On a cold, crisp Monday afternoon, hundreds of Boston faithful jammed the length of Yawkey Way, surrounding the barricaded intersection of Van Ness Street, where six Red Sox team buses promised to arrive. Their patience was rewarded with glimpses of stars like Curt Schilling, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Varitek unloading their bags, and David Ortiz speeding out in his gleaming customized SUV.
"We're here to welcome the champs," said 28-year-old Mustafa Meskania, who stood with nine fellow lab workers from Blue Cross Blue Shield. "It's so cool. That's why we're here. We're all here."
David Danning, 56, stood back from the crowd, wearing a windbreaker and a Red Sox hat, while wishing he "was a little taller" so he could see over the mass of people.
"I came down here because I'm a huge Red Sox fan," said Danning, a fan since 1974 and a native of California, who was sitting in the right-field bleachers in 1978 when Bucky Dent hit his home run. "Originally, I was thinking of going to the airport [to see the team arrive]. But I was thinking I was never going to -- if I even found out where it is -- I don't think I could get anywhere close."
"But then I read about this," he added. "I'll go to the Rolling Rally also tomorrow."
Monday's rally also served as an unplanned but legitimate excuse to reorder priorities.
Jessica Arnold and Emily Lapean, 19-year-old students at nearby Lesley College, reported that they were skipping Spanish class to cheer on the Sox.
"And tomorrow, we're going to skip English [for the parade]," said Arnold, who wore a shirt that read, "Got Papelbon?"
"We're going to be teachers and mold young minds," laughed Lapean, who wore a Dustin Pedroia jersey T-shirt, "and we're going to skip class!"
Together, they held a sign that read, "Lesley College girls love our Boston Boys."
"We went to the game where [the Red Sox] won the division, and we hung out and watched the Orioles beat the Yankees," Lapean said. "So since then, we've just been all about it. We've gone to Fenway every game that they've played. Just to ... be in the atmosphere and everything."
"Our room is decked out [with Red Sox paraphernalia]," Arnold said.
"There's no wall space left," Lapean said. "We have all these signs hanging up and everything. Our room is going to go up in flames."
"They're on our windows and everything," Arnold said.
Nearby, a group of six friends from Wentworth Institute of Technology and Nichols College awaited the Red Sox's convoy. Ryan Tessier, 18, and Luc Vu, 20, wore full-length red tube socks. Dave DeBellis, 20, wore an authentic Pedroia road jersey, recently bought from the Red Sox Souvenir Store just down the road.
"Absolutely love him," DeBellis said. "He's my favorite player on the team. Because he came from [Triple-A] Pawtucket and he just stayed here. He just dominated."
Jason Hill, 19, was asked what he hoped to see from his spot on Yawkey Way behind a police barricade.
"I want to see the trophy," Hill said. "I want to see a couple of trophies -- the MVP. [Mike] Lowell's going to be carrying it down like ... a little baby."
For Tessier, whose grandfather from Connecticut told him about the Red Sox's afternoon arrival to Fenway, it wasn't a hard decision to cheer on the champs.
"I don't care who we even see here," Tessier said. "It's just being here, listening to the fans, to the people, to the comments, everybody."
"Just the atmosphere," Hill said. "Everything about it."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.