BOSTON -- Once it was about beanballs and brushbacks, about Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson. Or Bill Lee and Graig Nettles. Or to go way back, Thad Tillotson and Jim Lonborg.
Prefer a more recent vintage? How about Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez? And then there was Don Zimmer and Pedro Martinez, just this side of absurd.
It was honest-to-goodness drama, with a side of hate. Lee would call the Yankees Nazis. Martinez would ask, with no small bit of indignation, "Who is Karim Garcia?''
They would scrap and wrestle. Tempers would flare, benches would empty. Fists would fly.
And now? Now we settle for something straight out of a courtroom procedural, all parliamentary and no passion.
Excuse me, your honor, but the gentleman in the road grays would appear to be wearing something inadmissable. May I approach the bench?
Now, we get camera angles -- or not, right Joe Girardi? -- and gamesmanship, sheepish apologies and moral indignation.
Is this where we are now, with the Red Sox and Yankees? Complaints lodged and rulebooks thumbed?
It's all very corporate, and not very much fun.
Even Pine Tar battles used to be more fun. Remember George Brett's near-homicidal rage when Tim McClelland ruled that his home run was negated for too much of the sticky stuff on his bat.
Now, that was fun. Brett came out of the dugout like he had been jet propelled, and you just didn't know what would happen next.
On Wednesday, Girardi sort of ambled out of the dugout, casual as you can be, and visited the mound after his starting pitcher had been run.
I understand there's been a misunderstanding of sorts. Anything I can do?
Really, this is the best we can do now? We've substituted rules violations for honest-to-goodness emotion?
Wednesday's night follies didn't have much of anything else. Derek Jeter, the voice of reason, seemed to be saying to home plate umpire Gerry Davis, "Yeah, he was kind of obvious about it.''
Girardi mustered some half-hearted defense postgame, but even GM Brian Cashman couldn't well up the energy to back his pitcher, whose stuff is a heck of a lot better than his smarts.
Cashman went as far as to say "I would have done the same thing'' as John Farrell, which, let's face it, Billy Martin would have never said about Darrell Johnson, or Ralph House about Eddie Kasko.
But times change.
Is this the price was pay for overfamiliarity, for 19 games between the two rivals crammed into six months? Do we know too much already? Has roster churn finally robbed us of returning heroes and villains?
Really, what does Carlos Beltran know about any of this? Or, for that matter, Grady Sizemore? Pleasant enough guys, both; nice players, too. But not exactly steeped in this stuff.
When Farrell went out to lodge his request of Davis, he knew he was opening a Pandora's Box of sorts, and after the game, Red Sox players acknowledged that this likely the start of something.
The next time either Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz makes a start agains the Yankees, it will only be a matter of time before Girardi himself calls time and approaches home plate, his face a mixture of grave concern and "how-to-you- like-it?'' gamesmanship.
Then Lester and Buchholz will undergo a modified strip search on the mound, and you'll be able to cut the tension with a knife, then, boy. It will be just like Munson and Fisk, rolling around at home plate, all punches and passion.
That's if it gets that far. If Lester (was that wasabi on his glove in Game 1 of the World Series?) or Buchholz (who seemed to be conducting some sort of science experiment on his right forearm in Toronto) continue to get a grip on the mound, rest assured it will be a little more understated.
It's not much, of course. But in 2014, it's all we've got.