Butterflies filled the stomach of Rachel Baribeau as she walked into the Clemson football facility. For many reasons, she couldn’t believe she was about to speak to one of the best college football teams in the country, but mostly, because she was in shock Dabo Swinney would let her inside the walls just two weeks before the Tigers’ College Football Playoff semifinal game against Ohio State.
That December day in 2016, Baribeau spoke to Clemson about purpose, passion and platform. She told them how to change the narrative of their lives in the headlines and trend for something positive. Baribeau even spoke to the team about how to treat women and how to identify themselves beyond athletics. It moved the entire room.
At the conclusion, Baribeau gave the entire team bracelets that said #ImChangingTheNarrative. She may have walked into Clemson’s facility that day with a ton of nervous energy, but she left feeling extremely proud that so many young men had taken to heart what she had to say. For her personally, it was a huge moment. However, she wouldn’t truly know the impact she made that day on Clemson until a few weeks later.
Baribeau spent 17 years in sports media as a broadcaster. Her fun and outgoing personality, combined with her love of sports, made her a natural at the job she loved. But while prepping for a SiriusXM show in Nashville during the summer of 2016, she noticed something alarming. Fresh off the terrible situation at Penn State and smack dab in the middle of the awful news coming out of Baylor, Baribeau noticed all the negative storylines that were flooding the college football headlines. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
“I remember thinking, what has happened to the sport I love?” said Baribeau. “It was players getting in trouble, coaches getting in trouble, it was everywhere.”
The situation affected her so much, she knew she had to do something about it. So she did with an article titled “College Football is Breaking My Heart” on GridironNow. Baribeau wrote about how the awful off-the-field stories in college football had rocked the sport and changed the game she loves so much. Baribeau even wrote about one of the scariest nights of her life. An experience she had never spoken about.
“I talked about the night I was dragged across the floor, from one end of the house to the other, by my hair, by someone who claimed to love me,” Baribeau said. “There were three other men in the house that night and nobody came to help me. I had never talked about it before. Not even to my parents. I had to prepare them and tell them, hey, this is going to come out and some of it might be hard to read.”
It was those experiences that made Rachel Baribeau realize she needed to do something bigger. Sure, she loved her sports media career and it kept her very busy, but in 2016, she started a movement that was known as #ImChangingTheNarrative. It was her plan to help athletes and coaches foster a better environment in their everyday life.
“Part of the reason I started this movement was to tell young men and women that you can train for something positive,” Baribeau said.
This month celebrates five years since Baribeau created #ImChangingtheNarrative. Truth be told, in the beginning, she thought her opportunities to speak would mostly come from local high schools. But thanks to her friend, Dr. Kevin Elko, Baribeau got an opportunity to speak to the Florida State football team in August of 2016. It was her first opportunity to speak to a major college football program. She was ecstatic.
“I can still remember where I was when I found out Jimbo Fisher wanted me to speak,” Baribeau said. “I was on a family vacation in Jackson Hole and my whole family was jumping up and down and holding hands.”
That moment sparked the movement. Today, she’s spoken to 50-plus colleges, works with Customs and Border Patrol, The Pro Football Hall of Fame, and many others. From ages six to 96, she shares her passion with people to help change the narrative.
As many great things Baribeau has accomplished over the past five years, she still remembers how terrifying the first few months were when she started the movement. She knew her heart was in the right place, but starting something from complete scratch was a challenge.
If Baribeau needed a sign that she was in the right place, she got it on the night of January 9th in 2017. Clemson was playing Alabama in the national title game from Tampa and Baribeau was on the sideline for her duties with the College Football Playoff. She had just spoken to Clemson a few weeks earlier, now, she was watching Hunter Renfrow fall into the end zone with the football to win the program’s first national title since 1981. It was the biggest moment in Clemson football history, yet, amidst all the celebration, several players were wearing the bracelets Baribeau had given them.
“The players started screaming after the game, they said, we did it! We changed the narrative!” said Baribeau. “They’re pointing at the bracelets after winning the biggest game of their life. It was so unreal.”
That’s how impactful her talks are. Soon after, the movement really took off.
Baribeau’s speaking engagements have evolved to cover more topics such as mental health. She gives credit to Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck, because after talking to his team, he told her, “Rachel, if you continue to evolve, I’ll have you in over and over and over again.”
But it doesn’t stop after she walks out the door of a facility, in fact, it’s just the opposite. Baribeau creates personal relationships with the players that often extend to the mothers.
“So now, even before the pandemic, we started talking about relationships and being a king or a queen and what that means,” Baribeau said. “It means doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. It means if you screw up, own it. We as a society just expect an 18-year-old or 19-year-old young person or old person to know how to do relationships successfully. But truth be told, we don’t know what they saw growing up. We just put these kids out in the world and expect them to know how to love. I started teaching young men and young women, one, how to love themselves, but then how to have successful relationships.”
Rachel Baribeau even speaks to her own mental health and the dark moment she had in July of 2019 when she almost took her own life after losing her mom to a battle with cancer.
“When that happened and I survived it, I began to take off the mask and just be radically vulnerable about it,” Baribeau said. “I started telling people what happened that night and what I didn’t do, as well as tools to survive it if I ever find myself in that situation again.”
Perhaps the most incredible thing about the #ImChangingtheNarrative moment is the fact her personal cell phone number is posted in her Twitter bio. She does it for great reason.
“I do it because I’ve had three middle of the night suicide phone calls,” Baribeau said. “They’re all alive, they’re all thriving but I don’t want someone to have to go through my DM‘s to get to me if they need me. The most amazing thing is nobody has ever abused it. Nobody has ever asked anything inappropriate.”
Her availability and her kindness are just two reasons why she’s created so many special relationships with the athletes she’s spoken to. Many times, that relationship extends to the mother of the players. That’s how much people trust her. Baribeau spent 17 years in an industry where success is quantified in numbers, now, it’s quantified in a much different way.
“It’s in every smile, in every hug, and every I love you Miss Rachel, you’ve changed my life,” Baribeau said. “I’m friends with a ton of my players’ moms, literally, I’m getting married in December and several of my players’ moms are coming to my wedding. That’s how I quantify success. We’re a movement but we’re not traditional in the sense that we’re never going to have a coin-based ROI. Our ROI is human ingenuity, human capital, human success and somebody who loves themselves well so that they can love others well.”
Does Rachel Baribeau miss sports media? Maybe at times, but what she’s doing now is way more fulfilling and meaningful. She was at total peace when she retired from broadcasting in 2019 at 30,000 feet in the air. Baribeau always said she’d willingly move on when the time was right and after the LSU-Alabama game in 2019, the moment where she knew it was time to fully focus on #ImChangingtheNarrative
“I remember a cloudy look coming over one of the faces of the LSU players, because I put a microphone in his face after the game, working for SiriusXM radio,” Baribeau said. “I just visited the team and he was kind of like, wait, what, aren’t you my person that’s a mentor and mama coach? Or are you a reporter? It became a conflict of the soul and I really began to ask myself, what sets your soul on fire? It was changing the narrative.”
The first five years are more than Baribeau could have ever asked for. But what about the next five? Today, she’s developing and mentoring other speakers, such as former ECU player Tre Hicks. It’s incredible that young men and women she’s spoken to have now joined the #ImChangingtheNarrative moment and are sharing the same message to other athletes that Baribeau shared with them.
“The next chapter is hopefully getting into the professional sports realm,” Baribeau said. “We’re talking to an NFL owner right now and we’re really hoping that turns into something soon, because you’re never too old or young to be who you’re created to be.”
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.