It’s getting darker earlier. There’s a hint of chill in the air [though possibly not today in Boston, where the Gods of Muggy are still pulling the strings]. It’s the last week of the regular baseball season. And the Red Sox and Yankees are tied for first place.

Goodbye, sleep.

My neighbors see what’s going on. They see me and ask things like, “How ’bout those Sox?” But they’re asking the way a neighbor asks things like, “Still plan on building that ferris wheel in your front yard?” or “Say, what are you doing with all that plutonium?” Things you ask more out of fear than general curiousity. They see that look in my eyes. They see the stockpiling of cheap beer and liquor. They see the tanks of propane — enough to keep the grill whistling long past the final out of the World Series.

More significantly, they see the monster. That thing inside of me that surfaces every year ’round this time. That loud, horrible, uncontrollable thing that I become when every game, every pitch, every deep long drive to left center has seven months of investment hanging on it. When every strike out could be the last one of the season, so you’d better make damn sure it’s not your bat doing it. Where everything else in my head packs up and moves a few steps to the right, because baseball will need a little extra space.

It’s the single most important week of the season. It’s must-win, take your vitamins, have an extra slab of meat with your eggs time. It’s coming back home to Fenway, where the grass is greener, the air just a bit sweeter, and everything just seems to go our way.

Ready? Alright.

Here we go.