The Tony Siragusa Show

He's enormously entertaining, immensely frank, hugely ambitious. He's the Goose, and he's bigger than ever.

Cover Story

September 09, 2001|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff

Your first interview with the next Artie Donovan, with the newest anointed working-class hero of Baltimore sports, begins with a phone call at 11 at night from Ravens PR guru Kevin Byrne.

"Goose will meet you at 10 tomorrow morning," says Byrne, which turns out to be the good news.

The bad news? "He'll meet you at Tiffany's," Byrne continues.

Tiffany's, it turns out, is a restaurant co-owned by Ravens nose tackle Tony "Goose" Siragusa. It also happens to be in the town of Pine Brook in north-central New Jersey, which happens to be at least a three-hour ride from Baltimore -- unless, that is, you get sucked into the angry maw of rush-hour traffic headed into New York, in which case they may never find your body again.

So you get up at dawn the next morning and go hurtling up I-95 to the Jersey Turnpike, shaking like a cement mixer from four cups of rest-stop coffee. Somewhere around Newark, you peel off onto 280 west and take it all the way to the end and finally you arrive at Tiffany's, which proves to be one of those glitzy sports bars determined to prove it's a serious eatery as well, sort of an upscale Ruby Tuesday, only with even more polished teakwood and recessed TVs and sports memorabilia on the walls.

Ten o'clock comes: no Goose. Ten-thirty comes and you're still drumming your fingers on the bar, nursing a Diet Coke.

Finally, at 11:15, the big man, all 6 feet 3 and 340 pounds of him, appears. And for the next few hours, you get a sense of what life for the brash, charismatic Tony Siragusa has been like since the Ravens beat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl last winter and he became a gen-u-ine national media sensation.

In between bantering with the waitresses -- "I like your hair. No, really. Don't you like her hair?" -- and schmoozing the lunch crowd, he's fielding one cell phone call after another, which, judging by the conversation on Siragusa's end are business-related.

In the midst of all this, a camera crew is filming him for the just-completed HBO series Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Baltimore Ravens, and he sits for a 45-minute interview and delivers the funniest, most profane rant you've ever heard about training camp, at this point still a couple weeks away: "It's definitely a pain in the a--. ... I don't know, maybe Knute Rockne decided this was the way to win. I think we should all play Sega or something."

"When Tony walks in the door," says Tiffany's manager Matt Kaup, "he's always the focus of attention."

"Off the field," says Siragusa's best friend on the Ravens, defensive end Rob Burnett, "Goose is almost a rock star."

Even while eating lunch at the bar -- right now he's inhaling an order of baby-back ribs, part of the high-protein, low-fat diet he goes on each year before training camp that makes him absolutely miserable -- the Goose's hyper-celebrity affords him no rest.

A 50-ish woman named Arleen from Parsippany approaches with her husband, Steve.

Arleen wants to see Siragusa's Super Bowl ring. The ring happens to be in Siragusa's jeans pocket at the moment to protect it from rib sauce. But he dutifully fishes it out.

Arleen is dazzled. The ring is the size of a doorstop: bright gold, inlaid with glittering diamonds. There are pimps walking around with more understated jewelry.

Arleen announces that she's a New York Giants fan -- Giants Stadium is 20 minutes east of here and if you don't worship the Giants in these parts, they will break your kneecaps.

As she stares at his ring, the irrepressible Siragusa feels the urge -- no, the overwhelming need -- to have some fun at this poor woman's expense.

"The Giants got one, too," he says of the ring. "I think they got it at a Taco Bell or something."

Everyone at the bar breaks up. So do Arleen and Steve.

"With a chalupa, right?" says another guy, playing along.

Then Goose smiles and tells Arleen: "Nah, I'm a Giants fan myself," explaining that he grew up not too far away in Kenilworth, where Sunday afternoons in the fall in the blue-collar Siragusa household revolved around what time the local gridiron heroes came on TV.

Arleen goes away happy. Before someone else comes up to him, you whip a tape recorder under his chin and bring up this business of him being the reincarnation of former Colts star Artie Donovan, the newest salt-of-the-earth hero for a gritty, unpretentious town mad for football once again.

The Goose's face softens and he nods.

"I think there's a reason people associate me with Artie Donovan," he begins. "Artie Donovan, straight out, tells it like it is. He doesn't pull any punches, he's a normal guy. You can sit down and have a beer with him.

"If I were to look at Artie and see what similarities we have, I'm as blue-collar as you're going to get. I'm a jeans guy. I like the fun things and stuff. But I never forgot where I came from, who I am."

Which is a good thing, you tell him.

Because here come Arleen and Steve again.

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