One driveway, two rooting interests on Super Bowl Sunday

01/31/2012 12:00 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | When one family hung a New England Patriots banner outside their Jamesport home, their neighbors responded with a Giants banner.

When New England reached the Super Bowl in 2008, the Panciocco family hung a Patriots banner across part of its South Jamesport driveway.

Two days later, their banner had company.

Their next-door neighbors, the Lombardis, had hung a New York Giants banner across the other half of the driveway the two families share off Peconic Bay Boulevard. Now, four years later, the banners are back up.

For these two families, Sunday’s Super Bowl rivalry will hit extra close to home.

“New York and New England are very close,” said John Lombardi, who lives with his wife, Donna, and his youngest daughter Samantha. “But here, they’re even closer.”

Greg Panciocco’s love for New England sports — he likes the Red Sox, while Mr. Lombardi’s a Yankees fan — dates back to his time growing up just outside Foxborough, Mass., where the Patriots play their home games. He met his wife, Jenny, a Coram native, at college and moved to Long Island where they live with their son, Peter, daughter, Emma, and dog, Fenway.

The two families actually knew each other before they were neighbors, since Mr. Lombardi served with Ms. Panciocco’s father in the Suffolk County Police Department.

To say the Lombardis and the Pancioccos have been close neighbors for the past dozen years is a literal statement, too. All that separates their properties is a 10-foot-wide island at the end of their long, two-family driveway.

They live so close to each other, Sunday’s game is sure to take the losing family out of its comfort zone, as it did in 2008, when the Pancioccos quietly removed their Patriots banner the morning after the loss.

“We definitely took our lumps,” said Ms. Panciocco. “But they were gentle.”

The Lombardis joked this week that they couldn’t even find their neighbors in the days following the previous Giants-Pats Super Bowl.

“We didn’t see them for a couple weeks,” Ms. Lombardi recalled with a chuckle.

The Patriots banner didn’t find daylight again until last week, when the Pancioccos brought it out of hibernation in the back shed following New England’s 23-20 win over Baltimore in the AFC Championship game.

The Lombardis, who let their Giants banner fly proudly over the driveway for days following the 2008 Super Bowl win, once again waited a couple days to break it out from safekeeping inside their garage.

Since the banners have been hung back up, friends and neighbors have taken notice of the rivalry.

“People will stop and talk about it,” said Ms. Panciocco, who joked that visitors to her home are parking on her neighbor’s side of the driveway. “Everyone is having a lot of fun with it.”

On Sunday, the Lombardis will host a Super Bowl party at home, but they don’t expect to see their next-door neighbors there.

“They’re invited,” Mr. Lombardi said. “But Greg doesn’t want to listen to Giants fans all night.”

Instead, Mr. Panciocco said he’ll be watching the game with only his wife and kids by his side, a few walls away from their neighbors.

Both families say they’re approaching Sunday’s game with cautious optimism, but the Lombardis have one reason to believe their team will once again be hoisting the trophy that coincidentally bears their last name.

In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLII the Lombardis woke up one morning to find that an overnight windstorm had blown their banner down. They shrugged off any conspiracy theories, hung it back up and watched their team win a title.

This Monday, they once again had to hang their banner back up after it was blown down.

“It’s a good omen,” Ms. Lombardi said.

gparpan@timesreview.com

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