Accused of being selfish and of distracting the team from the tasks at hand, what had been the story of a man dedicated to one franchise and one dream would forever be changed. Of course, all Tiki did was exercise his feelings and intentions. He was honest. He was forthright. He was open. He was communicative. All the things the media claims that most stars aren't. The great Barry Bonds is often roasted for NOT sharing himself with the media. Tiki, in an attempt to gain better relations between the Negro athlete and the sports media took the opposite approach.
And the media demonized him.
The juxtaposition of Bonds and Barber is a clear indication that the Negro athlete can never please the media. That a desire to remain somewhat private will lead to the media attempting to crush your career. And, conversely, attempts to be open and honest will lead the media to try to tarnish your legacy.
How can the Negro athlete win?
But Barber's greatest loss wasn't at the hands of the media. It was at the hands of his coach.
"[Coughlin] robbed me of what had been one of the most important things I had in my life, which was the joy I felt playing football," Barber wrote. "I had lost that. He had taken it away."
Barber, in his personally unique renaissance man fashion, has penned an autobiography. In it, he details some of the tragic circumstance that led to his decision to leave the game, the fans and the team that he loved behind. The personal inner struggle to balance the brutality of the coaching regime and his inner sensibilities left him torn, conflicted and figuratively bleeding.
"If Tom Coughlin had not remained as head coach of the Giants, I might still be in a Giants uniform," Barber wrote in his upcoming book "Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond," excerpts of which were obtained by the Daily News.
Clearly, the Giants organization jilted Mr. Barber. Choosing a failing white coach over a successful Negro player.
He says he came to resent the way he was being treated so much by the end of last season that he decided to quit even though his love for football never waned.
The pain of mistreatment must have been nearly unbearable. For those of us that have loved and lost, we can empathize with Mr. Barber's need to mitigate the debilitating pain by leaving his love behind. Every day a struggle, to balance the love for the game with horrific tactics employed by the coach. The mistreatment could no longer outweigh the pleasure and joy the game provided. The destructive coaching tactics overwhelmed the camaraderie, the joy and the delight of being on the field on Sunday afternoons playing the ultimate team game in front of the ultimate fans.
Imagine the wholly confounding predicament in which Mr. Barber found himself. The inner conflict.
And then the Giants allowed the media to unleash the hounds.
Biting and barking. Surrounding Mr. Barber as they chased down his legacy like so many blood hounds on the trail of an escapee. Finally treeing the fleeing legacy of Barber. Then striking it down.
He was labeled selfish. A quitter. A primadona.
But the media and the fans forgot what the game Mr. Barber loved involved.
He wrote that fans who don't witness the pain athletes go through can't understand why so many sports figures quit. He said that by walking away, true-blue fans saw him as a heretic, while those who saw football as a war considered him a deserter.
Yet another instance of the Negro athlete who chooses to be true to himself being castigated and diminished by the mainstream sports media and mainstream fans (read mainstream as white).
Clearly, Mr. Barber was faced with unbearable treatment by the coach, a fanship that -possibly due to his being a Negro- felt warranted in assuming ownership of his career, and a media that delighted in ruining what should have been his 'fare thee well' tour.
Yet, to this day, somehow and someway, Mr. Barber still harbors an unrequited love for the game.
And, to emphasize his love of football. To demonstrate that he categorically played the game for the game, Barber points out:
He also slams the Giants for underpaying him, claiming he made about half of what some of the NFL's other top running backs made. Barber says Big Blue shorted him about $10 million over his career.
Proof positive that this wasn't about selfishness or putting himself ahead of the team.
This was about a coach and an organization stealing the joy and love of football from a player.
It was about respect.
Or, at least respect in the professional athletics sense.
'This is about respect. Not money. The money don't matter......Give me more money.'