Monday, January 28, 2008

I Can't Believe I'm About To Agree With Gregg Easterbrook

[Side note to start off the week- Reader Extra Participation Friday kind of bombed last week. What happened? Too obscure of a topic? Nobody likes me anymore? It's that, isn't it. Good to see that my life has transitioned from having no real life friends to having no internet friends. Anyways, I'm declaring Blanco112 this week's winner for the following shitty athlete sales pitch:

"One more thing to consider when it comes to Kris Benson: the possibility that he cheats on Anna has got to buy him a few extra years on his contract, right?"

Only if he signs with a team that plays in New York. Anyways, I'm hoping we get a better turnout next week. It's fun for everyone. Come on. Please?]

Anyways, like I was saying, I can't believe I'm about to agree with the official TMQ of FireJay. But given that I'm doing so in the context of pointing out that Peter King is a slimeball, I think it's worth it. King's thoughts on one of his co-workers:

Tiki Barber does not miss football. He does not regret his decision to retire, even though the Giants have made the Super Bowl.

It's true. You can choose not to believe me if you'd like, but you'd be wrong.

Some of you may know that I work with Barber, the former great Giants' running back, at NBC, and you'll think I'm only writing this because I'm either protecting him or I believe a lie he is telling me. Neither is correct. But I understand why you would feel that way.

I like Barber, and I've spent much of the fall defending him to staunch Giants fans who are mad as hell at him for criticizing coach Tom Coughlin on his way out the Giants' door last winter and for questioning the leadership of quarterback Eli Manning last summer. My feeling all along has been that once Barber signed to work for NBC, he was no longer a member of the Giants, and he was obligated to give his honest opinion about all 32 teams in the NFL, including the one he knew best, the Giants. When NBC signs your check, it's not a disloyal thing to criticize the coach you used to play for if you feel the criticism is legitimate, and it's not a disloyal thing to say Manning is a lousy leader if that's how you feel. It's not only not disloyal. It's honorable.

The part about "not disloyal" (now that's some clunky diction!) might be true. I mean, I guess once Barber left the Giants he wasn't technically obligated to show them any respect, because they weren't signing a paycheck for him anymore. But honorable? Honorable? I admit that as a 23 year old who has held all of one full-time and four or five part-time jobs in his life, I may not be the foremost expert on professionalism. Still, I'm pretty sure that trashing your old teammates and coach unsolicited on national TV less than a year after you all were part of the same organization is dishonorable as hell. Put more simply, it's sleazy. It's low. It's unprofessional. And in the context of providing analysis, it's basically irrelevant. Yes, Barber's role at NBC is to give his opinions about certain aspects of the NFL. But I hardly think his personal perceptions and biases relating to former teammates' personalities fall within the boundaries of that role. Giving an opinion about whether or not Team X has a good offensive line is one thing; giving an opinion about Player Y's personal makeup and behind-closed-doors persona is entirely another.

The relative lack of outcry about Barber's comments indicates that perhaps media consumers are attracted to the idea of an "inside scoop" about current players and coaches. Let's air out that (alleged) dirty laundry! Hell, what's that new game show that NBC just started last week? "Lie Detector Secrets That Ruin Families?" America loves that kind of shit. And from his professional standpoint, King certainly seems to think that "insight" of this sort is a valuable part of NBC's coverage. But neither of those opinions/implicit opinions make it a fucking "honorable" act to badmouth your former colleagues.

Next time you switch companies, spend your first lunch with your new co-workers talking about what a huge group of assholes your former employers were. See how it goes over. I understand that this analogy doesn't really replicate what Barber did, because he switched fields and became part of the media. His new job entails nothing but talking about his old job which is clearly not the same as being a forklift driver at Company A and then switching over to be a forklift driver at Company B. But the spirit of the comparison is fair, in my mind. What's the point of what Barber said earlier in the season? To establish why the Giants struggled at the end of last season, and the start of this one? He could have said it differently. He could have said nothing at all and stayed away as a matter of principle. It's not just the fact that it's a jerkoff thing to do; it's the fact that Barber has no way of knowing if maybe he wasn't the problem instead of Manning and Coughlin. I know he put up great numbers on the field, but maybe there was something about his presence off the field that slowed the team down. Do I know this as a fact? Of course not. But since there's no way to tell, why bother to guess? Leave the subject alone, and stick to commentary that doesn't slander your former co-workers.

Now, I'm not saying Barber can never badmouth his former team for any reason. It's his claims about personality-related stuff that I take issue with. If he wanted to say that Coughlin was consistently outschemed by opposing coaches, or that Manning was making bad reads when he dropped back to pass, that would be totally different. At least those two examples are less subjective and also things that couldn't possibly be Barber's fault.

In conclusion: honorable? Fuck that. Peter, please go kidnap Brett Favre and take him to live with you in a cabin in the middle of North Dakota for the rest of your days. If you want to grab Tom Brady on your way out there, that would be fine too.

If you're confused, the title of this post refers to the fact that Easterbrook has been bitching about Barber and his big mouth all season long. I guess I have to say I agree. I don't, however, agree with his claims that coaches would rather minimize margins of defeat in playoff games than try to win them or that successful running backs avoid looking at potential tacklers.

On a less angry note, (cue zany circus music to lighten the mood! Doo doo doodoo doo doo doooooo dooooooo dooooo doooooooo) here's one other highlight from this same King column.

Speaking of Super Bowl officiating, in examining the tape from the Week 17 Giants-Patriots game, I saw -- on both sides -- an awful lot of clutching and grabbing by corners and wideouts. The Carey crew will be challenged by how closely to call this game. If the crew calls it too close, there'll be grousing. If the crew calls it too loose, there'll be grousing.

Thank you for perfectly articulating the obvious. People are so darn hard to please, aren't they? If it's too hot outside, they'll complain. But if it's too cold, they'll complain about that! I'll tell you what else, too- if the Patriots score more points than the Giants, they'll win the Super Bowl. But if the Giants score more points than the Patriots, they'll win the Super Bowl. Write it down, folks. You heard it here first.


Jim said...

Maybe he should stick to: If I order a coffee from Starbucks and it isn't good, I won't like it, but if I order one and it is good I WILL like it.

Andrew said...

Larry - re Blanco's comment - I think it's pretty relevant wherever he signs, since she said if he ever cheated on her, she said she'd sleep with everyone in the organization... so I'd think any team would enjoy that, albeit it wouldn't be beaten to death like it was here.

Tonus said...

I dunno, I get the feeling that Tiki's pillow is probably in pretty bad shape from all the nights he's spent biting it at night, watching the Giants make a run at a title. Without him.

larry b said...

Jim- You just turned this into Reader Extra Participation Monday. I like it.

Andrew- Of course they would, but I was referring to the presence of legit tabloids which would really fan the flames. I guess I should have included L.A. as well. They have tabloids, right? Christ, I live in the Bay Area and I don't even know.

Tonus- I imagine he gets through that pain by working on his forthcoming book "Why the Giants sucked from November 2006 Until October 2007: Tiki Tells It Like It Is."

Jim said...

Another thing is, why is writing about Tiki? Giants fans don't like him and the rest of us don't like him, he wasn't good at his NBC job. I thought we were all done with him, why bring him back?