Tiki Barber is attempting to make a comeback, probably because he’s reportedly broke financially and blatantly broke morally. The 36-year-old seems to think this is the only way he can salvage either situation.
But the problem is that his return to the game inevitably has to coincide with a return to the media spotlight. And today, the that spotlight did not treat Tiki well.
It started with Jim Rome asking Barber about his decision to make like a politician and leave his pregnant wife for a 23-year-old intern. Here’s how that went:
In Tiki’s defense, he gave probably the best answer possible (aside from the part about kids making it worse). Still, he had to know that Rome wouldn’t pull punches. Rome never pulls punches.
And then he and agent Mark Lepselter joined Mike Francesa on WFAN in New York. There, Barber’s tremendously bad television career came under fire, and the former NBC prodigy got defensive. The full interview is here, but I’ve transcribed the key snippet:
Francesca: Tiki, are you coming back to football because you miss it, or are you coming back to football because you just had a big failure in broadcasting?
Barber: No, you know what? I think you’re throwing a little bit of hyperbole out there, Mike. Because I didn’t have a big failure in broadcasting. I think if you laid the stage — as you and Chris at the time tried to — that I wanted to be the next Matt Lauer, yeah, you could say it was a failure. But I had a lot of fulfillment at NBC. I did a lot of great stories that I think had impact over the three years that I was there. So I don’t think it was a failure, I think it was a learning experience. It turned out not to be the direction of broadcasting that I wanted to be in. But I think it was unfair for you to label it that way.
Francesca: Wait, let’s stop for a second. Why is that unfair? You walked into a huge job. They set you up on “The Today Show.” They put you out there with a press conference, in a job that — to be honest, to be fair — you were not qualified for, in our business. And you went in there and a couple years later, you’re out. So that’s what you call a failure. I mean, there’s no way around it, Tiki. That’s a failure.
Barber: (After a few clichés and an attempt to blame his lack of success on the changing media world) You’re putting it in simple terms. And if that’s how you need to do it, Michael, then fine, you put it in simple terms. But I don’t consider my time at NBC a failure.
Lepselter eventually had to interrupt in an attempt to find common ground, essentially requesting that they agree it simply “didn’t work out.” But Francesca wouldn’t let up
Francesca: The guys at NBC, and I know all of them, they felt that you did a bad job and they said that they thought you were entitled. I mean, they were not complimentary about your work. Let’s not run away from that, this is part of the story.
Barber: If you tell me who it was and you get that person on air, I will have a debate with them. I think that’s cowardly of someone to talk behind someone’s back and not tell them, because the truth of the matter is, I don’t know what I could have done better at NBC.
From there, Tiki went after Francesca, questioning his interview tactics. The point is, he was riled up, but he shouldn’t have been surprised.
This wackiness comes one day after HBO’s “Real Sports” aired an interview with Barber that pretty much framed Tiki as a sad man:
Part of me sympathizes with the guy. He’s flawed, but does he deserve this kind of treatment? I suppose it goes with the territory when you’re a Manhattan celebrity who screws up so badly.