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.
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.
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.
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