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The Chicago Bears hadn't even begun their season as defending NFC champions last Sunday, and already Roy Taylor had broken one of the two rules of his basement.
Two hours before kickoff, before any of the guests had arrived, Taylor was caught in direct violation of Rule No. 2, which forbids watching the archrival Green Bay Packers on his 52-inch HDTV.
Taylor, clad in a throwback Brian Piccolo jersey, shrugged off the offense with a smile. After all, Rule No. 1, which forbids rooting for the Packers in the basement, remained intact.
With the exception of the Bears games he attended, Taylor watched every game last season from the room he's dubbed "Bears History Bar"--a 500-square-foot Bears fantasyland that anchors his home in the western suburb of Yorkville.
If Taylor is going to be lured out of his cozy basement this year, "it has to be an important reason," he said.
While Taylor, who runs bearshistory.com, has a formal name for his personal Bears haunt, others refer to their sports dens as mancaves, Bearadise or in the case of one sports fan RedEye interviewed, the "Madhouse."
No matter what the name, these spaces are all about the guys and their games.
As the Bears prepare for their first home game Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, the sports fans RedEye spoke to listed a variety of ways they plan to settle in for the NFL season: in packed sports bars, at friends' houses, alone and undisturbed or holed up in the basement.
Taylor, 36, prefers to watch his team from a comfortable couch surrounded by enough Bears memorabilia to make the "Saturday Night Live" Superfans choke on their brats.
On the walls are framed magazines, posters, pictures and newspaper clippings. In the low ceiling are 12 tiny dents left by Taylor's wedding band as he pounded his fist during Devin Hester's touchdown run on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI. Behind the bar is a collection of Bears beer mugs and a streamer from last season's NFC Championship postgame celebration. Even the basement bathroom contains a few Bears posters.
Taylor's wife approves of the Bear-ified basement.
"It's not tacky. It feels like part of our house," Michelle Taylor said of the space. "Obviously I wouldn't want it throughout the house, but who would?"
The mancave is especially important for couples who are sharing space, interior designer Ken Walter said.
"It ends up being a repository for stuff that you love but someone else in your house doesn't want you to have in the family room or library or living room," said Walter, owner of Gray & Walter Associates, which has offices downtown and in Wilmette.
There is no one item that makes the space, Walter said. Rather, the goal is to decorate with personal effects that reflect individual interests.
Of course, no sports zone is complete without a TV to catch every crucial play.
At Abt Electronics, a Glenview-based appliance and electronics outfitter, sales manager Steve Shapiro said purchases of big-screen TVs, not surprisingly, swelled in the past six to eight weeks as the city geared up for football season.
"What's a Bears room if you can't watch?" he said.
Paul Clavijo's Bears zone--the basement family room, decked out with a poster-size season schedule on one wall and a team flag on another--may seem modest compared to Taylor's. But that doesn't mean Clavijo is any less serious about his game-watching.
The 35-year-old Chicago police officer, who lives in Edgebrook, strictly enforces who is allowed in his basement during games. Clavijo's two brothers, father and daughter are in. His mother--"she'll keep interrupting with food"--and his fiance--"I love her, but she's not allowed." Cell phone calls are banned during play and beer commercials.
But if there ever was a Bearadise for rabid fans, Steve and Rosemary Collins' detached garage in Westmont may be it.
The 672-square-foot garage, which the couple converted in 2000, holds four TVs, a pool table, a foosball table, a bar, a kegerator (a refrigerator for kegs) and a massive collection of sports memorabilia. Guests--be they men, women or dogs--can take in the action from one of two benches, the couch, the loveseat or one of the chairs at a large dining table near the front of the sprawling space.
"Steve and Rosemary's Madhouse," as they call it, has all the trappings of a comfortable Bears sports bar, with one bladder-busting exception--no plumbing.
But Steve, 49, and Rosemary, 52, aren't about to let one flaw compromise their sports paradise. With as many as 80 guests on hand for big games, it is a problem they address practically and economically: They rent a portable toilet.

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