A few weeks ago it came out that New York Giants running back Tiki Barber was going to retire at the end of the year. Since Tiki’s decision was revealed there has been a backlash from a lot of analysts. ESPN’s analyst Michael Irvin says that due to the timing of the message Tiki Barber isn’t “retiring” he’s “quitting.” Another ESPN analyst, Tom Jackson, went on to say that Tiki Barber’s retirement would be a distraction to his team.
Can you really blame Tiki Barber for wanting to retire? First of all Tiki Barber has already made enough money for him and his family to live comfortably for the rest of his life. Tiki Barber also knows that he can make money being an analyst when he retires. Tiki is a very charismatic guy who currently has two successful commercials airing all the time. Plus football can be a very dangerous sport. You could have your leg snapped at any point because of an errant tackle like Joe Theisman. You could run into somebody and be paralyzed like Dennis Byrd years ago. You could be forced to retire due to concussions like Steve Young and Troy Aikman. Another ESPN analyst, Merril Hodge, was once a running back like Tiki Barber. Merril Hodge once suffered a concussion so bad that he had to stay home for four months because if he left his house he would forget how to get back home. Tiki is only thirty-one years old, which means he could have several more good seasons, but if you have enough money and you’re happy doing something else then why risk getting injured?
Of course should we really listen to anything Michael Irvin says? I mean sure the guy says controversial things and maybe that makes him “interesting” to viewers but the truth is the guy says something stupid every time he opens his mouth. Michael Irvin is openly bashing Tiki Barber for making a decision to retire because he’s not as greedy as the other pro athletes and because he wants to stay healthy. Meanwhile Michael Irvin defends thugs like Terrell Owens and Ray Lewis every chance he gets. If Tiki Barber retires now he’s a quitter? I guess in the minds of people like Michael Irvin you have to play until you can’t play anymore for it to be considered retiring. I guess you have to wait until your career is dwindling and you look like bum you have to be forced out by an injury because that’s what a “tough” football player would do. Jim Brown and Barry Sanders were twenty-nine when they retired but I don’t think anyone ever refers to them as quitters.
Michael Irvin also seems to believe Tiki Barber’s teammates aren’t going to follow him anymore because he’s quitting on them. Are you serious? Nobody is the NFL plays harder than Tiki Barber does. If one of his teammates thinks he’s quitting because he’s going to retire then all they need to do is watch him for one quarter and see that he’s obviously not quitting on the team. Tiki Barber is actually leading the NFL rushing yards. On top of his 647 rushing yards he has 222 receiving yards. If Tiki Barber has given up on the season I’d hate to see what he can do when he’s really trying.
Meanwhile, Tom Jackson says that Tiki Barber is causing a distraction. First of all it’s kind of ironic that the statement comes from the media since if it is a distraction it’s the media’s fault. Tiki Barber didn’t even want to announce his retirement during the season. Tiki Barber wanted to wait until the end of the season like everyone says he should. But the media hounds you with questions; they find your friends and families and bombard them with questions. Eventually someone slipped and it came out, then the media had to run and go tell everyone. If the media wasn’t so intrusive on athletes’ lives then nobody would even know that Tiki Barber was planning on retiring. It’s also the media that is making a big deal out of this story in the first place.
But I’m not even convinced it really is a distraction. If it’s a distraction then why is Tiki Barber leading the NFL in rushing? If it’s a distraction why are the Giants on a three game winning streak? If it’s a distraction why are the Giants in first place in the NFC East? If it’s a distraction why did the Giants just stomp the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football 36 – 22? For all we know Tiki Barber’s retirement could actually fuel the Giants. Tiki Barber might have the best season of his career because he knows it’s his last. The New York Giants might play their hardest because they know it’s going to be their best shot until they find someone to replace Tiki Barber. It worked last year with Jerome Bettis. Jerome Bettis said he was going to retire before the season was over and what a distraction that was; the Pittsburgh Steelers only won the Super Bowl.
Personally I applaud Tiki Barber. Tiki isn’t just retiring but he’s doing it right in the middle of a contract. Tiki Barber is actually telling the Giants that he doesn’t want the remainder of his contract. How many times do you see this in pro sports? Two years ago Terrell Owens wanted to restructure a contract when he had only played the first year of the contract! Pro athletes say all the time that they “want to play on a winner” or “I want to go somewhere close to my kids” when they really just want to go to a team that pays them the most. It’s refreshing to see somebody who doesn’t care about making millions of dollars; he doesn’t care about proving he’s the best player in football even if it means he plays until he gets forced out by injuries. Instead Tiki Barber cares about his health and the well being of himself and his family. The only regret I have about Tiki Barber retiring is that the NFL is losing one of the few classy guys in the league. The NFL needs more guys like Tiki Barber.