SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Can It, Tiki!

The New York Giants are having some problems now. They are injury-riddled, and their young QB isn't playing well. Atop that, local pundits and neighsayers are making a lot out of the fact that in order to get the top overall raft pick to take Manning, the Giants gave up not only the fourth overall pick in the first round (who has turned out to be Philip Rivers), but other picks, including a first-rounder that became Shawnee Merriman. Needless to say, tied atop the NFC East with the Cowboys at 6-4 and battling hard to make the playoffs, the Giants need to come together, not worry about what didn't happen in the draft who is injured or who is calling the plays, and play football.

Enter Tiki Barber.

The veteran RB, who made waves earlier this season when he let it be known that he's going to retire after it, has criticized his team's coaching staff. Publicly.

And I just don't get it.

First, the team needs to handle this sort of thing in-house and resolve it. Barber erred in publicly criticizing his team's game plan. That's not what "team" is all about.

Second, as a veteran, Barber should know better. You just don't do this sort of stuff. It's not like he's coached Super Bowl winners or even played on them. And there were times in his career where Giant fans wanted to run him out of town (people may forget, but he had a serious case of fumble-itis early in his career). The Giants stuck with Barber when other teams would have let him go. While he rewarded them for their patience by becoming an outstanding player, he should remember that the Giants did right by him early in his career.

Third, Barber's conduct belies his public image as being a great guy and a well-educated one at that (he's a graduate of the University of Virginia). Maybe he's all that, but he's certainly not a leader of the team in the overall sense. Leaders don't throw their coaches under the bus in public. They might go to their coaches and talk about issues privately, and, in doing so, help the coaches deliver their message and help make the team better. It doesn't seem like Tiki Barber is that guy. How many other excellent players have acted out like this during their careers (and this isn't the first time Barber has spoken out on an issue) and helped their teams win Super Bowls?

Some are quiet, some are outspoken on certain issues, but doing something that might jeopardize team harmony isn't one of them.

Especially when the team still is in a very good position to make the playoffs.

As has been said often, there are no "I's" in team.

There are, however, two "I's" in Tiki.

And those are two too many.

Tiki Barber has been an excellent player, but he's not showing good leadership right now. When teams are going through tough times, even the most talkative of players needs to keep his thoughts to himself and pull together for the team.

The Giants are battling enough injuries right now as it is, but nonetheless it's time for Tiki Barber to get his "I's" checked.

Unless, of course, he thinks about his legacy hard and decides, once and for all, to check them at the locker room door.

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