Visiting Dignitaries

Breakfast With Tiki: Retired Football Star Has New Radio Show, Startup to Help Jocks Cash in on Fame

“It’s the long-tail popularity of talent. Once you retire, you’re left with this fame which can’t be monetized anymore.”
Tiki time. (Photo: Nicholas Hunt/PatrickMcMullan.com)

Tiki time. (Photo: Nicholas Hunt/PatrickMcMullan.com)

Maybe you have always wanted to meet Tiki Barber, the New York Giants legend. Perhaps you’d like to ask him what it was like to lead the National Football League in total yards from scrimmage in 2005, or how he really feels about Eli Manning, or maybe you’d like to tell him you still haven’t forgiven him for leaving Fox & Friends.

Good news. Mr. Barber is the co-founder of a technology startup called Thuzio, an “online marketplace for celebrity experiences.” Want to play a round of golf with Mr. Barber’s twin brother Ronde? You can, for a mere $2,500. Feel like taking NBA great Gary Payton to a basketball game? That’s just $5,000.

Maybe sports aren’t your thing. Maybe you’d like to have dinner with the mentalist Jim Karol ($1,600) or the competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi ($1,500).

Or maybe you think this is all ridiculous—a sad attempt to trade on the fading reputations of former jocks by appealing to overgrown fan boys who should probably stick to trading cards. In which case, you can have lunch with Mr. Barber himself and tell him so—for just $500 (a bargain while the company gets off the ground).

Or you could tell him you’d like to interview him about his reemergence in the public eye for a weekly newspaper, and he might just waive the fee altogether.

“We identified a problem that exists for former athletes,” Mr. Barber told us over a breakfast at the Trump SoHo hotel. “It’s the long-tail popularity of talent. Once you retire, you’re left with this fame which can’t be monetized anymore.”

Translated from the prospectus-speak in which Mr. Barber is fluent, that means there are a lot of retired athletes out there who could use the extra scratch, and who, if they weren’t reliving their glory days for paying customers, would probably be boring their wives and children and drinking buddies retelling the same old stories anyway.

Besides, if Thuzio were such a bad idea, would talent be signing up to the platform at the rate of about 20 new clients a week? Would two big New York literary agents be preparing to put their clients on the platform? So what if Thuzio takes 20 percent off the top, or if the idea seems a little self-serving; it’s also practical, and possibly brilliant­—the kind of thing that perhaps only Mr. Barber himself might have dreamed up.

Thuzio isn’t the only the only new venture in Mr. Barber’s life. At the beginning of the year, Mr. Barber hurtled back into the national media, launching a national morning show for CBS Sports Radio with Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson, Mr. Barber isn’t new to the dial. His media career began in 1999, after he tore up his knee during his rookie season. “So my manager and I said, let’s divorce you from the game of football,” Mr. Barber said, sitting in the show’s Hudson Street studio, dressed in wrinkled blue jeans and busted brown shoes, a sweater pulled over his collared shirt. While his injury healed, he became a student of the New York sports media—the eager-to-please football star with the big smile and the business degree from the University of Virginia, the kind of striver who was willing to wake up at 3 a.m. during the offseason to read yesterday’s sports news on the 5 a.m. local news broadcast.

Follow Patrick Clark on Twitter or via RSS. pclark@observer.com