Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
Tiki Barber is old news now, the tabloid parade having marched on, leaving behind a broken family and a retired athlete with a simple set of priorities.
"I have to live my life,'' he said Thursday over lunch at one of his favorite Upper East Side eateries. "I have to be a great father. I have to run businesses and try to make a living, be an analyst for Yahoo.
"I can't worry about the perceptions of people who pick up a newspaper and say, 'Oh, that's interesting. He's a jackass.' ''
Many words to that effect were said in April, when it first was reported the former Giants running back had separated from his wife, Ginny, who when the news hit was eight months pregnant with twins.
The couple had separated several months earlier, but the timing of the bombshell, exacerbated by his relationship with Traci Lynn Johnson, a 23-year-old former NBC intern, was a blow to his image as an erudite family man.
The fallout included an end to his three-year relationship with NBC News, a few months after he had negotiated a new contract there. (His term at NBC Sports had ended with the 2009 season.)
Not quite five months later, Barber was discussing what comes next in his first print interview since his private life turned public.
"Obviously, I had a job people cared about and I did it very well,'' he said, referring to his 10 seasons with the Giants. "But I'm just a guy, and I am going through something a lot of people go through. I have a normal existence now.''
That includes the financial pressures that come with a pending divorce and four young children to be cared for, and thus the need to keep working.
To that end Barber and his agent, Mark Lepselter, were in California earlier this week working out an expanded relationship with Yahoo.
He will analyze football for the website's studio shows Mondays and Wednesdays and contribute to a fantasy football show launching this season.
Eventually he hopes to branch out into non-sports work for the site, as he did for NBC in his dual role on its "Football Night in America'' and "Today'' shows.
Barber's stay at NBC widely is perceived to have been a disappointment, especially given the extravagant news conference the network held to herald his arrival in 2007.
He sees it much more positively. "I don't think it was horrible,'' he said of his time on NBC's football show, which first had him in the studio, then reporting from the field.
The biggest frustration, he said, was the limitations in getting enough air time.
Working for NBC News was "great'' initially, he said, when he was given time and resources to report on what he considered "profound'' stories. But over time the frequency and quality of his assignments diminished, and he eventually sought and received a new deal (for less money) that gave him freedom to pursue endorsements. All that ended this spring. Still, Barber insisted his time at NBC, while it "became not a great fit for various reasons,'' was a positive experience overall.
"I think I met the expectations I had for myself,'' he said.
Aside from his work with Yahoo, Barber, 35, is busy with business ventures, including a company called, yup, Tiki Ventures, whose varied missions have included acquiring and rehabilitating affordable housing, and installing playgrounds through a division called Tiki Recreation.
So there is plenty to occupy his time, most of all his children, including twin girls born in May.
"Honestly, all I care about is my kids,'' he said. "At the end of the day, Ginny and I have to raise four kids, and when the lawyers are gone and they've taken their piece and people don't care anymore, we still have to raise four kids.''
Barber said as harsh as the online reactions to his personal story were, people most often are kind in person, thanking him for the football memories.
He's still Tiki Barber. When he finished his whole-wheat pepperoni pizza Thursday and it was time for the check, he was told two strangers in the restaurant already had paid the bill.