Tiki Barber will never forget his first week as a host on the Today Show.
Photo by AP
One quirk of the SI workweek is that Monday -- the day we close the magazine -- essentially becomes a workday on steroids. The chores come fast and furious and you're lucky to sneak out of the office before 10 p.m. That meant that this week I was left to follow the Virginia Tech tragedy through seven-word headlines or through the little I could glean from CNN, which played in the background. I knew only the bare facts before I passed out at the end of the day.
Another quirk of the SI schedule is that Tuesday is an off day. Presumably, it's a day to rest up. Sleep in, read the paper, have brunch, take a run... This week, I had planned to start my Tuesday by catching Tiki Barber's debut as a reporter on NBC's Today Show. He was slated to report on business author Marcus Buckingham. Perhaps he'd be great; perhaps he'd err. Either way, there might be something to write about.
So there I was at 12:30 on Tuesday afternoon, bleary-eyed and coffee in hand, watching a DVR'ed version of Barber reporting on the gruesome Virginia Tech shootings. NBC had shipped the whole staff down to Virginia and, come hell or high water, Tiki was going to make his debut. Truly bizarre.
I'll say this much: Tiki's not a reporter yet. (Granted, neither were many of the alleged reporters we saw jabbing microphones in the faces of grieving family members and VT students. One reporter asked a student how he felt when people called him a hero. The poor kid just wept for 30 seconds before CNN finally cut away. Classy, guys.)
Tiki wasn't ready for this -- and there's no way he could have been. I have no doubt he would have hit Buckingham out of the park, but he has a long way to come as a serious reporter and NBC certainly would have been better off letting him sit out the road trip. That's not a knock. This probably isn't how he wanted to start his career anyway. And he'll learn. He'll learn not to blink so damn much. He'll learn to do some actual reporting. (He sat in a bar and asked kids how they felt. Nothing new.) And he'll learn, say, to come a little more prepared for a simple question about the atmosphere in Blacksburg. His response, "It was almost weird." I would hope so, Tiki. At the very least, Tiki has the look down. He looks damn good in a beige trench coat. The rest will come eventually.
What did you think of Tiki's Today Show debut? Can athletes make the transition to news figures?
As someone who followed Tiki's career, I can tell you he is doing exactly what he has been training for as soon as he got drafted by New York. The man never met a microphone he didn't like nor has he ever opened his mouth without a "witty" quote in mind. He has strived to be as inoffensive as possible to ensure a broad appeal- hence his dream job on morning talk TV.
Tiki will be just fine. He looks the part, he speaks the part, he merely needs time to grow into his new role at NBC. Hey, I have never met anyone who walked into a new job and knew everything on the spot. Again, he'll be just fine, he'll get aclamated to his new role and surroundings and shine and flourish as he did on the gridiron.