COLUMN: Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, can’t you see?

Santo Caruso

What is better than one Santo column? How about a late Black Friday sale, two for one (also known as I want to talk about two completely unrelated topics, neither of which is worthy of a whole article. Quality first here at Caruso, Inc.)?

Because it takes me a few weeks to catch up on Sports Illustrated, I just got around to reading Rick Reilly’s column on Tiki Barber’s retirement. After reading pieces like this, it offends me when my father compares me to this 10-time Sportswriter of the Year. All Reilly does, when not doing fluff pieces, is point out what everyone else already knows. His article contains not one piece of football knowledge-based analysis and few stats besides vivid descriptions of old football injuries. He completely ignores the fact that although football does take a toll on players, most of the players living with the pain would trade a healthy knee for another year in the league 10 out of 10 times.

I present my credentials as a loyal Eagles fan who sent Christmas cards to Barber thanking him for years of fumbling away games and as a fantasy owner who has drafted him each of the past two years. Besides this, I am an obsessed football junkie who has watched more games and knows more about players than “the Rick,” who appears to shelter himself in Colorado, writing like J.D. Salinger about a world he refuses to experience personally. I feel this qualifies me to offer an opinion.

Barber has been a N.Y. Giant since 1997, enjoying an above-average and often unheralded career. One of his best seasons, 2000, was as a part of the “Thunder and Lightning” tandem with future Heisman bust Ron Dayne. He is the Giants’ all-time leading rusher (an impressive feat considering how long the team has been around and that Frank Gifford ran for them before Chuck Bednarik broke him). Barber has also been the consummate professional and will probably win the NFL Man of the Year award.

However, anyone who has followed the Giants for the last two seasons has noticed Brandon Jacobs. It’s tough to miss him. Last season he averaged 2.7 yards per carry but only ran the ball 38 times. Surprisingly, 26 of those rushes were for either a first down or a touchdown. This season he has eight touchdowns and 29 first downs with 72 carries. Jacobs is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, but the sight of him running the ball is more telling. Defenders are terrified of him. No one wants to put a helmet near the pounding legs or attempt to take down 264 pounds of punishing blue. If I compared him to anyone, it would be to Stephen Davis or even more of a reach, to Jim Brown. Jacobs ran a 4.5 second 40-yard dash at the combine but is bigger than every linebacker on the Giants.

Barber has worked hard to address his fumbling issue, completely changing how he holds the ball (the ball is so close to his throat it looks like its being held in by the WonderBra). The past two seasons he has been a top-five back in the league, expanding his game, which was once considered to be only suited for third-down, change-of-pace-type back, but he is giving up all of his goal line touches to the Salukis Savage. Soon Jacobs should be splitting almost all of the carries. Tiki’s idol (I deserve Sportswriter of the Year for that pun) was Walter Payton, who faced a similar situation at the end of his career. Payton also left the game rather than be relegated to a role player.

Maybe Barber really does just want to save himself from a life of pain and suffering, but it’s an easier decision when there is a 6-foot-4-inch, 264-pound boy from Southern Illinois pushing him.

Part 2: Since I have the attention span of an 8-year-old child whose Ritalin prescription ran out, I was flipping between the NFL and MTV on Sunday. The aforementioned music television was running reruns of the first two episodes of “Real World: Denver.” When a former Raiderette who says that she likes to go out, has no real girl friends and just likes hanging out with guys (i.e. she has slept with all of her friends’ boyfriends, and now they won’t talk to her) is prominently involved, I am watching.

Add to that the opening sequence in which Jen (the Raiderette) and Colie, a sorority girl from central Jersey, are walking hand in hand. They say the deadly words, “I feel like we will be best friends.” Instantly I knew they would end up in some sort of fight over a guy. Enter Alex; Colie has already slept with him and told a national audience about how “blessed” he is.

(By the way, this guy is set for life. Do you know how many girls watch this show? Unless he goes Michael Richards on Stephen and Tyrie or switches sides to play with David, Alex has an endless supply of girls with questionable morals.)

Big surprise, Jen sleeps with Alex, which causes Alex to say that he wants to be with Jen because she isn’t interested in him romantically (i.e. she is hotter and will probably have a three-way with him at some point).

The teaser for next week’s show, of course, features Colie miserable because she has no hope (Jen is a freaking cheerleader) and Jen fake crying while secretly wondering what she will wear to the club that night. The producers of the “Real World” are lighting cigars with $100 bills.