Excerpt from former Giant Tiki Barber's new book
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
September 13, 2007
When I hear the sound of offensive lineman Richie Seubert throwing up, I know it's game time.
“We must be ready to go,” I say to myself, as Seubert ralphs into a garbage can in the bathroom.
Regular as clockwork, Richie can be depended on to lose his cookies just before we head out onto the field. As game-day rituals go, it's not that rare–Richie's fellow guard Chris Snee and my man Plaxico Burress have been known to get green around the gills too–but throwing up before kickoff illustrates the intensity of game day.
Professional football is an exercise in intensity, and one way to handle intensity is to devise rituals, to be better able to channel stress.
I've got my own pregame ritual, not quite as dramatic as Richie's. I fall asleep.
Well, not always. But surprisingly often. As the clock ticks down to kickoff, I start to get anxious. I'm excited to go get into it, but I'm nervous at the same time. Whenever I get that way, excited-nervous, I become sleepy. Often I go back into the equipment room, because nobody really comes in there before games.
I sit and just chill. Try to clear my mind of anything and everything that has been in my head. Nervousness makes my stomach feel all-encompassing, as though it's taking over my body. I relax and–sometimes, not always–I fall asleep.
The next thing I know, I hear an assistant coach or someone shouting out in the hall.
“All right, all right–it's time to get out there and get it done!”
I snap back awake. I feel so refreshed and ready that it's unbelievable.
I wouldn't recommend this particular ritual. But that's the point. Most game-day rituals are strictly idiosyncratic and personal. Somebody else might pace and listen to hip hop on earphones, full volume. I lie down with my feet up.
Here's game day for me. The general rule is to arrive at the stadium two hours early. Entering the parking lot, seeing the stadium, coming into the locker room: that's when your nerves start to come up a little. You're not exactly panting in anxiety, but you start thinking about how the game's going to be. You start visualizing what is about to happen.
When guard Ron Stone was a Giant, he used to fix me a pregame meal. Ron has six kids, so he knows how to feed a crowd. After one of his awesome waffles, I'd have some pasta, too, for dessert. Lots of carbs for the pregame meal.
That long before kickoff, the stadium is still pretty much empty. It has a deserted, ghost-town feel to it. Some of the guys take laps around the field. I don't do any of that. I sit in front of my locker, take off my suit, strip down to shorts and a T-shirt, and maybe listen to music.
The uniform of a professional football player is the biggest pain in the ass you could ever imagine. That's especially true for running backs like me, since defenders are forever grabbing, tugging and clutching at us. Because of that, my uniform must be as tight and sleek as possible.
I know a lot of people (women, mostly) talk about the vanity of the skintight NFL uniform, but for me it's strictly utility.
My waist is 32 inches, but the uniform pants I wear are 30 short. A 12-year-old could probably wear these pants and feel comfortable in them. The material stretches, so they're not oppressively tight, but there's nothing for a linebacker to grab onto, either.
You know the line: If you like to eat sausage you probably shouldn't watch it being made. Well, if you like football, you probably shouldn't watch a pro footballer stuff himself into his uniform, either. Unless you're looking for a few laughs.
The problem is that because the jersey is so tight across the chest, the fabric tends to squeeze your shoulder pads together like an accordion.
With the pads closed, I've got a very small hole to cram myself into. I have to fit my head and my arms through a space about the size of a grapefruit.
I stand on one side, pulling and stretching my jersey. It's hard. I have to muscle myself into it. Then I do it again on the other side, pull it up, hold it there, put one arm in, put the other arm in, grab it, get snagged on both elbows, jam my head in the hole.
It's excruciating. I feel like a contortionist. The only thing that alleviates the embarrassment is that there are 45 guys in the immediate vicinity going through the same spastic dance.
But then, once I'm in, I'm in. It's like magic. The uniform conforms to you like a second skin. The total weight of jersey, pants, pads, shoes and helmet is around 8 pounds. But somehow, the whole package makes you feel lighter, not heavier.
In fact, you start to feel… invincible.
Contact Greater Talent Network, America's Leading Celebrity Speakers Bureau.