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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

This year, it appears to be a whole new ballgame

It's different this year. It certainly is.

The desperation is not there. The urgency is gone. Anger has yielded to satisfaction. The pathetic, ''How are they gonna blow it this time?" has been erased from the New England mind.

The Red Sox are defending world champions for the first time since 1919 and the Nation is just not quite as hungry anymore. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Fat and happy can be very satisfying. And struggling Sox ballplayers are no longer in danger of being publicly stoned at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

Watching the champs roll to another easy, 6-1 win over the Reds in Fenway/Pleasantville last night, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino admitted, ''We have some fans who have decided to cut us some slack. Some have come up and told me, 'It doesn't matter what you do now.' There's a little less intensity in some quarters of Red Sox Nation, but no less in our organization."

Fenway is a festival every game night. Pregame has a carnival feel. All this joy and satisfaction can't help but affect the players, the front office, the media, and the fans.

The Red Sox are operating in a Fever Pitch/Queer Eye/anything goes mode. Everyone and everything is welcome. The new management is in the ''yes" business and it wants to share Fenway with the world. There were no less than four worthy groups of people on the perimeter of the field during Sox batting practice last night. Hundreds of big-eyed folks, all wearing Sox garb, all breathless at the mere thought of standing on the sacred sod. It looked like a cast call for ''Ben-Hur" or ''Gandhi."

In the front office, everybody's wearing the bling. No one in the Sox organization will ever have trouble getting a date again. Just bring that paperweight-size championship ring to that high school reunion and you become Brad Pitt.

Even the media has gone soft. We are ultrapatient with Foulkie, Manny, Edgar, Millar, and anyone else who struggles. Who's a better guy than Alan Embree? Mark Bellhorn keeps his mouth shut and does his best. Dale Sveum? Give the man an honorary degree from the Bill James School of Base Running Smarts.

The clubhouse is Animal House. Terry Francona, rush chairman, damn glad to meet ya.

The Sox were their usual loose selves before taking on the Reds in the series finale. David Ortíz interrupted Francona's media session, walking into the corner office with a life-size cardboard cutout of himself selling a new ''Big Papi" sandwich. Kevin Millar sat in the dugout and did an interview with WEEI while he was being videotaped by a local TV station. Manny Ramírez asked a clubhouse worker for $1,000.

Then the Sox went out and kicked butt. Again. Just another night in paradise.

There's no way to quantify angst. We can't measure intensity in the stands or at home on NESN. But it's pretty clear there's a new sub-nation of nouveau fans who came on board last October. They talk on cellphones during the game and cheer at the wrong times. The old Sox lifers continue to follow their team, but some will admit that there is a difference.

''I'm satisfied, a little complacent," admitted David Favata, of Merrimack, N.H., who had tickets in the third base boxes. ''Maybe it's just because we're ahead of the Yankees."

''It seems to me like he's a little less hard on the Sox," said David's wife, Kristen. ''He's not as intense as he was. And our two kids don't care as much. They were fanatics last year."

Asked to speculate on life after winning, the estimable David Halberstam, a baseball guy and a foot soldier in the civil rights movement, predicted, ''It will certainly change things. It will fragment. With the civil rights movement, all these great black leaders were pulled together and were loyal to each other as they were ascending, struggling against the white supremacists. The moment they won, everything fragmented because it went on to individual ambition. There's always a difference in a revolution. When you finally get it, the strength that bonds you together changes and you put private ambition over group ambition, and that's something the Red Sox will have to think about. Will success and winning spoil the unique sense of community and passion and this mystique of being close but never quite getting there?"

Jason Wolfe, WEEI's director of programming and operations, disputed the notion somewhat, saying, ''At the beginning there was an overflow of celebration. There was no outrage when Pedro [Martínez] left and people weren't questioning if [David] Wells was a good move. People were kind of OK with everything that happened. But now everything is back to the way it was."

''It's a different flavor of emotion," added Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg. ''You have excitement without the nagging anxiety. We are no longer burdened by that depressing weight."

The wait is over. The weight is gone. The Red Sox are forever changed and the same goes for all of us. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Just different.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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