Sunday, March 13, 2011

On a Leave of Absence From Any Resemblance to Reality

Is there any public figure with a worse sense of timing than Tiki Barber? If you, like me, are a fan of the New York Giants and you are older than the age of six, then chances are you recall Barber as a rather productive running back for the Giants for a number of years. If you are like me, though, even when Barber was performing good works on the field for the Giants, you had difficulty quelling the reflex of throwing up in your own mouth every time he opened his. From the comfort of my living room, he always struck me as being too cute by half. When midway through his final season, he announced his retirement - just in time to launch some sentiment-soaked farewell tour, I laughed out loud. Although my eyesight is not now what it once was, I can still see a fraud from a mile away. Barber's farewell tour reinforced the genius of Pete Hamill, "Sentimentality is always about a lie. Nostalgia is about real things gone. Nobody truly mourns a lie."

Barber retired from football after the 2006 season to become a television broadcaster. As I understand it, NBC hired him and he served as a correspondent/host on the Today show and as a panelist on their Sunday night Football Night in America pre-game show. I do not watch either program. I never saw Barber on TV performing either of these gigs although I understand - based upon information I have read in various newspapers - that NBC no longer employs him.

I remember the stink that Barber raised early in the 2007 season when he rather harshly criticized Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning (the Head Coach and Quarterback of the Giants) and painted both of them with the "no leadership ability" brush. 2007 was - of course - the season that Coughlin and Manning demonstrated just how right Barber was by rallying the Giants from an 0-2 start of the season to a last-minute win in the Super Bowl over the undefeated New England Patriots. ("Eighteen wins. One Giant loss." Every time I think of Mom's t-shirt with that emblazoned on it I smile.)

During his on-air career at NBC Barber apparently said enough things about his former employer that members of the team's fan base considered to be obnoxious that when the Giants inducted him into their Ring of Honor (or whatever the hell they call it) at The Stadium That Greed Built during the 2010 season, Barber received more boos than cheers. Well played Tiki. Well played indeed.

When he was not alienating the people who used to cheer for him, Barber apparently devoted a considerable amount of time during the past four years wreaking havoc on his personal life. A couple of years ago when his then-wife was pregnant with twins, Barber left her for another woman. One would have presumed that during the time he spent matriculating at the university that Thomas Jefferson created, he would have taken a course or two that addressed the whole "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" thing. Apparently not. I presumed for years that "Cavalier" did nothing more than identify his Alma mater's sports teams. Judging by the manner in which he has conducted himself these past four years, I know appreciate just how wrong I was.

Presumably in need of cash, Barber last week filed papers with the NFL announcing his intention to come out of retirement. He will be thirty-six years old on his next birthday, which is April 7. To the extent I can recall thirty-six at all, my memory of it is generally favorable. I was able to work a lot and be productive in my job. Then again, at age thirty-six I was simply earning my living doing what I do now, which is practicing law. I was not strapping on a helmet and shoulder pads and trying to run for my life from kids who - in some instances - were a decade and a half younger than I. When he retired after the 2006 season, Barber was noted for his candor in acknowledging that, "You come to realize that this is a young man's game." He apparently believes himself to be an anomaly - he is younger now than he was four years ago when he retired.

Barber retired from the Giants. NFL rules state that in order for him to come out of retirement and play for another team (one can still see the red-hot embers that represent all that is left of the bridge connecting Barber to Mara Tech), the Giants have to release him. It took the Giants all of about eleven seconds, upon learning of Barber's intention to come back to the NFL, to announce that they would release him - as soon as they are able to - to leave him free to seek employment elsewhere. "As soon as they are able to" proved to be the key words in the team's announcement.

The irony of all of this is - of course - that less than one week after Tiki Barber announced that he wanted back into the NFL, the NFL's owners voted to lock ALL of the league's players out. While it is utterly incomprehensible to me that the two sides have apparently figured out a way to screw up a nine billion dollar a year industry that makes all of them heaps of money - all the while not even faking as if they give a rat's ass about the players who earned their living in the NFL prior to the dawning of multi-million dollar contracts and who now in retirement are often overwhelmed by mental and physical health issues related to their football careers (Google "Dave Duerson", "Wally Hilgenberg" or "Mike Webster" if you know not of what I speak) - it would not surprise me if the "who can hold his breath the longest" contest drags on for some time.

Time. Something that Mr. Barber has raised "the wasting of" to an art form in the four years since he did his Cher impression. With apologies for crapping all over his grand re-entry, closing time may have already arrived. Approaching from a distance - far away - it may look as if the torch still shines but in fact the Tiki bar may already be closed.

And even if he can no longer go home, he still cannot stay here.


1 comment:

Bladerunner said...

Somebody once gave me a mini helmet with his signature on it. I proudly displayed it on my office desk. After his words about Eli, Coughlin and the Giants, it found its way into my closet. Now I just want to send it back to him so maybe he can sell it for a few dollars. What a Jackass.