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Keidel: Sneaky-Tiki-Tawdry

By Jason Keidel
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In case you don’t get the obscure literary reference in the title, it’s a mutation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic Jungle Books story about a mongoose named “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.”

The five-pound mongoose was rescued from near-death by a family in India. A boy found him half-drowned after a flood and the child’s mother nursed him to health. Out of gratitude and love, Rikki guarded the house (and particularly the young boy who discovered the injured mammal) from predators, particularly snakes.

Enter Tiki Barber, who reminds you of Nag, the fictional cobra who approaches you as a pal only to strike when you least expect. And Barber’s backbiting and resultant venom have infected a few, former pals with the old “NY” emblazoned on their helmet.

According to a recent report from The Associated Press, which obtained some quotes from a piece to be aired on HBO tomorrow, Barber speaks at length about his tumble down the totem pole, from iconic running back to well-paid pitchman, to a leading man on NBC’s wildly successful “Today Show,” to unemployed, unfaithful, divorced, destitute, and destroyed middle-aged man who is attempting a most daunting comeback into the NFL.

The next 36-year-old running back to light the league on fire will be the first.

Depression is not funny. It’s not cute, contrived, or curable. My family is festooned with the disorder/disease. (I seem to have arbitrarily eluded the problem; my myriad defects take other forms.) But Barber has used depression as an appalling pretext for his abhorrent behavior. A depressed person will slouch on the couch for months on end (as he admitted he did.) It does not, however, lead already narcissistic stars to abandon their pregnant wife (8 months pregnant, in fact, with his twins) for a 23-year-old intern, and thus vaporizing his career with NBC, who was paying Barber $2 million per year to look pretty next to Matt Lauer.

LISTEN: Keidel talks Barber, MLB realignment with Lori Rubinson

Depression doesn’t force you to announce your retirement from football in the middle of the season, blasting a formidable fissure into a team toiling for a playoff spot. (In a sweet slice of karma, the Giants won the Super Bowl Shortly after Barber bounced.) It doesn’t move you to shove your coach – who saved your career by teaching you to properly hold a football and not literally fumble away your prime – under the team bus. It doesn’t sharpen your teeth for the instant backstabbing behind a microphone, questioning Eli Manning’s leadership qualities. (Did we mention that Eli won the Super Bowl without Barber, and actually won the Super Bowl MVP in the process?)

And where was this depression when Barber was in his prime, when he was dashing through holes and smashing team rushing records, when he was making millions of dollars? Some shrinks refer to “situational depression” which implies that, basically, we screw up and don’t feel so hot about it. Sounds and smells like the work in the Barber shop.

This is a twisted form of foxhole prayer, a way to endear himself to a fan base that abandoned him, even booing him as he was inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honor, a highly incongruous scene for an appropriately conflicted man. Had Barber so much as flashed a good side he’d find New York a forgiving town. Just ask Doc and Darryl, who got clean, came clean, and even when they were once again devoured by their demons they found us waiting on the other side of the cell, cheering them on. It takes a special kind of jerk to lose us for good, and Barber has his doctorate in burning bridges.

Barber had the bona fides to be a star in any galaxy, from his looks to his presence to his intelligence to his oratory skills. Fumbling went from an on-field issue to societal scar tissue, a perfect metaphor for a self-absorbed creep who found time to blame everyone for his problems except himself.

“I crafted this career, right?” Barber said.

You sure did, Tiki. The bed is made and may you have a most restless sleep.

Feel free to email me:

Your thoughts on Barber and his admission of depression? Let Keidel know in the comments below…

  • JK

    It did, indeed. But tone and texture are often lost in print. Apology accepted, and I too apologize if I overreacted. Thank you very much for reading it.

  • TooTallTeri

    Tiki-Smeeki! The Giants didn’t need him to win the Super Bowl and they don’t need him now. He got what he deserved. Maybe he’ll take a cue from his twin brother and try to mend some fences.

    • JK

      Isn’t it odd that his twin is such a vast contrast? My understanding was that twins were identical in nearly every way. Thank goodness only one them got the mean gene.

      • k-boogie

        actually not to go off on a tangent but they had twins on 60 minutes last year where one was pretty effeminate, loved pink, frilly stuff etc and the other was “a masculine child” (godfather ref) – they were great buddies but verrry different….

  • luckyc

    “a highly incongruous seen for an appropriately conflicted man”…you spelled SCENE wrong. Need a good proof reader??

    • JK

      I’ve asked them to correct that. But I find it interesting that after 700 words that’s all you got from the piece. Need a life?

      • luckyc

        Actually, it’s not all I got from the piece. It’s a great article and I couldn’t agree with you more. I apologize if my initial comment came off as being snarky.

      • k-boogie

        Maybe luckyc was just asking for a job?

  • Rob

    Good article…..I hope Tiki dosen’t make the team and gets cut…..He had a great opportunity to finish off an excellent career but, he became ungrateful and self absorbed.

  • Byron Mason

    You’re right on point. There’s a huge difference between being sick, and the consequences of one’s decisions. Tiki Barber may very well be ill, but it doesn’t excuse his behavior.

    • JK

      Amen, Mr. Mason. And I’m rather cynical since we never heard of this while he was king of the sports (and sports media) world.

  • Marc Weiss

    I don’t know where it all went wrong for the guy. You’d think he had the world by the “you know what” considering all the talents he possessed on and off the field, yet he found a way to self destruct. I just don’t get it. I tried my hardest to root for him. When they inducted him into the Giants ring of honor I told myself to cheer the accomplishments and not boo the individual, which I did my best to do. He needs to re-invent himself and start showing a bit of humility. He might reach out to speak to Frank Gifford to find out how a former Giant treats his former franchise when he is an active member of the media. Gifford might have had his mess ups here and there, but he was class through and through.

    • JK

      Well said, Marc, but I don’t get any indication that Barber is humble enough to admit he’s clueless. He knows he messed up and that he’s messed up, but he’s still pointing his finger everywhere but his direction.

  • Paul D

    Hey, the Nazi’s aren’t still after this guy are they? I’d like to see him dressed up like Anne Frank. It was sweet irony that his team win the Lombardi trophy after he leaft the league having thrown his quarterback under the bus. WHAT A CLOWN!!!!!!!

    • JK

      Indeed, Paul. And leaving his pregnant wife was the proverbial cherry on top. What a sweetheart, family man. I wonder how he spent his Father’s Day…

  • Ken

    Tiki was the locker room fungus that threatened to undermine the team in 2005 after the playoff loss “we were out coached and in 2006 when he retired early and after he left by blasting Tom Coughlin who made him a pro-bowler.
    The Giants would never have won a Super Bowl with his divisiveness on the team. Thank goodness that he left when he did! Can we put an asterisk by his name on the “ring” – for most selfish player in NYGiants history?

    • JK

      Ken, you represent the overwhelming sentiment among Giants fans, football fans, and human beings. Kudos. That was the point of my piece.

  • Kurt Spitzner


    • JK

      I believe in you, Kurt! Don’t leave us because of computer glitches. Please! ;)

      • Kurt Spitzner


  • mike

    wow rikki tikki tavi sounds like whi te people!

  • dachmuse

    Gotta love it, a superficial lothario jock on one of my least favorite teams, who got just what he deserved.

    Funny you should mention how depression runs in the family, wonder how Ronde Barber, his twin brother and a Pro Bowler, Super Bowl ring bearer; who for so many years distinguished himself on that rock solid defense of the Bucs, feels about his brother’s depression/self inflicted troubles…

    Now that would be an interesting interview, if you could get it.

    • JK

      I haven’t met Ronde, Dach, but word is that he’s the anti-Tiki: class from head to toe. As you say, it would be a compelling interview. Maybe I should work on that.

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