On Wednesday, we included in a blurb regarding the feelings of former Giants running back Tiki Barber’s teammates a quote from Barber that, in many respects, sums up the Michael Scott-style awkwardness that periodically has emerged throughout Tiki’s career.
Talking about time spent huddled in agent Mark Lepselter’s attic after news broke of Tiki’s failed marriage and his affair with a former NBC intern, Barber told Sports Illustrated, “Lep’s Jewish, and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing.”
As L. Jon Wertheim of SI aptly put it, the remark shows that Barber “has the wit and smarts to make an Anne Frank allusion and the artlessness to liken himself — an adulterer trying to elude gossip columnists — to a Holocaust victim.”
Per ESPNNewYork.com, the Anti-Defamation League sees more than artlessness in Tiki’s comments. “Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience,” national director Abraham Foxman said. “Tiki Barber’s personal behavior is his business. But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.
“The analogy to Anne Frank is not funny, it is outrageous and perverse. Anne Frank was not hiding voluntarily. Before she perished at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she hid from the Nazis for more than two years, fearing every day for her life. The Frank family’s experiences, as recorded in Anne’s dairy, are a unique testimonial to the horrors of the Holocaust, and her life should never be debased or degraded by insensitive and offensive analogies.”
Lepselter predictably is defending his client. “In a world where nothing surprises me, where things get completely blown out of proportion, this only adds to the list,” Lepselter told ESPNNewYork.com. “[Tiki] was shedding light on going back to that time when he was literally trapped, so to speak, in my attic for a week. Nothing more, nothing less.
“Let me remind all those who want to make this more than it is: Tiki was a guest of [president] Shimon Peres in Israel five years ago.”
In claiming that folks are blowing Barber’s comments out of proportion, Lepselter possibly is blowing the criticism out of proportion. No one has accused Barber of being an anti-Semite. Instead, he picked the wrong topic for an attempt at humor based on the fact that he went into hiding after his marital infidelities game to light.
As a smart guy who is just smart enough to outsmart himself, Barber’s clumsiness isn’t surprising. Though we detect no malice in his words, he needs to be smart enough to know that certain topics probably are off limits when trying to find a way to characterize a predicament resulting directly from his own decisions and actions.
We can only imagine how Tiki will eventually describe the persecution he feels he’s experiencing after making what he believed to be a harmless remark.