Former Giants running back Tiki Barber announced his intention to return to football in March. Since then, he has been very careful about what he says and where he says it.
Possibly buoyed by the generally positive (or, at a minimum, non-negative) reaction to his Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel interview (the AP, for example, focused on his self-serving claim of post-football depression and ignored the truly interesting stuff), Tiki decided to tiptoe into talk radio’s Sarlacc Pit on Wednesday, agreeing to an interview with Mike Francesa of WFAN.
Barber was joined on the line with agent Mark Lepselter, at Tiki’s request. And Tiki bristled at the suggestion by Francesa that Tiki’s broadcasting career was a “big failure.”
“I think you’re throwing a little bit of hyperbole out there, Mike, because I didn’t have a ‘big failure’ in broadcasting,” Barber said, per the WFAN website. “I think if you laid the stage as you and Chris at the time tried to, that I was [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.”
Still, Barber acknowledged during the HBO interview with Armen Keteyian that Barber allowed the high expectations to arise and to exist. So any effort by Tiki to blame others for setting a bar under which he spent years comfortably limbo-ing seems a tad lame, to say the least.
“I don’t consider my time at NBC a failure,” Barber insisted.
Of course, that’s not what he told Keteyian. Here’s the quote we transcribed from the review copy of the interview: “Once you try and fail, it’s hard to keep trying. 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.”
Francesa was more blunt. “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,” Francesa said. “I mean, they were not complimentary about your work. Let’s not run away from that, this is part of the story.”
“If you tell me who it was and you get that person on air, I will have a debate with them,” Barber said. “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.”
But, yet again, Barber is forgetting what he said to Keteyian. Barber admitted that he wasn’t comfortable with or skilled at the concept of interviewing people. “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.”
He also tried his best to fend off Francesa, turning the tables in the face of relentless criticism of his broadcasting career. But Francesa wouldn’t let up. And it was fun to listen to.