Tiki Barber on Tiki Barber (and the New York Giants)

tikibookTiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond by Tiki Barber with Gil Reavill

Review by C. Douglas Baker

I’ve always had a lot of admiration for Tiki Barber. Most of those reading this review probably already know who Tiki Barber is, but he played for the New York Giants as a tailback from 1997 to 2006, ending his career with over 10,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards receiving.

Only two other running backs have accomplished that feat (Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen). He retired at the end of the 2006 season, at the age of 31 at the top of his game.

I’m not a New York Giants fan, but as football fan you have to appreciate the way he played on the field. He wasn’t the biggest back, but he was an electric one and the last five years of his career he was one of the top backs in the league. He is also clearly a very bright and articulate fellow, retiring to go into a broadcasting career that isn’t just some ex-jock talking sports.

In this book Tiki takes the opportunity to talk about his life experiences. He grew up in a single parent household in Roanoke, Virginia with his twin brother Ronde Barber, who is an outstanding cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Growing up with a hard working mother raising two sons, and having an alter ego in an identical twin, clearly shaped his outlook on life and kept him grounded. He also talks very briefly about his career at the University of Virginia, a school he and his brother chose more for its location and academics than they did (obviously) for its football prowess.

The bulk of the book, however, is about Tiki’s career with the New York Giants. There really isn’t a lot of nitty-gritty X’s and O’s discussion in the book, or interesting anecdotes about crazy player antics, strategies, or the inside story of the New York Giants.

This book is more about his perseverance going from what many considered to be an undersized back on special teams and third downs, to an every down back and one of the best to ever play the game.

The last part of the book focuses more on the last few years of his career with really a new regime, a new disciplinarian head coach in Tom Coughlin, a new quarterback in Eli Manning, along with new offensive players, Plaxico Burress (WR) and Jeremy Shockey (TE).

Anyone who has closely followed football knows of what appears to be a little bit of turmoil and dissention on the Giants team. A team with prominent players complaining about the head coach and his disciplinarian ways.  Of course, there is the media, or at least some in the media, were somewhat harsh on Tiki announcing his retirement during his last season, saying it was selfish and a distraction for the team.

Tiki himself was part of the problem, saying after one playoff game, the team was “out coached” and making other allusions to his dislike of the way the team was handled under Coughlin. Tiki rationalizes this a bit in the book.

Certainly players can say what they want, but regardless of what Tiki says, that players aren’t paying attention to this and it’s not a distraction, I don’t find that very believable. Anytime you have prominent players undermining the head coach he loses respect and it will get into the mindset of the team. 

Maybe Tiki is right. He says he retired, at least in part, because Coughlin made him lose his desire to play and he wanted to pursue other things in his life. But all that swirling attention around the coach certainly couldn’t have helped the team mentally.

Overall I found this book interesting, but nothing particularly inspiring or insightful. It is Tiki’s story and that, in and of itself, is interesting enough for me.

For those looking for a tell all, inside story of the Giants or pro football, this is not the book for you. For those looking for X’s and O’s and strategy, this is not the book for you either. For those looking for a snapshot into the thoughts and life of a great NFL player, this is your ticket.

Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond