Some, but not all, who underwent business as usual in the stadium's shadows seemed willing to admit to the obvious paradox: Fenway might not host the Red Sox again in 2007.
"I'm pretty confident myself," said Gary Reynolds, a real estate developer who shot pool at Boston Billiard Club on Brookline Avenue. "The Red Sox have had a great year. They need to win. [Josh] Beckett needs to win tomorrow. I'm pretty confident he will."
"We've got them right where we want them," said club manager David Eastman.
Eastman was only joking. If the fans inside the Billiard Club seemed unusually optimistic about the Red Sox's American League Championship Series chances on Wednesday, they were not naive.
Dr. William Diamond of Boston sat on a bar stool, holding a pool cue while taking a break from his afternoon game. He slowly shook his head, and with it the Boston "B" cap perched on top.
"Whether we beat them before, it's unimportant," Diamond said. "What we're dealing with is a team that demolished the Yankees. That gives them a lot of credit. We had a chance in the second game, and the other players didn't come forth. You can't win it with two players. You can't put that pressure on [David] Ortiz and Manny [Ramirez] all the time."
"You're always looking for miracles," he added. "It doesn't matter. You can hope and wish. But reality is a whole different world. The Indians are going to win."
Bartender Katlyn Breen also wasn't willing to chalk up victory to a Red Sox team that is down, 3-1, to Cleveland.
"I'm holding my breath and my knuckles are white," Breen said. "I'd like to say Sox in seven."
For Eastman, who wears a giant "Red Sox World Champions" logo tattoo on his right biceps -- he got it in 2004, but not, as he sometimes tells friends, when the Red Sox were down, 3-0, to the Yankees -- any such negativity is shortsighted. Eastman said he believed the Sox would win when they were down in 2004.
"My position was," said Eastman, "and my position now is, everyone thinks you're knocked out because somebody just won three out of four games. That's baseball. People win three out of four all the time. The Kansas City Royals will win three out of four. And that's what happens in baseball. Somebody gets lucky for a couple games in a row, or hot, or both, and that's what happened with Cleveland. They got lucky one game, or two games, and they got hot in the others."
Said Reynolds, "There's no reason not to be confident in the Red Sox right now."
Down the street on Yawkey Way, a man gazed up at Fenway's exterior walls as he passed. He stopped and posed while friends took pictures.
Joaquin Soto was dressed head-to-toe in Boston Celtics gear, signaling a change, or perhaps a softening, in the public opinion of local sports fans. Maybe Red Sox fans are less worried when they have other championship contenders to cheer for?
"It's OK," said Soto, who became a Boston fan before returning from the Hub to his native Maracaibo, Venezuela, in 1993. "They will win here in Boston. The Red Sox have a better team than Cleveland."
An initial "How's business?" question, meanwhile, elicited a different kind of response from Brian Maurer of the Red Sox's official souvenir store on Yawkey Way.
"Dead," Maurer responded. "Looks a little ghostly now, all of a sudden."
"It's slowed down a little bit, obviously," he added. "Fans are still coping with the loss, as well as just trying to gain some hope for the next couple of games. I don't believe anyone believes it's over, especially after '04."
Things are different now, after the World Series win of 2004. Then, as now, little seemed beyond the reach of possibility.
"It's really interesting to see how the mentality of Red Sox fans has changed over the course of three years," Maurer said.
Even non-Sox fans are believing. Inside Gold's Gym on Lansdowne Street, Boston University student Rob Looloian took a break from pulling weights on the row machine.
"It's tough, but you know what [the Sox] did a few years ago," said Looloian, whose Phillies were swept from the first round by World Series-bound Rockies. "They came back from 3-0. So I mean, no, I think they can come back."
Gym employee Neil Woodworth was asked if he noticed a difference in the workout habits of panic-stricken Sox fans. Were the team's troubles making it hard to lift?
"Not for me, personally," Woodworth said. "I don't think for anyone else, either."
"He's not a Red Sox fan," deadpanned fellow employee Jeff Cullen.
On Woodworth's forearm was a Red Sox tattoo; this one, a Boston "B," was almost half a foot wide.
No, fans were not panicking around Fenway Park on Wednesday afternoon. It was an odd scene for a city that might not see baseball again this season.
"Certainly," said Maurer of the Souvenir Store, "Red Sox fans are not going to say die until they're dead."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.