This rip goes after an unusual target for me: fans. Specifically, fans of the New York Giants.
Unappreciative and misguided Giants fans who like to boo the greatest offensive player in franchise history.
Tiki Barber returned to Giants Stadium on Sunday, honored along with fellow 2000 NFC champion teammates. He had his No. 21 jersey on -- a number that should be retired -- and should have received a standing ovation. A long one.
Instead, he was booed, like he always is when his (many) highlights are played at Giants Stadium.
Let's quickly go through Tiki's "crimes."
1: He attacked Tom Coughlin, saying he was outcoached in a 23-0 playoff loss to Carolina. (He also said the Giants didn't run the ball enough in a loss to Jacksonville during the 2006 season.)
2: During the middle of the 2006 season, he didn't deny that he was planning to retire at season's end when asked about it by the New York Times.
3. He said Eli Manning's leadership was comical when asked about it in an NBC broadcast in August, 2007.
Of the three, the only one that fans should even be remotely annoyed about is the third one. If fans want to make a case that Barber shouldn't have blasted a former Giant, fine. To some extent, I can understand that. Fans want to feel like they are supporting Manning, and some likely feel that they are backing Manning by booing Barber.
Of course, then he wouldn't be giving any real honest or inside insight as a member of the media. Calling Manning's leadership "comical" was a harsh choice of words, no question, but it shouldn't erase all the amazing things he did in his career. It's time to let it go.
As for the first two things on the list, it's incredible that those are actually considered grievances. But make no mistake, they are considered just that.
The Giants' performance against Carolina in the 2005 playoffs was one of the most pathetic displays ever given in football history. It's a pretty safe bet that every fan thought Coughlin was grossly outcoached by John Fox. So in a fit of frustration -- in a season-ending loss no less -- Barber didn't hold back. If players laugh after losses, fans go crazy, and make hilariously stupid claims that they care more about winning and losing than the players do. If a player criticizes a coach after loss, then he's being disloyal. The players can't win.
And the fact that Barber didn't keep his pending retirement to himself? This became a big story because WFAN's Mike Francesa and Chris Russo made it into one, and talked about it endlessly. It started a myth that Barber was all about putting himself ahead of the team, that he wasn't giving his all, etc. Of course, he put forth another incredible season, and had the greatest game of his career in leading the Giants to the playoffs in the final game of the regular season, rushing for 234 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries against the Washington Redskins to lead the Giants to the playoffs.
(Oh by the way, he saved Coughlin's job in the process.)
Here's what really is going on. Barber wasn't on the Giants' Super Bowl championship team and there is this belief in the minds of many Giants fans that the team improved because he left.
Wrong. Very wrong.
The Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 for a variety of reasons, and those reasons have nothing to do with the team's best player retiring. Tiki Barber's departure didn't allow David Tyree to make an amazing catch, didn't help the Giants' defensive line manhandle the Cowboys (which led to this) and Patriots, didn't give Tom Coughlin the idea of firing Tim Lewis and hiring Steve Spagnuolo, didn't help Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress to play masterfully in the NFC Championship, etc. etc, etc. etc, etc.
Those, along with many other factors, were the reasons why the Giants won Super Bowl 42.
It's understandable for Giants fans to love their Super Bowl winning team. And I'm not suggesting that Barber should be as beloved as Michael Strahan, Manning, or any of the other key players that led the team to a championship.
But he should still be applauded for a fantastic career.