Tiki Torched

Tiki Barber, who retired from football while at the top of his game, has witnessed the implosion of his public image in the past year. Most of it is of his own doing, but the latest setback is a stunning example of unsportsmanlike conduct by the media.  

A star running back and all-time leading rusher for the New York Giants, Barber retired from football in 2006 at the relatively young age of 32 in order to pursue a media career. Telegenic and articulate, Barber had the tools and looks and every network competed for his services.  He chose The Today Show as the vehicle to transport him to stardom in this next career he had chosen.  It looked like he was on his way. 

Funny thing, though. The broadcasting career never really took off. Success had long been Barber's constant companion, so this flop was a stunning personal setback for him. After having been mentioned by some as the possible eventual replacement for Matt Lauer, NBC declined to renew his contract in May 2010. This occurred about a month after The New York Post revealed that Barber was, after eleven years of marriage, leaving his then-pregnant wife and mother of his two children. The Post also reported that Barber was romantically involved with a former NBC intern named Traci Lynn Johnson. 

Uh oh. 

Thus began the unmaking of Tiki Barber. 

Tiki and his college sweetheart/wife Ginny during happier times. 

Subsequent to this disclosure, Barber went into hiding.  Literally. Last fall, however, he emerged and announced his intention to return to the NFL. The interest in his story and this unlikely comeback garnered him some coverage in the past week's Sports Illustrated. In the article Barber detailed his efforts to elude the media while it focused on him, his failed marriage, and his supposed infidelity. Specifically, he stated that he and his girlfriend hid from the media in the attic at the home of his agent, Mark Lepselter. 

"Lep's Jewish," Barber told Sports Illustrated. "And it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing."

Frank's story is of course well known. In trying to elude Nazi persecution, the Frank family hid for two years in the attic of an office building in Amsterdam before being discovered in August 1944. 

Upon publication, Barber's comment immediately drew reproach. Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, had this to say:
"Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience," Foxman said in a news release. "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."
 I'm sorry Abe, but really? I suppose that you were compelled to issue some sort of statement, but this? I'm a historian and know very well the suffering of the Jewish people during Hitler's attempt at the "final solution." Your reaction, and the ensuing media focus on this non-story story, is just too much. 

The media, of course, jumped all over this.  "Cheating Husband Dares to Compare Himself to Anne Frank."  "Tiki Barber, You Are No Anne Frank!" Now those are headlines!  You would think that Barber had proclaimed that the Holocaust was fictitious. Not the case at all. He was not attempting to "trivialize" the Holocaust or insinuate that his situation in any way resembled Frank's other than the fact they that both hid in an attic. That's it. That's all.  He was not claiming persecution, or equating his circumstance to that of the Frank family.  Really.

Lepselter, being the good agent and with a balanced perspective, came to the defense of his client/houseguest with an attempted dose of sanity. 

"In a world where nothing surprises me, where things get completely blown out of proportion, this only adds to the list. All Tiki was saying to Jon was he 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.
In this country we hold our freedom to speak above just about every other liberty that we enjoy. Unless what we say offends someone, that is. These days, that means that someone, somewhere is going to be offended by anything you say.  Just about everyone agrees that "political correctness" has zoomed way past its originally intended target, but I suppose that there is no way back from here.  Do you think it will ever again be socially acceptable to refer to handicapped persons as cripples or retards? (Actually, even "handicap" is now a derided term.)  Of course not.  And we shouldn't because those ARE demeaning and offensive terms.  However, when people who live in this country complain that only speaking English is a swipe at our country's other cultures or that public displays of Christmas or the Nativity demeans other religions, we are out of control. The "Law of Unintended Consequences" has claimed another victim.   Tiki has been torched by the media.


  1. Stop being right all the time!

  2. Seward, I definitely agree with the essence of your post, BUT.... if Tiki Torch is looking to immerse himself in the media world, he needs to understand the implications of making inflammatory references, whether intended or not. With the array of topics that a mid-level network talking head faces, it must be of some concern that "The Torch" is already creating incendiary talk on the periphery. While the mainstream networks may err on the side of guarded, milquetoast mouthpieces, the polarized cable outlets have shown that even their touted tongues are subject to scrutiny... e.g. Beck, Olberman, etc. And, although I like Newt's idealogy, his verbal idiocy tends to get him in trouble.

    As a member of a family that faces Monticello 5 times a day as a Jeffersonian Mecca... how's that for political correctness... I think Tiki Torch needs to learn to play this "new game" by their rules.

  3. You inspire so many by the way you can take a career and retire and change your career and make the changes you need to, and still be on top!


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