When Bert Bennett and his wife, Dara, were searching for a home in Hampton Bays, there was one must-have at the top of his list.A man cave.
The finished basement in the Bennett household is far from the average masculine bonus room, however. It’s less cave and more shrine, and the subject of worship is the New York Giants.
Bert Bennett has adorned nearly every square inch of wall space, and much of the floor as well, with various Big Blue memorabilia that spans more than 60 years. From vintage stadium seats, to a life-size cardboard cutout of current quarterback Eli Manning, to a handful of autographed framed photos, bobble-head dolls, jerseys, helmets, books, throw blankets—and, of course, a comfortable couch and big-screen TV—Bennett has it all.
The Hampton Bays resident, who grew up in Sag Harbor and bought his current home in 2011, has become a “pseudo-celebrity,” as he describes it, among the Big Blue faithful, and his fervent support of the team caught the attention of the Giants organization via social media, which led to a feature segment on Bennett and his man cave, filmed by the Giants organization on Monday, April 13, for Giants.com and Giants Access Blue. Bennett is also a regular contributor on the Gameface Radio Show on CBS Sports Radio on Sundays at 9 a.m. and also on 940 WINE.
Bennett is the kind of guy who could answer any Giants trivia question, easily. He rattles off the names of Big Blue players, past and present, as if they are family members, rarely pausing to clarify who they are or when they played. Not surprisingly, he adheres to certain superstitions—he admits to switching hats during a game, if the first hat isn’t “working.”
There are two types of people in the world—those who would nod slowly at every one of Bennett’s superstitions and rituals, who would not question his use of the word “we” when speaking about the Giants, and those who would simply be baffled by such extreme levels of obsession.
Bennett’s way of describing it to the latter group boils down to one word: family.
“It started with my father,” Bennett said while sitting on the couch in his man cave, clutching a plush mini Giants football. “We had one TV in our house, and he was a big Giants fan, so we watched the games together. It was a father/son thing.”
Bennett’s father, also named Bert, died in 2004 and the younger Bennett said his man cave is as much as a tribute to his late father as it is to the football team they both love. It has taken the younger Bennett, who’s 45, about 20 years to accumulate all of the items in his man cave.
“He always talked about having a room like this,” Bennett said. “So, it’s sort of a tribute to him.”
Bennett had the good fortune of marrying into a family that shares his passion for the Giants. His father-in-law, Jack Kampf, has been a season ticket holder since the 1950s. Bennett also attends every Giants home game, and watches every road game either in his man cave or at his in-laws’ home.
“The joke is people will say I married her for the Giants tickets,” Bennett said with a laugh. “Even my father-in-law will say, ‘Hey, I know she’s a pain, but they’re five rows behind the Giants bench.’”
Dara is supportive, of course, even as the Giants gear threatens to overtake the rest of their finished basement. Their daughters—Cassidy, 15, and Sydney, 14—have followed suit as well. Sydney’s loyalties were secured after she met punter Steve Weatherford, an experience that she admits brought her to tears.
“That was her man,” her father said. “He’s in every fitness magazine; he’s body beautiful. So I thanked him because she was thinking about being a Cowboys fan until she saw him.”
Cassidy’s favorite player is Eli Manning, and she’s eagerly anticipating her first trip to Giants Stadium, which her father promises will be next season.
Passing down the family tradition to his children is not just important to Bennett—it is at the heart of why a football team means so much to him. When asked what items in the room mean the most to him, the first thing he points to is an old Giants sweater that hangs across the back of one of the red stadium chairs. Bennett purchased the sweater for his father in 1986, the season that the Giants won Super Bowl XXI.
“It comes down to family,” Bennett said. “That’s really what it’s all about. It’s about my dad, it’s about a nostalgic look at my youth growing up with him. It was something that was ours, and it became my girls’ and my in-laws’, who I adore, and my friends who I call family.
“I could never really explain it to someone who just doesn’t get it,” he added.
Bennett might have some explaining to do to his wife if his homage to the Giants extends any further into unoccupied territory, which at this point seems like an inevitability. Bennett is also a Yankees fan, but there is scarcely any evidence of that among the sea of blue and red, save for a small decal of Yankee Stadium on a wall.
There is one prominently displayed piece of non-Giants football memorabilia, however: a photo of Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood missing the 47-yard field goal that allowed the Giants to win the Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991.
The photo is autographed by Norwood.
“I tweeted him to let him know,” Bennett said with a smile. “I said, ‘thanks.’ He tweeted back ‘You’re welcome.’”
The video feature on Bennett’s Giants man cave will be available for viewing at Giants.com in about a month.