Though I never figured the New York Daily News’ Mike Lupica to side with Michael Irvin, the former sneers in one paragraph that retiring NY Giants RB Tiki Barber (above) “clearly sees himself as the successor to Tim Russert,” but also “really does fancy himself as this era’s Frank Gifford.” So which is it? Are sportswriters turned authors of unreadable fiction the only persons allowed delusions of grandeur?

You know who doesn’t care about this? Any Giants fan and all Giants fans who will be cheering Brandon Jacobs next season the way they cheer Tiki, as long as they think Jacobs gives the Giants an even better chance to win it all. It doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate everything Barber has done for them, the way he has left it out on the field once he stopped leaving the ball on the ground. But fans will move on just as fast as Barber will. A quick stutter step to the outside and gone.

Do I think all this retirement talk from Barber – is he really disingenuous enough to think that anybody thinks this was some kind of crazy accident, John Branch of the New York Times writing down what he heard? – is some kind of distraction to the Giants? I don’t. Playing the way the Giants did against the Seahawks, now that was a distraction. Do people who follow his sport a lot more closely than I do have a right to think it was a distraction without being called “idiots”? Yeah, they do.

It is their right the way Barber thought it was his right to lay out Tom Coughlin after the Giants got outplayed by the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs last season. It was the last time he made headlines like this and made the whole thing about him.

Again: He is a great player. If he goes off and tries to be as big in television as the great Frank Gifford was, the Giants will miss him. Gifford quit young, too. But not until he played as much football as he had in him, not until he showed everybody how tough HE was by coming back – after a season away from the NFL – after Chuck Bednarik laid him out.

What Gifford never did as a player was take himself as seriously as Barber did this week. On Friday he said he was done talking about this. Said his critics could “bloviate” all they wanted. Look who’s talking.