The Angels series is firmly behind us, a fleeting memory that passed by – as the song says – like a warm summer day. The Thundersticks lay in the trunks of Angel fans cars, as deflated as their World Series dreams. The Rally Monkeys, void of post-season magic, are just another stuffed animal relegated to a shelf to gather dust. The 100-game winners are all gone fishin’ or golfing or apple-picking or whatever else they do in October. The threat of Vladdy tearing a limb from someone in a Red Sox uni and sucking the marrow from the bone, gone and almost forgotten.

The ALCS will bring its own challenges and potential demons. Not pinstripes, not crazy Indians, not gnats, but a new set of issues to be dealt with. Friday night, the Red Sox take the field not beneath a blanket of stars and stadium lighting but in a dome. When they look up, they will not see the sky but will see a series of catwalks criss-crossing above. In rules that should never have to exist, some are in play, some are not. Is there any doubt that the baseball will find said catwalks during the ALCS and create controversy?

Physical deficiencies of the Trop aside, the Red Sox will find themselves facing a new breed of fans. A relatively new team with a history only of failure, who have adopted the cowbell as their talisman of success:

Yes, they love their cowbells at the Trop. Every time the Rays rallied … cowbells. Every time a Rays pitcher got to two strikes … cowbells.

That’s what you get when you stage three separate giveaways over the past two seasons totaling 30,000 cowbells.

A little contrived, much like the Thundersticks, but original. Doesn’t have the flair of say, Big Chief Boom-Boom , or our own K-Men, but it works for the Rays. And it’s gotta be homicide-inducing annoying when they really get going.

On to the games and the rivalry. As Red mentioned, dust-ups are nothing new between these teams and the bad blood is there, just waiting to boil over into a full-on Warriors event. That works for me, as my “there should be fights in all sports” mentality craves the violence. The most recent chapter in the rivalry was Coco Crisp charging the mound. Now, I’ve watched that clip more than the FBI has watched the Zapruder film, and I think there’s a little payback due. I’ve identified a triumvirate of douchebags that should watch their earflaps when the score gets out of hand. I take that back, Jonny Gomes will not be available for beaning, his .182 batting average kept him off the postseason roster. But cheap-shot artists Miss Crawford and Miss Iwamura, well, I wouldn’t want to be you guys at the plate if Manny Delcarmen is pitching late in the game with a six-run lead.

Tonight it begins. James Shields, who ignited the brawl by hitting Coco, gets the ball for the Rays. The Red Sox counter with Dice-K. And just like that we’re into it – the 2008 ALCS. Join Red and I right here for our new-and-improved live blogging debut.