Tiki Barber, the former NFL running back who dumped his pregnant wife for a 23-year-old intern, wants us to believe that he’s doing some serious soul searching by asking this bizarre question of his twin brother, Ronde:
“Why do so many people like you, but don’t like me?” Tiki asked during his new CBS Sports radio show last week. “Why do so many people like Ronde and dislike me?”
I don’t know why Tiki Barber is asking why he’s so unpopular. Maybe he needs some kind of public redemption, but the answer, in my view is clear: People –and women in particular — don’t like Barber because he left his wife, Ginny, who was pregnant with twin girls, and started an affair with former NBC intern Traci Lynn Johnson, who he married in 2012.
If Barber has to ask this question publicly, then he’s clueless and more confused that I thought. Whatever his reasoning, I believe Tiki Barber truly knows the answer to his own question. He’s just playing his audience and hoping for sympathy.
But here’s something ironic — and revealing: Barber, 37, has shown years of disdain for his father who he says abandoned his family and implied that his father cheated on his mother.
“I don’t give a [bleep] that the relationship didn’t work,” Barber said of his parents’ separation in a 2004 New York Post interview. “Not only did he abandon her, I felt like he abandoned us for a lot of our lives. I have a hard time forgiving that.”
I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Barber could be accused of abandoning his family just like his father did. So here’s my question: Why didn’t Ronde address this deep-rooted issue when answering Tiki’s question about why people don’t like Tiki?
Instead, Ronde, who plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, blamed New York fans for Tiki’s negative image.
“That’s a great question. (It’s) probably because you live in New York and I don’t know if New Yorkers like anything more than loving their stars than hating them,” Ronde said on the radio show. “They look for faults and exploit them, or failures and exploit them and it’s a national story when it’s up there.”
Nice try by Ronde to defend his twin brother, but blaming Tiki’s negative image on New York’s sports fans is quite a stretch. Tiki’s problems are about his philandering. It’s not that complicated. Sure, fans will exploit flaws in sports stars, as Ronde explained, but the flaws have to be there to exploit.
Barber met Johnson while he was working as an NBC Sports broadcaster and outraged friends told The New York Post that Barber and Johnson were sneaking around together in Senegal, West Africa for a travel documentary while Barber’s wife was three months pregnant.
But in January, Barber told The Virginian-Pilot that media stories about him were distorted and inaccurate.
“The stories… are unbelievably distorted,” Barber said. “Traci was an intern, but we weren’t together until three years after she was an intern…. The folks at CBS, they know me personally, and they can see past the perception. I met Traci when I was separated in 2007…. I got back together with my wife, then we got separated again. Four months later, three months later, I was fully moved in with Traci.”
Today, Barber says his personal life is now on the right path.
“Things settled down, really, after I got divorced,” Barber said. “A lot of acrimony in my life was a result of litigation going on, and so once that happened, I was able to take a breath again.”
Barber is now co-hosting a morning show for the CBS Radio Network and he’s using his new platform to talk about his own negative image. But I’m still not convinced that Barber is asking his controversial question for the right reasons.
Does Tiki want to make amends for his high-profile transgressions? Is he really trying to address his emotional well-being? Or he is simply trying to use this sensational topic as a way to reclaim the spotlight after losing his big-money job as a sportscaster three years ago?
In his 2007 memoir, “Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond,” Barber described the example he wants to set for his children.
“I want to be an honorable man, because that’s what I want them both to be,” Barber wrote. “My family is everything to me.”