Giants legend Tiki Barber ran the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday to benefit CC Sabathia’s Pitcch In Foundation.
Other celebrities that ran the Marathon for charity were tennis star James Blake, chef Marcus Samuelsson, and opera singer Susanna Phillips.
New York Sports Day caught up with Barber before his big run, and he talked about the Giants and other sports issues of the day.
Barber, speaking days after the Giants had a big win over the Cowboys, said of his former team, “It’s amazing what the Giants have been able to do, with all the injuries going back to the preseason, where it was just one guy after another after another going down, even with JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul), even though he just re-signed, and Prince Amukamara, he goes down, it just feels like they should be worse than they are. It’s a testament to Coach (Tom) Coughlin) and Eli (Manning), and those guys that are still there, to get it done and win these tough games and stay on top of the division.”
On what he sees differently about Manning now than when he played with him, Barber said, “He’s like a duck with water on his back, it just flows off, you know what I mean. Nothing bothers him, good, bad, indifferent. He stays consistent, he doesn’t let emotion get in the way. He doesn’t let negative plays in the way, he doesn’t even let positive plays get in the way, he knows that his job is the next play, and he’s consistently done that year over year over year.”
Barber runs a business called Thuzio, which creates special events with athletes, such as those around Mets alumni during their playoff run.
On the business model of Thuzio, Barber said, “We tested this early, who you were a fan of when you were 12 sticks with you, really, for the rest of your life, so when you hit 40 or 50 and you are now the CMO or CEO of a company, you kind of want to re-connect with that in some ways, especially if you’re doing these campaigns that are now budget-conscious, you’re going to use the lesser-priced age star as opposed to the current icon that will price you out of your budget. We’re able to capture a lot of that business because we have access to all that talent.”
On how he got involved with Sabathia’s Pitcch In Foundation, Barber said, “CC’s wife (Amber) and my wife (Tracy) became really good friends about four or five years ago. At a Memorial Day barbecue, said ‘we’re gonna do a Marathon team’ because she (Amber Sabathia) had people doing it before. Last year, a bunch of people jumped in on it, me and my wife and Amber did it; Amare Stoudemire’s wife Alexis did it. We had a bunch of people who raised a bunch of money and ran the Marathon together, and I kind of got the bug. I haven’t had an athletic outlet since I retired other than playing softball or my kids’ school teams or things like that, so I’ve grown to love the solitude of running and raising money for a really good cause, the Pitcch In Foundation.”
Sabathia checked into an alcohol rehab facility on October 5, the day before the Yankees played the Wild Card playoff game against Houston.
Barber said of Sabathia, “I haven’t seen him since he’s been away, but I hear he’s doing really well. We’re just very supportive and showing our love. He’s very brave to come out and admit that, especially the timing of it. He’s gonna get healthy, he’s gonna do OK. He’s universally loved by people who know him.”
Barber said of being surprised by Sabathia’s announcement, “A little bit, but nothing can really surprise you anymore. You just hope that he’s going to be okay and I know he will be…It was not about sport, it wasn’t about the game, it was about him and his family and his wife. He knows he needed to get it right, so I commend him for it.”
Barber retired early from football, and made the announcement halfway through the 2006 season. On the timing of it and how it shocked people then, “I knew I was done, I still had a great year, we got in the playoffs, but fell a little bit short…I think back then, the honesty in sports was not as prevalent or acceptable, but you know yourself. At the end of the day, as much as you’re playing for your teammates and for the paycheck, you have to have the passion and you’ve got to know yourself, so I made the decision to walk away.”
I then told Barber that he retired without suffering any major injuries, to which he replied lightly, “I’m running a Marathon! You know what I mean, I don’t have any lingering injuries.”
Barber then spoke about awareness of football injuries now compared to 2006. “It’s interesting the question you’re asking about some of the injury issues, musculo-skeletal, but also the concussion stuff. It wasn’t even really on the radar when I retired in ’06; the Congressional hearings happened the following year and that’s when it became a big issue in the National Football League. That wasn’t in my consciousness really, I had a couple of concussions over the course of my career, but nothing that was devastating or lingering. But, now that you think about it in retrospect, as you slow down as an athlete, especially as a football player, you take more hits, you make yourself more susceptible to some of these injuries.
“It’s interesting how the NFL and and will continue to address the issue because it could be an existential problem for the league. If it trickles down into the high schools and little leagues and parents no longer letting their kids play the sport, where does the talent come from? It’s something they have to keep their eye on and they’re doing a good job of it so far,” said Barber.
On how well he knew Giants legend Frank Gifford and Ann Mara, wife of owner Wellington Mara, who passed away this year, Barber said, “I knew Frank very well, and Ann very well. It’s been a tough couple of years for the Giants, losing some of the icons of the organization, really icons of the sport, I mean ambassadors of the sport. But, as I’m sure as they would wish it, you weather on, you keep going forward and you keep building a family that the Giants have come to represent. Having the success that they are having, even despite all the injuries, I think is a testament to them.”
On what it’s like to be part of Giants history, Barber said, “You’re part of the family, the ecosphere that’s been built around the Giants, the most storied organization I think in the National Football League, maybe one of the most storied in all of sports, and it’s an honor to be a part of it because you’re connected in some way to all these amazing individuals. Wellington Mara was one of those special people who built that kind of atmosphere. Everyone whose been in the organization knows that. To lose his wife, to lose Frank, who was obviously like family to them, it’s been tough.”
Barber has had a long career in broadcasting, and currently hosts a CBS Sports Radio show with Brandon Tierney. On if he asked Gifford, who was a mainstay on Monday Night Football, for any advice in broadcasting, Barber said, “No, not into broadcasting, but Frank used to talk to me about living in the city. Back in his day, everybody lived in the city. They played in the city, they lived in the city, the Mayor would be over his house at some gathering. It was just a smaller, more intimate relationship that the city had with its athletes. Now, everybody lives outside of there. I was one of the few who lived here, so talking to Frank about that, they were fun stories because it was different back then. You got away with a lot of things back then. The city loves its athletes.”