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    Tiki Barber: Life is great

    [AP photo]
    Barber appreciated the way ex-Bears running back Walter Payton carried himself "gracefully and with class."

    By ROGER MILLS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2001


    He has a twin brother named Ronde, a broken hand he's trying to deal with, a history of stealing another man's girlfriend and a desire to play with his brother. He is Giants running back Tiki Barber, and he spoke recently with Times reporter Roger Mills.

    * * *

    RM: Have you tried to pull the old switcheroo with your twin brother?

    TB: We tried that once and it didn't work. Once you get to know us, we don't get away with it too much. People can figure it out.

    RM: Anyone close to you had problems telling you apart?

    TB: Oh yes. My wife, Ginny. She couldn't tell us apart when we first met except for our earrings. Ronde wore a stud, and I wore a hoop and she had a very difficult time if we switched.

    RM: Did you ever switch the earrings?

    TB: We never did. We were too shy to try that kind of stuff.

    RM: Tiki, you stole your wife from another man?

    TB: You know what, she had a boyfriend when we first met. I guess I kind of stole her. She and some friends were in a class with Ronde and I. As it turns out, my brother and a friend were looking at Ginny's friend and wanted to go out with them. But she wouldn't go out unless her friend Ginny came along. So they asked me to come along and I did.

    RM: What happened next?

    TB: I was just talking idly, passing the time. But it ended up that we started hanging out more and eventually I said, "Call me sometime over the summer." She never called. Then I ran into her the next semester and she said, "Why didn't you call?" I said, "Because you have a boyfriend." That was seven years ago. We got married last May.

    RM: Which Barber brother is better looking?

    TB: Ronde thinks he is. But I know I am.

    RM: What would mom say is the difference between you two?

    TB: She would tell you that Ronde has that dry sarcasm. He's always joking, but everyone thinks he's being serious. Me, I'm always kidding around.

    RM: Is it safe to say that life couldn't better right now?

    TB: It could be, when I have kids. But at this point in my life, with my wife and my career, it's played out perfectly.

    RM: Will your boys play football?

    TB: I wouldn't want them to play football because I know the business is so tough. I know how much the body takes a pounding. When I'm 45, I don't think I'm going to be able to walk. My body has taken such a pounding.

    RM: What's it like being a pro athlete in New York?

    TB: When you're winning, it's phenomenal. You can go into any restaurant and find a table or just call and they'll say, "What time are you coming?" Things are at your disposal. But when you're losing, they will tell you straight up. They wear their emotions.

    RM: Do you ride the subway?

    TB: I do. If the subway is crowded, no one really notices me because they are so busy seeing about themselves. Occasionally, when it's empty, someone will recognize me and say something like, "Aren't you the running back?'

    RM: How badly do you want Ronde to play with the Giants next season?

    TB: It's obviously a dream of mine. That kind of thing doesn't happen a lot, especially when you have someone so close to you. I know he likes Tampa a lot, but if circumstances work out that they don't pay him enough, the Giants will welcome him.

    RM: Have you been working for him on the inside?

    TB: I've been whispering in their ears, and they've been listening. They sound interested. If he could help our team, I'm sure they'll be interested.

    RM: Who's someone deceased you would like to have had dinner with?

    TB: I would probably like to sit down with Walter Payton. He always struggled, not individually but as a team. They weren't very good for a long time. But he always dealt with it gracefully and with class. He never quit. He always persevered. That's a characteristic a lot of people don't have. They get frustrated and lash out. That's a characteristic I want for myself.

    RM: Who are the last people you need to be on Temptation Island with?

    TB: Hmmm. ... Let's see. Sharon Stone, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Elle McPherson, (super model) Roshumba, Jennifer Lopez and Halle Berry.

    RM: Would you be able to resist?

    TB: I would try not to be (tempted). I would never get myself in that situation. I would bring my wife.

    RM: Tell me, why are you playing with a broken hand?

    TB: I told one of my friends that I'm either very brave or very stupid. I guess we'll see. If we win the Super Bowl, I guess I'm brave. If not, I guess I'm stupid.

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