Tiki Barber takes to new talk gig at CBS Sports Radio

Tiki Barber in the CBS Sports Radio studio

Tiki Barber in the CBS Sports Radio studio as he hosts "TBD in the AM" with Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson, which is heard nationally on over 75 stations. (Credit: CBS)

Neil Best

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Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned

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Six winters had passed since Tiki Barber appeared in another swank Manhattan television studio, the star of another network's crowded news conference.

Now he was a bit player Tuesday at a CBS event to promote its blanket coverage of Super Bowl XLVII, hopeful that he has found a post-Giants home at last.

"I really feel good about this gig," he said of his week-old job hosting CBS Sports Radio's new national morning show alongside Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson ("TBD in the AM").

The gig is not as visible or as lucrative as the one NBC hired him for in 2007, when he was to be a crossover personality who would talk football on Sundays and everything else on weekday mornings.

It did not work out on either front. That, combined with the very messy, very public failure of his marriage, damaged his image in addition to his employment prospects in broadcasting.

In the interim, he did some work for Yahoo.com, attempted a heavily publicized return to the NFL that did not pan out and explored new business opportunities.

About six months ago, he heard of CBS' plan to launch a national sports network to complement the company's local powerhouses such as WFAN.

"My first media gig ever was [WFAN executives] Mark Chernoff and Eric Spitz hired me to do overnights with Joe Benigno," he said. "So it was a long-standing relationship. They knew my commitment to sports and doing a show like this . . . So I did a test show with Brandon. It worked well.

"They ran it through all the bosses and here I am, six months later, and excited."

Barber said the early hours at the CBS studios in downtown Manhattan do not bother him, having worked mornings at Fox News and at WCBS-TV during his playing days. And he said he has more freedom than he has had in years.

"They're putting a lot of resources into it, and they've given us direction to be ourselves, which is something I didn't really have before, other than at Fox News," he said. (Their producer is Ray Martel, who until last month worked with Mike Francesa at WFAN.)

Chris Oliviero, CBS Radio's senior VP of programming, said Barber's long history of outspokenness made him attractive.

"Tiki has proven he will speak his mind," Oliviero said. "It might upset some people sometimes. It might cause some aggravation sometimes. But if you want to be a sports commentator, you need to give your opinion. Tiki definitely gives his opinion."

Barber said marrying his longtime girlfriend, Traci Lynn Johnson, in July, shortly after his divorce was finalized, made him feel more settled in general.

"My life kind of personally calmed and coalesced in a nice package, which honestly I think allowed my professional life to kind of take off," he said.

There are challenges ahead as the show tries to dent the crowded sports media landscape. It is heard in more than 75 markets but not in New York -- other than via the Internet or on WCBS-FM 101.1 HD3 -- although it could be eventually.

Barber also must prove he can speak intelligently about more than football. He said he has spent months talking to friends, including former hockey star Jeremy Roenick, to get caught up.

Despite being the team's all-time rushing leader, he also has catching up to do with Giants fans. Many never have forgiven him for various perceived transgressions, including criticizing Eli Manning on NBC in 2007.

During the event Tuesday, CBS analyst Bill Cowher referenced Super Bowl winners in the room and singled out Barber, forgetting he left one season before the Giants won it all. Barber said people often make that mistake.

That is understandable, given how many years it has been. Time to move on.