Thursday, October 26, 2006

Catching Up with the Barber Twins [John Branch]

John Branch, New York Times -

Dawn had not arrived, but Tiki and Ronde Barber, twin stars of the N.F.L., had been at the Fox News studios in Midtown Manhattan for hours. Ronde — the one in the crisp suit without the perfectly placed pocket square — stood outside the green room.
A woman approached, gave a kiss and began talking to him as if they were old friends.
“I’m Ronde,” he said, politely interrupting. He had never seen her before.
“No, you’re not,” she said. “You’re Tiki.”
Tiki and Ronde. All famous pairs have an order to their names, and that is theirs, though Ronde is seven minutes older. The two were indistinguishable for much of their lives, and even at 31, they sometimes confuse even themselves.
On air at “Fox & Friends,” Tiki halted last week as he said something about the two of them on the morning news program that he is a co-host for on Tuesdays. Ronde had joined him as a co-host that day.
“Did you hear that?” he asked. “I almost said, ‘Tiki and I.’ That is really weird.”
They slept in the same bedroom growing up in Roanoke, Va., and again for two years at the University of Virginia. They shared an apartment after that. Rarely was one Barber without the other. Even girlfriends looked to their earrings to tell them apart: a hoop for Tiki, a round stud for Ronde.
But they are, by comparison, much different now, so different that they can no longer imagine living the other’s life.
The random selection of the N.F.L. draft spun them in opposite directions in 1997: Tiki to New York City, Ronde to Tampa, Fla. They unwittingly became a social experiment about the effects of nature versus nurture.
In this case, nurture won.
“The hard thing to imagine is what if Tiki landed in Tampa and I landed in New York?” Ronde said. “We have similar personalities. Would I be doing all the things he does? Would he be living a life like mine? That’s what I always think about.”
He shrugged, as if giving up on an impossible riddle.
“It boggles,” he said.
Tiki became a Pro Bowl running back for the Giants and leads the N.F.L. in rushing this season. He lives with his wife, Ginny, and their two young sons in an Upper East Side condominium, a home shared with Ginny’s parents. Tiki is an emerging media personality and a friend of many New York power brokers. He plans to retire at season’s end to pursue business opportunities. He is often seen at charity events or on television, wearing an Italian suit.
Ronde became a Pro Bowl defensive back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns on Sunday in a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He lives with his wife, Claudia, and their two young daughters in a 7,100-square-foot house that sits by a lake, a home shared with a room-sized golf simulator, a home theater and six cars. Ronde does some radio and television work and plans to play several more seasons. He often can be found on a golf course or on a fishing boat. For him, the first name in style is Tommy Bahama.