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'Game Day': Kids' Book from NFL Star Siblings

ED GORDON, host:

Tiki and Ronde Barber are a rarity. They are twins. Even more rare than that, they both play in the National Football League. While both are now stars, there was a time when that wasn't true. While growing up, one received all the attention and glory; the other was often lost in the shadows. That's the basis of the twins' new children's book, "Game Day." The book teaches children that while everyone can't bask in the spotlight, if a team is to be successful, everyone must play a role. And each one of those roles is important. Tiki talked about why they decided to participate in their second book for children.

Mr. TIKI BARBER (NFL player; Children's Author): We both have kids now. I have two boys. Ronde has two girls. There's not a lot of books that are written specifically for boys, that encourage little boys to read and get involved in it. So we wanted to do this. And I wanted to tell our stories to our kids as they get older, and it worked out perfectly with Simon & Schuster.

GORDON: Ronde, this is an interesting book. You say it's the second. And tell us the story of this particular book.

Mr. RONDE BARBER (NFL Player; Children's Author): Well, this story is focused on the dynamic of a football team. As a Little Leaguer--and everybody's played Little League sports--everybody knows that there's that one guy who is the guy. You know, he's the one that scores all the touchdowns, gets all the publicity...

Mr. T. BARBER: That was me.

Mr. R. BARBER: ...so to speak, and that's Tiki. And there's always role players on your team. And in this particular story, I'm playing the role of one of those guys. I'm the kid that blocks for Tiki and gets no recognition. And it really just emphasizes a lot of the things that we try to get across to kids, that it's--you're participating and it's a team-oriented goal in everything that you do. And this book diverges from just focusing on us and focuses on other aspects of growing up as a kid.

GORDON: Tiki, how did you guys go about the idea of finding that balance of not being jealous of each other, depending on who did something better? Or do you still--to some degree still fight through that?

Mr. T. BARBER: You know, I don't...

GORDON: I mean, part of this is just human nature, frankly.

Mr. R. BARBER: Yeah, absolutely, human nature.

Mr. T. BARBER: It is. You know, we were--you know, kids, you know, by nature, they don't get along all the time. But I think I give a lot of credit to my mother because she always instilled in us the value of family, you know? And especially being, you know, two black kids in a predominantly white neighborhood, going to a predominantly white school, it was important for us to stick together because we were so unfamiliar with everything else. And when I look back, I know that the values of family that my mom instilled into us has made us, you know, be able to cooperate.

Mr. R. BARBER: You know what? That's what made the first book so poignant, at least the title of it, "By My Brother's Side," because in fact, I mean, you know, for 20--What?--21 years...

Mr. T. BARBER: Twenty-one, yeah.

Mr. R. BARBER: ...we were, you know--we were roommates, you know, not necessarily, you know, just brothers that did things together. I mean, we were as close as two people could be, and the experiences that we had growing up were, you know, side by side, and that's why we were so excited to get involved with a project that just allowed us to make, you know, two and coming up on three books.

GORDON: Ronde, let me ask you this, and it's something that I hear when sportscasters--and we had Stephen A. Smith on not too long ago with us--when sportscasters talk about the two of you, one of the things that they typically put in front of it is `affable,' `articulate,' etc.

Mr. R. BARBER: Yeah.

GORDON: While that is glowing praise for both of you, there is this kind of backhanded compliment as though...

Mr. R. BARBER: Absolutely.

GORDON: ...you were unique and it does--is not reflective of many African-American athletes. Have you thought about that?

Mr. R. BARBER: I think of it often. You know, it's--I remember when we were growing up in Runnels(ph) and there was kids that, you know--as we got older and got into high school, there was kids at other schools that would be--that would refer to us as, you know, `They're not really that smart. They just get the grades because of who they are and what their position are.' Like Tiki said, we went to a high school that was predominantly white, and I guess it would have been, you know, socially acceptable to have these two young African-American kids that were successful in school and successful on the football field but, in fact, it was who we really were. And we don't look at it, I don't think, as being unique. It's just the way it should be. You know, it shouldn't be because you're black or because you're successful at a sport that, you know--that if you talk well, if you understand what life is all about, that you have to be different. You know, I think that should be the norm.

GORDON: Tiki, you stuck your foot in the media business, and so you know--in particular, sportscasting--you know that there are a lot of preconceived notions...

Mr. T. BARBER: Absolutely.

GORDON: ...often that come through when you listen to sports talk radio or even some of the guys in the studio on the big networks. You can read between the lines and see what they think.

Mr. T. BARBER: Absolutely.

GORDON: As you've dealt with these guys, have you tried to impart any knowledge, or do you just leave it to them to hopefully get educated one day?

Mr. T. BARBER: You know what? I think you represent yourself every time you go on the air. Every time, you know, your voice is projected to somebody that's listening, you represent yourself--and not only yourself, but your family, your upbringing. And I think sometimes ki--and I read an article probably about five or six years ago, and it was talking about the `cool pose.' And sometimes people get caught up in this cool pose and who they think they should be and who they think they should try to present themselves as to people who are listening. And I've never been that way. You know, I grew up--education was important to me. Our mom stressed the importance of it. The moment we started playing sports was, `You can't do it unless you do your homework.'

So education has always been front and foremost to me, and it's carried on throughout my playing career. I've always taken pride in being a great student, you know, besides being a great athlete. And now that I've gotten older, I can really appreciate it. I'm glad I did. You know, I'm glad I went to the University of Virginia and got a great education, got my business degree. Ronde did as well. I'm glad that I've gotten opportunities in New York to get into the media side of sports and other things and take advantage of it and have the knowledge and the wherewithal to understand life--you know, not just sports, but understand life.

GORDON: Well, the book is "Game Day," and it really talks specifically about that: understanding life. And for young kids it's a good illustration of what you really have to do to help each other to become successful. None of us become successful by ourselves.

And thank you both for the time and, you know, it's a pleasure watching you on the field and, you know, we'll continue to do so and wish you the best of luck. Thanks so much.

Mr. T. BARBER: Thank you.

Mr. R. BARBER: Take care, Ed.


GORDON: To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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