Based solely on his athletic career, Tiki Barber should be nothing but a faintly remembered footnote in New York sports history.
He had some great seasons, to be sure, but Barber neither won any titles nor captured the imagination of the masses in the way that it takes to become truly legendary. But Barber can't get out of the limelight, partially because he would need to be dragged out of it by a team of oxen and partially because he is capable of saying things like he said in an interview in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.
As an aside, this week's SI and the New Yorker are pretty good examples of why feature sports journalism is a great thing, aren't they? Two profiles of New York sports figures and two huge stories because the writers did such a fine job getting the subjects comfortable enough to reveal too much.
In the article, ostensibly about Barber's comeback, Jon Wertheim gets him talking about the days after the breakup of his marriage became public. Barber and his new girlfriend took refuge from an intense media onslaught in the attic of his agent Marc Lepselter.
"Lep's Jewish," says Barber, "and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing."
Part of the reason that Barber has been able to create a larger than just a football player image is because he is very intelligent and witty. And that is why Barber was seen as a future media star when he wrapped up his career.
The reason why that media career crashed and burned as quickly as it began is because there isn't another soul on Earth who would compare being sought by reporters for comment on leaving their pregnant wife for another woman to being hunted by the Nazis during the Holocaust. It is in such phenomenally poor taste and shows so little sense of self that it is almost impossible to believe someone said it.
Almost. Barber makes it possible to believe because he's made a career out of being just this kind of egomaniacal nutcase on matters inside and outside the game of football.
That's why his intelligence and any other positive quality ceased to matter in the eyes of the public. Barber was only about glorifying Barber, an act that grows incredibly tiresome to the public when practiced by anyone other than Donald Trump.
Thanks to that nature, Barber is a guy who will forever be remembered in New York. That's probably all he wants, but there won't ever be a time when his name comes up without being mocked a short time later.