Someone funny happened on the way to the big game
By GARY SHELTON
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001
Good evening, everyone. Everybody having a good time? Anyone here from Jersey? Yeah. My name is Tony Siragusa, and I'm from Kenilworth. Thank you. How Italian is Kenilworth? Every Sunday morning, a mother walks out on her porch and yells "Anthony" and about 35 kids come running. Bada-bing. Is my neighborhood like the Sopranos? Pretty much everyone has been arrested once or twice. Ba-dump.
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The next commissioner of the National Football League is on stage now, and the first concern is this: Will it hold him?
Siragusa, all of him, has taken over the Super Bowl, all of it, and thank goodness for it. He is a stand-up comic, jabbing and joking, using the glittering surroundings as little more than material. He has, for want of a better word, goosed this solemn, self-important event called the Super Bowl. This is the guy telling a league to lighten up?
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"Tony Siragusa," said Qadry Ismail, "is the Godfather meets the Sopranos with a little bit of When Harry Met Sally mixed in."
This is the essence of Siragusa, the man who ate Art Donovan. He is bold and bawdy, wild and wacky, and bless him for all of it. Other players have filled the interview sessions this week, talking about their favorite draw plays and whether the off-guard can get to the defensive end on the trap play. Siragusa? He's the guy who grabbed the head of a Japanese reporter, twisted it, and planted a extra wet kiss from his extra large lips on the poor man's cheek.
He is 342 pounds (at least) of belly laugh, and day after day, he has worked the room like a stand-up comedian, yuck chasing yuck. And, hey, don't forget to tip your waitresses.
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I work out. Burgers. I lift burgers. ... Do I ever have trouble getting my helmet on? No, but sometimes I have to grease the earflaps. ... I'm a little upset we're wearing white. I wanted to wear purple, because it shows off my abs. Hey, they're in there somewhere, underneath all this muscle. ... Our plan is that Sam Adams and I eat as much as possible, and get as bloated as we can, and Ray Lewis can hide behind us. ... When my mother called and told me I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I said "The swimsuit issue?" ... One of the ways I get ready for a game is to roll in corn oil. ... I think I'm sexy, but you don't have to come over here and tongue-kiss me.
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And on it goes. He is the guy reminding the Japanese reporter that "over here, we read left to right." He chides one reporter for a squeaky voice, then later tries to find him. "Hey," he says, "what happened to Minnie Mouse?"
The laughs keep going, and Siragusa keeps acting the part of the cartoon. But here's the secret. When it comes to playing the game, Siragusa is one mother of a Goose. This is the idea behind the Ravens' monstrous defense. Siragusa and Adams break huddle, and they stand hip to hip, and they block out the sun. Then the snap comes, and they wade through the line -- John Candy and Chris Farley at the beach -- occupying as much space, and as many blockers, as possible. Imagine the poor running back, trying to cut between the guts, when Ray Lewis storms into the picture. Which is why few people run against the Ravens, and no one runs very far.
Three-forty-two? Hah. "He'd have to amputate body parts to get to 342," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. And even Shannon Sharpe, Siragusa's teammate, estimates his real weight hovers between 355 and 400.
It has worked well enough to make the Ravens comparable to every defense that has played in the league, a notion that Siragusa devours. Yeah, he'll grant you the Bears in '85. That was a good defense. But the old Steeler teams? "I don't remember the Steelers," Siragusa said. "I was a sperm back then."
He is strong, and he is tough. Against the Titans this season, Siragusa bruised his spinal cord, which left his arms and legs numb. He was taken to the local hospital. He returned in the second half.
Rumor is, he did not like the food.
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Glenn Parker is a wine connoisseur? That's tremendous. I can't believe you guys fell for that. The only wine he knows is Boone's Farm. ... What's that? Michael Strahan said he's found chicken bones on the field after we played. Strahan doesn't know the difference between human bones and chicken bones. Those are quarterback's bones. ... I used to run with Keith Hamilton. He's not that smart. ... When Shannon Sharpe first came on the team, he reminded me of Mr. Ed, the way his mouth moves. ... Do teams take on the personalities of their coaches? I hope not, because Brian Billick has no personality whatsoever.
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Go beneath the humor to the real Siragusa, and you will find ... more humor and jokes. But beneath that, you will find a grumpy old man.
He is lighter this week. Ten thousand dollars' worth. That was the weight of the fine for falling on Rich Gannon, like the Hindenburg falling on a kitten, in the AFC title game.
"I don't think I would have been fined if he wasn't hurt," Siragusa said. "I don't think I would have been fined if I weighed 240, or if it wasn't the Raiders, or if it wasn't a high-profile game. I think the offensive lineman should have been the one fined for letting me back there.
"It's a shame. They train us all year to go in there and hit people and be aggressive. They program us to kill the quarterback. They have T-shirts that say "Sackmaster' and "Quarterback killer.' Then they fine you. You've got a guy playing quarterback for the toughest team in football, and you fall on him, and he cries."
Siragusa shakes his massive head, then he laughs again, and he moves on to his next victim, his next joke, the next chapter in his schtick.
Soon, it will be game time. Think of Tiki Barber as veal.
Hey, a man's gotta eat.
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