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Tiki Barber's media career comes 'full circle' as he moves to WFAN middays with Brandon Tierney

Tiki Barber attends the MCM x Rolling Pre-Super

Tiki Barber attends the MCM x Rolling Pre-Super Bowl Event at SLS Miami on February 2, 2020 in Miami. Credit: Getty Images for MCM/Eugene Gologursky

Tiki Barber has been doing a national sports talk radio show with Brandon Tierney for nine years, the last five of which have been simulcast on national television.

But when presented the chance to move to a midday slot on a local station, there was no hesitation. "It was a no-brainer," Barber said in an interview with Newsday.

Such is the lure of WFAN, a station Tierney grew up listening to as a native New Yorker and for which Barber began his media career in 1999 while playing for the Giants.

"Going to Queens and that crappy studio across the Queensboro Bridge to do overnights," he said with a laugh.

Now, starting on Monday, Barber’s circuitous media career will come "full circle," as he described it, when he and Tierney at last can fully engage with New York-area sports after having had to appeal to a broader audience on CBS Sports Radio.

(That outlet is not heard on traditional radio in the New York area, but the "Tiki and Tierney" CBS Sports Network TV simulcast has been available in many area homes since 2017.)

"After nine years on the national network, we were looking for something more ‘energetic’ is the best way to put it," Barber said, "with interaction, so the fandom and the passion can be displayed on our show."

CBS Sports Radio and WFAN share a corporate parent in Audacy and studios in lower Manhattan. So Barber and Tierney were a seamless option for Audacy/WFAN executives Chris Oliviero and Spike Eskin when they opted not to renew midday hosts Maggie Gray and Marc Malusis.

Adding Barber gives WFAN another ex-jock along with morning co-host Boomer Esiason to provide a player’s insights, not to mention schmooze with clients. Adding Tierney offers balance from the world of lifelong fandom.

"He really wants his teams to be successful, and if things go wrong, he gets personally offended," Barber said. "He goes on these rants, which are awesome. I just love to needle him a little bit . . . I think our show works because we’re very different, even though we come at it from the same direction."

When Barber broke the news in 2019 that Steve Cohen planned to buy the Mets, it almost was an afterthought mentioned in passing on his show. Rest assured that if that sort of thing happens now, it will be handled differently.

"That’s what B.T. and I are really excited about," he said. "Somebody gives you a little tip that ends up being a huge story, it becomes really big on WFAN."

While Barber lacks the lifelong New York bona fides of East Islip’s own Esiason, he has been in the area for a quarter-century now, steeped in the sports culture beyond football.

He is a friend of former Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and recently was part of a dinner outing that included Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky, with whom he quickly bonded.

"I’ve dug into the fabric of the people in sports in this town," said Barber, who lives near the Jets’ practice facility in New Jersey. "I do feel like I have an intimacy with it."

Barber, 46, the Giants’ leading career rusher, has had a circuitous media career. It began as a Fox News host while he was playing, continued with NBC’s "Today" show and lately has included analyzing NFL games for CBS.

Along the way he crossed many Giants fans with comments about Eli Manning’s leadership style in 2007 and saw his personal image damaged in 2010 during a messy, public divorce.

But Barber said that during what he called "that lull of, really, life and in my professional world," then-CBS Sports Radio executive and former WFAN executive Eric Spitz recalled his work ethic from 1999 and invited him aboard.

"Here we are nine years later and we’re hitting the FAN," Barber said. "It’s almost, to me, like a circle coming back to a close, as opposed to like a redemption thing."

Barber’s eldest son, A.J., is a freshman at Princeton and his second son, Chason, plans to attend Brown next fall. Both were high school receivers and plan to play collegiately.

His relationship with Manning has been good since shortly after those controversial comments from long ago. Barber interviewed Manning for NBC after the Giants won Super Bowl XLII in 2008.

"It’s like [people think] there’s this issue with Eli and me, and there isn’t," Barber said. "There hasn’t been for 15 years."

Time has helped to improve Barber’s image, but so has the Giants’ recent ineptitude, which has given fans a greater appreciation for his productivity over 10 seasons from 1997-2006.

"I think the fan longs for, more than anything, not a specific era, but they long for relevancy," he said. "And you just can’t have that as a Giants fan right now.

"It’s almost like, I won’t say a ‘laughingstock,’ because we’re not. The history of the organization is too strong. But it’s like you’ve lost your way from a fan perspective."

Starting Monday, he will be free to talk on the radio more than ever about all that, and about every other New York team, too.

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