||HEADLINE NEWS - Features
Tuesday - 12/19/2000
Tony Siragusa is never far away from the place where he saw his first glimpse of the National Football League. It became the standard that every stadium throughout his football career would stand up against. He says, “I envisioned all places would be like the Meadowlands, but then when I later went to Indianapolis to play with the Colts and saw the rest of the league’s stadiums, I realized they weren’t. I guess there is something about the place where you see your first pro football game. We used to sneak into the Meadowlands because we couldn’t afford to buy tickets. My uncle had season tickets, but not enough for all my friends, so it wasn’t any fun unless we all could go.”
Fifteen minutes away from New York City, and an even shorter distance to the Meadowlands in Kenilworth, New Jersey, is what life is about, according to Siragusa. “Kenilworth, my home, is a blue collar town, where everyone knows everyone and we all get along. Of course, it isn’t perfect, but what place is? Life there is simple and everyone looks out for each other,” Goose says.
Unfortunately for Tony, the Ravens play the Jets at PSINet Stadium and not at the Meadowlands, where he always looks forward to playing. “That was my biggest thing when I went to play at Pitt, coming home to play against Rutgers every other year at the Meadowlands. When I played for the Colts, I looked forward to it, because I knew I was coming home to play there at least once a year. I was right there in the end zone when the famous 'helicopter' hit took place in a game between the Jets and Dolphins. I can’t remember the players, but I remember the wide receiver, after catching the ball in the air, getting hit and then spinning around like a helicopter,” he says.
One week before the Ravens make their first playoff appearance in franchise history, and Tony’s third playoff try, the secret according to Tony lies within the relationships that have developed among this year’s Ravens team. “This team is a family. This team has molded and meshed like a small town. My hometown is where I can relate all of my experiences back to. When everybody is on the same page and close knit, that is when a team plays its best.”
The Ravens are playing their best. They have the longest current winning streak in the NFL, and are ranked number one defensively overall. Having reached their goal of clinching a playoff berth with a win two weeks ago against the Chargers, 24-3, the Ravens have earned an opportunity to play for a chance to go to, what the players call, 'The Show', Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa Bay, Florida. Ending the regular season on a positive note against the Jets is just as important as making it into the playoffs. He says, “It is no time to rest and get happy. We need to end strong going into the postseason because momentum is key.”
Oftentimes, Tony finds himself engaged in healthy competition with his teammates, similar to rivalries between brothers or neighborhood friends. “In the last game, I remember Ray (Lewis) coming back to the bench telling the defensive lineman to slow down because he wasn’t getting a chance to get to the plays fast enough to make the tackles. That is what happens with this defense...you better hurry up and make the play, because if you don’t one of the other guys will be there taking one of your tackles. I think other teams get freaked out because they don’t believe that we really aren’t competing against them, but against ourselves. That’s crazy.”
The crazy thing is what brings them closer as a defense and as a team. "The unselfishness of seeing another teammate rise to the challenge and make plays, in the long run, benefits the team. That is what a community is all about. People aren’t concerned with what they as individuals can earn, the most important thing is the group, the family or the team," Siragusa says.
Tony will tell you, “Wherever the team goes, each person will go.”