One of the more intriguing stories of the 2011 offseason will come to a head at some point after the lockout ends.
Will anyone sign Tiki Barber?
He’s been out of the game four years, but he gained more than 2,000 in each of his final three. One failed media career and a collapsed marriage (complete with young intern girlfriend and pregnant wife) later, Barber has opted to try to re-enter the spotlight via the skills that put him there in the first place.
Complicating matters is the fact that he plays one of the most fungible positions in pro football, where a stream of young, cheap, and healthy ball-carriers will likely be more attractive than a 36-year-old locker-room lawyer with more baggage than Cher on a three-week vacation.
In a sit-down with Armen Keteyian of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, an advance copy of which arrived this morning via FedEx, Barber talks about the events that transpired after the first phase of his football career ended. At one point, Keteyian asked Barber whether he embraced self-destruction in the hopes of starting over.
“That’s an interesting way to put it,” Barber said. “Maybe subconsciously.”
Barber opted to make a football comeback after “old friends and current coaches” encouraged him at the Super Bowl in Dallas to give it a try. Then, when he started working out in March, everything clicked.
“I’m on a f–king mission of redemption,” Barber texted to his agent, Mark Lepselter.
The need for redemption comes in part from the fact that Barber wasn’t able to fulfill the enormous media expectations he helped create, and also from what Lepselter generally described as a “slow progression of shit.” Barber believed that he’d be the next Matt Lauer, even though he quickly realized that he lacked the skills required to interview people on camera.
“Once you sit down, you have to nail it,” Barber said. “You have to connect with the subject. That’s a skill set that I had never used or worked on. I tried my best. I really did.”
Told by Keteyian that some folks at NBC viewed Barber as “entitled” and “a little too cool for school,” Barber said, “I would be interested to hear someone say that to my face.”
Still, it didn’t work. And Tiki knows it.
“Once you try and fail, it’s hard to keep trying,” Barber said. “It really is. It got to the point where there were times where I would just sit in my office with nothing to do. I crafted this career, right? And I’d gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be, and then failed. It’s hard to deal with.”
We recommend watching the entire interview, which debuts Tuesday, June 21, at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. The full piece is almost enough to make Tiki sympathetic.