ROTTERDAM — Every Sunday during the NFL season, there is only one place to find 11-year-old Lucas Giardono and 14-year-old Nick Giardono — their self-created ‘NFL Man Cave’ in the basement of their Rotterdam home.
This Sunday will be no different, as the Giardono brothers and several of their friends will watch Super Bowl LIV between the Chiefs and 49ers in style. What started as a small project has become the envy of their friends in the Mohonasen Central School District, as NFL memorabilia, cards, helmets, posters and flags they’ve collected cover their basement’s walls.
Also, just as important as anything else: There are three TVs.
“We needed to watch football somewhere with all of our friends,” explained Lucas, a sixth-grader at Draper Middle School.
For two brothers who cheer for two different teams — Lucas is a Panthers fan and Nick roots for the Raiders — multiple TVs were a must, but the basement had humble beginnings.
PETER R. BARBER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
One of three flat screens in the Giardono basement filled with NFL memorabelia Thursday, January 30, 2020.
“It was just plain walls and one TV,” Nick, a Mohonasen High School freshman, said.
Then the work began — first a second TV, then an extra couch into the basement before mom Tiffany arrived home one day.
With the basics in place, it was time to decorate.
“We just had the idea and then we started putting things up,” Lucas said. “After that, we told her ‘Come down, take a look.'”
Mom was . . . a bit nervous.
“Every day, I kept on hearing that drill down there and I never knew what I was going to walk down to, but I’m impressed with it,” Tiffany said.
Currently, the centerpiece of the man cave is a framed, signed college jersey of Christian McCaffrey, now a running back for the Panthers.
Many of the cave’s embellishments arrived as Christmas gifts, including Lucas’ prized McCaffrey jersey.
“I asked for it and I just went right to it [Christmas morning],” Lucas said. “I knew what it was. I just wanted to see it so bad.”
The two brothers invite several friends over each Sunday to watch games, eyes glued to TVs that show the NFL RedZone channel and other games.
“Our friends want to hang out here on Sundays,” Nick said. “We have three TVs, we can watch most of the games.”
It can create for some lively reactions each Sunday afternoon.
“It can get quite loud, a little rowdy, but they have a good time down here,” Tiffany said. “Basically, I feed them and make sure they’re having a good time.”
PETER R. BARBER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Lucas Giardono, 11, and his brother Nick Giardono, 14, in front of their respective flat screens where they watch football in their basement filled with NFL memorabelia Thursday, January 30, 2020.
Their NFL passion isn’t limited to Sunday afternoons, as both have reached out to franchises for memorabilia.
Nick wrote letters to several NFL teams and it’s paid off. Once, he even received a response from legendary quarterback Peyton Manning prior to his retirement.
“That was several years ago,” Nick said. “I kept the letters.”
Now, his efforts are primarily through social media.
“On Instagram, I’ve messaged some of the players,” Nick said. “I send messages after the game and they’ve responded.”
He’s also had a live conversation with his favorite player.
“I’ve been on live video with [Raiders defensive end] Maxx Crosby and his brother for a few minutes,” Nick said. “I was surprised. It was cool.”
The duo isn’t limited to just football viewing.
Nick played JV soccer for the Mighty Warriors and will try out for JV baseball this spring. Lucas will again play for Rotterdam/Carman Little League, and he’ll try out for a travel squad.
While the favorite teams of the Giardono brothers aren’t playing this Sunday, the boys do agree on which team will win Super Bowl LIV. Nick has the 49ers by 10 points, and Lucas sees a closer game with the 49ers winning by four.
Either way, it will be several fun hours spent with friends in their ‘NFL Man Cave.’