No, no, I'm not talking about some of Bobby Valentine's curious managerial tactics during his first half-dozen games as Red Sox manager.
I'm referring to the pageantry and color and all-around good feelings of a traditional home opener. You know, the bunting. Those festive, colorful decorations that look like Fourth of July picnic tablecloths draped over the short walls surrounding the field.
Terry Cashman has probably written a couple of songs about bunting, no doubt rhyming it with ... bunting. Ken Burns may give it an inning or two someday, presumably before he gets around to acknowledging the 2005 White Sox.
Right, that kind of bunting. So you can stop hiding, Shoppach. He's not asking you to drop one down again.
So we've covered the bunting. What else is there to like about a home opener? Oh, nothing more than just about everything. Even if the weather leans more toward January than July, it's all good. It's baseball, it's back, and it's the surest sign of all that barbecues in the backyard and Saturdays on the shore aren't so far away.
I imagine Red Sox fans would nod in nearly unanimous agreement that no home opener will ever top 2005. While it's hard to believe the ring ceremony that was awaited for generations happened seven years ago, the images of that day remain as sharp and wonderful in our minds as they were the day they were made.
The appreciative roars for Dave Roberts and Derek Lowe, who had moved on to other teams but not from their time in Boston. Three strikes from Russell and Orr and Bruschi. The perception-altering good humor of Mariano Rivera. And of course, Johnny Pesky greeting a certain returning relief pitcher with the mightiest hug he could muster and six words caught for posterity by NESN's microphones: "Leskanic, you son of a ..."
While 2005 appropriately began as a celebration of what happened the previous autumn, these current Red Sox are desperate to distance themselves from last season's shocking fall from grace, not to mention that seemingly certain spot in the American League postseason. I don't know whether you've heard, but the Red Sox had a bit of a rough September, followed that up with a tumultuous winter, and judging by their 6.40 team earned run average, .642 OPS, and .167 winning percentage through six games, aren't exactly doing a swell job of starting anew.
For a franchise that has spent a lot of words over the winter and through spring training telling us how they're putting September behind them, they've done one hell of a job of reminding us of nothing but September so far. And so there could be a unusual vibe at Fenway Park Friday afternoon when they lug that 1-5 record -- and yes, 8-25 mark since last Sept. 1 if you want to play that masochistic game -- onto the Fenway lawn for the first time this season.
The mood of the crowd Friday is going to be fascinating. Is there a chance that the Red Sox will actually get booed at their home opener? Probably not as a whole -- as of 10 p.m. Thursday, 54 percent of respondents to a "Boo or Cheer'' thread and poll on Sons of Sam Horn said they would choose the latter, and other options checked in above "yes."
But on a case-by-case basis, sure, some guys are going to hear it. Josh Beckett, who fairly or not seems to be perceived as the face of the flop at least among players still on the roster, is probably lucky he'll be warming up in the bullpen during the player introductions. (Think he's traded in his familiar "Lone Star Beer'' t-shirt for a nice, crisp "Stitches for snitches'' tee?)
There could be some boos amid the familiar salutations of "Youuuuukk'' for the .100-hitting third baseman. And Larry Lucchino, who can't seem to grasp that the majority of fans are going to side with two-time World Series winner Terry Francona, should probably stay behind the curtain.
The ideal scenario, at least for Red Sox fans, is that Beckett pitches as well in his second start this year as he did last year, when he spun an eight-inning, two-hit, 10-strikeout gem against the Yankees. Likability is tied to results more than anything else, and a win Friday against daunting David Price and the Rays would be a significant step for Beckett in repairing his image and beginning to cure the 2011 hangover that still plagues this team.
But just in case, during the festivities, they should probably try to remind us of that day seven years ago as much as possible. Maybe a star from the 2004 champs will throw out the first pitch.
(I vote for Pedro.)
If so, let's hope it's a quick delivery. You know, before Valentine can send someone to the plate to try to bunt it.
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.