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Sox start time tough for fans

Playoff opening is incompatible with many East Coast schedules

Twelve-year-old Peter Langston and Sam, his 9-year-old brother, have put together a small shrine to the Red Sox in their Easton home, and they weren't happy yesterday when their mother broke the news that the boys won't be allowed to watch tomorrow night's opening playoff game. The start time in Oakland, Calif., is 10:06 p.m. on the East Coast. Peter has to be up at 5:45 a.m. to get ready for seventh grade, and Sam must catch a bus not long after.

"It's just too late," said their mother, Anita Langston.

"It really stinks," Sam said of the decision. "Kids should be able to watch the games. It just stinks."

Peter was more diplomatic: "It's kind of a bummer. I guess it's just the way it is sometimes. I'll have to live with it. But at least I know I can watch the highlights."

As the Red Sox prepare for the team's first playoff series in four years, fans are facing tough calls, given the time difference for the first two games against the Oakland A's. Go without sleep? Call in sick Thursday, or arrive late for work or school?

Many companies, meanwhile, are bracing for thin staffs Thursday in anticipation that some employees may come in late, leave early because of the 4:06 p.m. start that day for the second game of the series, or skip work all together.

Employees in certain departments at Staples Inc. in Framingham have televisions, but a spokesman said department heads will decide whether to tune into the games. TV or no TV, though, some companies expect that workers will find a way to keep track.

"I'm sure they're going to use their ingenuity to stay in touch with the game," said James Mahoney, a FleetBoston Financial spokesman, who plans to stay up as late as necessary Thursday morning, though he must drive his daughter to swim practice by 5 a.m.

He also admitted to a perk that few others have at the company. Being in charge of media relations, he has a TV in his office.

"I may occasionally switch on the game from the news to stay on top of the score," Mahoney said, "but only occasionally."

Still, although the Red Sox series dominates many conversations, some companies were not prepared to cut employees much slack.

"This is a rabid precinct in Red Sox nation," said Mark Fredrickson, a spokesman for Hopkinton-based EMC Corp., which doesn't plan to provide TVs or do anything special for the game. "There will be a lot of bleary eyes on Thursday morning, but we expect everyone to be here at 8 a.m."

A similar approach seems likely to prevail at schools.

"As long as kids are in school the next day ready to learn, we'll be satisfied," said Jonathan Palumbo, a spokesman for Boston public schools, who plans not to miss a pitch -- at least by listening to a radio.

In Cambridge, school officials said they hope students and their families put things in perspective.

"This is only the playoffs, not the World Series," said Josie Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Cambridge Public School District, who was reluctant to reveal what she will decide for her 11-year-old and 16-year-old boys. "I don't want them to have something in print to hold against me."

While Peter and Sam Langston in Easton grumbled about their parent-imposed blackout from the game, their aunt, Cheri Giffin, made plans to watch, even if it means losing sleep.

"Forget the young ones -- I'm going to need a nap myself," said Giffin, 51, president of the BoSox Club, the team's official fan club, who plans to catch a few winks tomorrow before the game starts.

The team's chief fan, Giffin lamented having to listen to the first innings Thursday on a radio in her office. But the insurance agent, who first took an interest in the team as a teenager to impress a boy, said she'll stay up as late as she has to the night before, even if the game goes into extra innings. "I feel it would be disloyal if I fell asleep," said Giffin, who often goes to bed with a Walkman to listen to late games as she falls asleep.

The line between the playoffs and the World Series is important, she said. While siding with her nephews over her sister, the fan club president will defer to the boys' mother for now. But if the Red Sox make the World Series, she said she'll make sure the boys can stay up past 9.

"Perhaps I'll have to kidnap them," Giffin said.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.

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