One popular Internet fan theory suggests that Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) and Barney were best friends all along — instead of Ted and Marshall. Although most of Ted’s stories from college and beyond involve Marshall in some way, the theory posits that Ted is a very conceited person and is pretty judgemental of those around him. One recurring joke sees Marshall and Barney fight over who is really Ted’s best friend — which is quite funny, but it also seems like Ted might be overcompensating his friendship with both of them in hindsight.
It’s possible that Ted’s conceited nature meant that he was too proud to admit that he wasn’t actually as close to Marshall or Barney as he liked to think he was. Of course he was a part of the gang — otherwise 99% of the episodes wouldn’t exist — but maybe Ted wanted to make himself look cool in front of his children. There’s no hard evidence backing up this theory, except for the fact that Ted’s narration is notably unreliable throughout “How I Met Your Mother,” as he gets certain events mixed up or remembers them in a different light. He frequently remembers people’s names wrong or has forgotten them completely — like Katy Perry’s minor character who was only known as “Honey” rather than her actual name, or his ex-girlfriend “Blah Blah” (Abigail Spencer).
This would make the series a little bittersweet and almost a bit sad on Ted’s behalf, but it absolutely fits with who the hopeless romantic really is. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t change the polarizing ending, but it’s still pretty interesting to think about.