It is fair to say that Tiki Barber’s first decade as a former football player did not go exactly as he had planned. But he still is at it, personally and professionally, too focused on the moment at age 42 to dwell on the past.
“Life is good; life is busy,” he said. “But I love it.”
His latest good-but-busy news is the premiere on Monday of a new time slot for his CBS Sports Radio show, “Tiki and Tierney,” in which he and Brandon Tierney will be heard from 3 to 6 p.m. rather than 9 a.m. to noon.
That in itself is an upgrade in radio terms. But the bigger news is that, for the first time, the show will be simulcast on television by the CBS Sports Network, vastly increasing its visibility, especially in the market that matters most.
“I think it’s a great step forward for us after four years now of putting out a really good product and wanting to be simulcast, and more importantly wanting to have a presence in New York,” Barber said.
“It gives us a greater reach to a lot of the listeners who will share our opinions about some of the New York things that we talk about.”
That seems like a no-brainer for a show featuring a native New Yorker in Tierney and an adopted New Yorker in Barber, who ranks first (by far) on the Giants’ career rushing yardage list and second in receptions.
But CBS Sports Radio is not heard in New York. And when CBS Sports Network added a morning radio simulcast in January of 2014, it went with WFAN’s New York-centric “Boomer & Carton” rather than the national “Tiki and Tierney,” then heard from 6 to 9 a.m.
That long was a source of irritation for some on the national radio side, but Barber said he understood the decision in business terms and acknowledged the appeal of Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton.
“We just wanted to be on a national TV platform as well,” Barber said. “The good thing is we bided our time and kept putting out a good show and only have built better camaraderie on the show, I believe, so now we’re ready for it.”
This was not the media path Barber initially envisioned when NBC hired him in February 2007 for both “Football Night in America” and as a contributor on “Today.”
In retrospect, he said he was not as ready for those jobs as he thought he was.
“It was a challenge at NBC trying to find a role, both on the sports side on ‘Football Night in America,’ which was heavily overpopulated; it was like an eight-person show . . . And then at the ‘Today’ show, I never found my footing, even though I did some great stories.
“So when I left and was kind of in the wilderness of the media world, I got a chance to reflect on a lot of things: What I wanted to be, what I’m good at, what I should be doing. That’s when the radio opportunity came.”
Along the way, though, there was a messy divorce that played out in the New York tabloids and a much-publicized football comeback attempt in 2011 that did not pan out.
There also was the fact that a former Giants teammate, Michael Strahan, seemed to be living the media life Barber once sought: as an NFL analyst for Fox, a co-host of “Live! with Kelly and Michael” and now a regular on “Good Morning America.” Not to mention starring in a short-lived Fox sitcom, “Brothers,” and hosting “The $100,000 Pyramid.”
How does Strahan’s success make Barber feel? Happy? Envious? Indifferent?
“Definitely not jealousy,” Barber said. “Strahan’s one of my good buddies, and I have a lot of respect for how he’s been able to navigate that world. It’s not easy, as I found out. It’s not, oh, you’re the best and you’re just going to be good at it. Even if you are the best, you can still find failure there.
“So I have a lot of pride for what he’s doing. I am happy for him. It fits him. It fits who he is. I found that radio fits me a little bit better . . . People will point to it as, ‘Oh, you failed and Michael’s doing that now.’ Yeah, but in every failure you learn something valuable, and I think I did.”
Moving from a 9 a.m. start time to 3 p.m. will allow Barber to stay up later to watch games, and also to tend to his duties at Thuzio, the company he co-founded.
One of its aims long has been matching athletes (and others) with those in search of celebrities for appearances or marketing campaigns.
But lately Barber’s focus has been its “Executive Club” networking events, which at times require him to be out late in New York. Not having to get up very early the next morning will help.
(Dennis Rodman’s recent newsmaking comments about the Knicks’ Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony came at a Thuzio event in Los Angeles.)
Barber has six children, ranging in age from 9 months to 14 years, and lives with his second wife, Traci, in Florham Park, New Jersey, near the Jets’ facility. The four oldest live primarily with their mother in Connecticut, but Barber said he sees them regularly.
As he said: busy.
Barber has had a complicated relationship with Giants fans since retiring after the 2006 season. Now many of them can at last hear what he has to say on a regular basis, if they are so inclined.
“We crossed our fingers for so many months and years,” Barber said of the television simulcast. “I can’t tell you how pumped B.T. and I were when we found out.”