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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2005

Man caves: Where guys can be themselves

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tim Guitteau has a name for his "man cave": The Browns Lounge. Tim Guitteau has a name for his "man cave": The Browns Lounge.
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A man cave isn t just a basement; it s a state of mind.

Otherwise, Tim Guitteau s lower level would be just a nice room done in orange and brown with a really big TV.

Instead, it has a name The Browns Lounge and a specific purpose dedicated to the manly pursuit of football, for which an orange siren light has been installed in the middle of the ceiling to signal every score by the good guys.

And the shower down the hall? The Browns Shower, of course.

The tradition is to come in before a game and take a shower and get the impurities out, said Mr. Guitteau, 38.

Welcome to the man cave, a place where a man can be a man. It s a refuge from pastels and worries about good taste, where guys can go to do guy things watch sports, drink beer, work out, and belch with impunity.

Finally, a room in the house where even the wife acknowledges the man reigns supreme an essential as college football s bowl season gets underway next week.

This is his pit, said Melissa Ramirez, as she welcomed a visitor into the basement of her West Toledo home.

Steve Ramirez sits in front of his "TV cove." Steve Ramirez sits in front of his "TV cove."
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Here, her husband, Steve, 35, has created his own little sports bar.

There s an actual bar top that he rescued from Papa Joe s in Columbus before it burned down in the 90s and memorabilia from the Toledo Mud Hens, Ohio State University, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The bathroom is dedicated to Waite High School, his alma mater.

But the crown jewel is his TV cove, a collection of six televisions (ranging in size from 15 inches to 40 inches) stacked on top of one another. On Sundays, they carry six different football games at the same time so that he and his buddies can follow their favorite teams.

There are certain rules to hanging out in the man cave. Only one of the televisions gets to have the sound on, for example, and the Steelers always have priority.

Mrs. Ramirez is fair game for all this; she even participated in her husband s fantasy football league, for which a computer is stationed nearby to check stats. ( I picked team members based on how cute they are, she confessed.)

When she tried to tune one of the TVs to Desperate Housewives, however, she went too far. That got her booted upstairs.

Mr. Ramirez s man cave is kind of cramped and fairly young, but he has big dreams. When the couple got married in August, she registered for towels and other domestic items; he registered for a flat-screen television.

It never hurts to try, he said.

Even if women are allowed in them, man caves inherently are places for guys. They make the rules. They design the room. They put out the knick-knicks.

Bill Brannan relaxes in his "Clubhouse." Bill Brannan relaxes in his "Clubhouse."
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Bill Brannan, 69, a retired Swanton principal, knows this as he walks around his Clubhouse. It is dedicated to all things Cleveland Indians except for the single Cal Ripken, Jr. pennant on the wall.

This is my one concession to my wife, the Waterville man said.

Otherwise, it s an inner sanctum where he can watch Tribe games in his comfy chair and shout as loud as he wants, where he can display his pictures from spring training, posters of his favorite players, and even a wooden figurine of former Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel.

I always wanted someplace to put some of the things I d collected, Mr. Brannan said.

It s here that once a year he and his friends dressed in their team jerseys and armed with a special password to get in meet to discuss the team s prospects for the coming year and watch video highlights that Mr. Brannan put together.

Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard University government professor and author of the upcoming book, Manliness (Yale University Press), doesn t have a man cave, but he thinks he understands what s going on.

A man has a need to feel important, he said. I would say that a place in the basement is not enough.

For Mr. Guitteau, though, a 1,400-square-foot man cave was just right. It was his one chance to design a room in his Monclova Township house with his wife Michelle s permission.

She said, Tim, you get one room.

So he made the most of it, installing a 56-inch HDTV, a bar, a pop machine that dispenses all kinds of beverages, custom-made Cleveland Browns carpet, and lining the walls with fun pictures of past tailgates. The only thing his wife wouldn t let him bring down there is the giant inflatable Browns lineman that often ends up outside for now.

I d love to have that down here, he said.

But the room and its $35,000 price tag will do.

I designed and built everything, said Mr. Guitteau, 38, vice president for Brooks Insurance Agency who has a background in carpentry. This is what I pictured. This is what I always wanted.

Few guys could want more than what Mike Cousino and Jim Schuster have in their basements.

Both have giant spaces filled with comfy couches, pool tables, bars, exercise equipment, and gigantic televisions (Mr. Schuster s is a 106-inch projection-screen TV with Bose sound).

Both think of the rooms as beloved hideaways.

I wanted a place to go to get away from things, said Mr. Schuster, 50, of Perrysburg.

That means escaping into a scary movie or a sports game or even into the past. His man cave is sprinkled with reminders of his youth, like one of the first hockey sticks he ever used or the broken Mud Hens bats he collected, then rehabilitated and used, as a youngster.

I look down at those bats and it takes me back to those memories of what fun I used to have, he said.

Mr. Cousino, 40, made sure his basement was wide open, the better to do things rather than just watch. His Perrysburg Township basement is a haven for card playing, working out, tossing around a football, and playing ping pong or pinball.

I work hard, but when I come home I want to relax. I come down here every night, he said.

There s an elegance to the room that s rare for man caves a hand-painted mural of a vineyard adorns one of the walls and there s little else to clutter the walls. But never doubt one thing.

This is a man s space down here, said Mr. Cousino, who is an owner of Cousino Construction Co.

There s a ledge along one wall that is perfect for resting a drink and the bathroom includes a separate inner sanctum with a stand-up urinal.

The variety of things that can be found in a man cave is endless.

Fred Nowak, 59, of West Toledo, has all the necessities 55-inch television, fully stocked bar with customized coasters, fireplace, and a comfy chair. But in one corner he s also set up his Hi-Fi stereo, 8-track player, and lined the wall with oldies records. There s even his grandmother s restored Victrola.

There s something else different about the factory worker s man cave. It smells ... nice. Kind of like a spring meadow. What s up with that?

The gig was up for Mr. Nowak, who was home alone at the time. He admitted: That might ve been something my wife did before she left.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at: ryansmith@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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