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick. Dan Dierdorf, the St. Louis Cardinals offensive lineman, gave Barrow one of his NFL Hall of Fame helmets. And the legendary coach John Madden, who spent 15 years as a color commentator for CBS, autographed an Oakland Raiders helmet for the collection.
“He's like a father figure to me,” Barrow says. “So, you know, when you start thinking about it, there's a lot of memories.”
Like the time he and CBS producer Jim Rickhoff, another avid collector of sports memorabilia, caught Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald as he was about to step into the van that would take him to tee off at Monterey Peninsula Golf Club during the AT&T National Pro-Am. They had helmets that needed the 11-time Pro Bowler’s John Hancock.
“He’s such a great guy,” Barrow recalls. “He signed our helmets and we were afraid he got disqualified for missing his tee time. But luckily, he made it in time.”
Gary Patterson, the long-time head football coach at Texas Christian, sent his buddy Barrow one of the Horned Frogs’ 2011 Rose Bowl helmets. The mascot on the helmet is holding a rose in its mouth.
“That's a cool collector's item also,” Barrow says.
Barrow even has high school helmets from – among other places -- Odesss Permain, the subject of the “Friday Night Lights” book, TV series and movie. He also has helmets from Canadian football teams, including one from a chance meeting at breakfast in Phoenix one morning.
“I saw a gentleman at the table next to me with a big ring on … obviously a championship ring,” Barrow recalls. “So, I asked him, and he was the trainer for the Calgary Stampeders. And so, I asked him for a helmet, introduced myself.
“Luckily Phil Simms and Jim Nantz were there … so the guy knew I was legit.”
Not all the helmets are football helmets, either.
Barrow has a signed Team USA batting helmet from shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., who was the second pick overall in the most recent MLB draft. Turns out Witt’s sister and Barrow’s youngest daughter are best friends, and Barrow used to give the newly-minted Kansas City Royal tickets to sporting events.
“That's a neat keepsake also,” Barrow says.
Some of the police details that CBS uses at football games or golf tournaments have given Barrow motorcycle helmets, including one signed by the detail of officers who helped escort them around San Jose and San Francisco during Super Bowl 50. He even has a jockey’s helmet in the collection.
Barrow says he never thought the collection would get as big as it has. In fact, he wishes he had put a note on each help to remind him where they came from.
“You know, there's a lot of gold helmets,” he says with a hearty laugh. “And so, I don't know if it's Boston College, Notre Dame, you know, Navy, all that sort of stuff.
“And you know, people will say to me, hey, you know, let me grab you --- I know a helmet you need. And you know, somewhere along the line I'll, I'll get in the mail, or they'll bring it to a golf tournament and hand it to me.”
So, are there any helmets Barrow doesn’t have that he’d like to have?
Maybe some of Oregon’s many helmets and the Navy ones that have battleships on them. But no matter how many he gets, it’s likely none will be more special than the one his daughter Caroline gave him in March just before he walked down the aisle. It has her wedding date in Roman numerals, along with the couple’s names.
“That would be my favorite,” he says with a smile.