Mike Francesa conducted a classic interview with former football star and mediocre broadcaster Tiki Barber yesterday on WFAN in New York. You can hear the entire interview here—CBS Audio; and the relevant (juicy) bit below.
It’s good to know that Francesa can still do a bit more than rant, rave and clumsily try and bolster pre-season predictions with self-justifying, after-the-fact “analysis”.
Rather than rehash the interview, I have a series of “I dunno whys” to toss into the air.
Let’s take a look.
I dunno why Barber’s agent, Mark Leipselter was on the line.
Nor do I know why Lepselter talks with a deep Brooklyn accent; I could swear he said “aks” when he meant to say “ask”.
Lepselter’s presence on the call put Barber and Francesa on adversarial ground and there was no need for it. That he kept jumping in to protect his client is part of his job, but all it did was antagonize Francesa. Barber could’ve handled himself without his agent; it’s not like he’s been accused of a crime and needed to be shielded from self-incrimination.
I dunno why Francesa was so shady in his allegations.
It may or may not be true that Francesa has spoken to people at NBC who ripped Barber on his way out the door, but to reference “people I’ve spoken to” and to say “I know all of them” was weak and typical.
It’s not as if Francesa has a sterling history of providing the full context of these adolescently embellished stories he tells.
Barber was right—it was a cowardly and cheap. What could Barber say to defend himself from invisible people who were criticizing him? Nothing.
As for Francesa saying Barber was “fired”, there’s a difference between not having one’s contract renewed and being fired. It can be traced to semantics, but there is a difference.
I dunno why Tiki’s broadcasting career didn’t work.
I never watched Tiki Barber on the Today Show, but I can say that when a former player is as heavily-promoted and allowed to step into a job such as that, he’s got to be perfect and he’s got to bring in the viewers.
I couldn’t help but think back to Boomer Esiason’s much ballyhooed exit from the football field to the Monday Night Football booth. When Boomer was interviewed during the waning days of his playing career—I remember one in particular with NBC’s Len Berman—there was always a session of “tell Boomer how great he’ll be as a broadcaster”; Boomer would sit there with a grin on his face and knowing nod that, while saying “thank you”, he actually meant “tell me something I don’t already know”.
Boomer was a train wreck on MNF and Al Michaels loathed him; Boomer blamed everyone but the man he should’ve blamed—Boomer—because he wasn’t good. Period.
I dunno why there’s a reluctance to tell the truth.
I haven’t seen the HBO piece that spurred this blitz of spin-doctoring on the part of Barber and his agent, but from what I can gather Barber appeared depressed about his current circumstances.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that if he’s having personal problems with finances and relationships. If he has to return to football because of money, so what? Would that be such a terrible thing to say? This whole, “I love football and wanna come back” at age 36 is a bit farfetched.
No, it’s a lot farfetched.
The pure honesty would’ve played better with the public and made Francesa look bad in his aggression.
Barber’s agent should’ve known that.
It was a skillful collateral attack from Francesa, great radio and a bit sad that Barber was reduced to essentially groveling and trying to parry shots for which there was no effective counter.
Barber would’ve been better served to go on the radio—sans agent—told his story and been done with it. It probably wouldn’t have been as engaging, but would’ve served the initial purpose.
Barber and his agent are undoubtedly trying to frame this positively as we speak, but there’s little that can be done now short of retrospectives and making the best of a bad, embarrassing situation.
Barber and his agent botched this terribly.