I’ve been steeling myself since January. John Smoltz would make his triumphant return to the big leagues at Turner Field against the Braves in June and I’d be there to cover it and he, being John Smoltz, would throw a no-hitter and force me to write something nice about him and in the process grind my teeth to nubs. I’d even embarked on a course of meditation and aromatherapy to help me prepare for the moment.
And now comes word from Boston: No Smoltzie in the A-T-L.
And I say, “Whew.”
I’d borne my burden in silence for a dozen years, but two weeks ago I was moved to confess: I don’t much like Smoltz, and he really doesn’t like me. When duty called, I put aside my feelings and afforded him his due — I was there in 2007 the night he beat Greg Maddux and the Padres and there again 15 days later when he beat Tom Glavine and the Mets for his 200th victory — but those came when he was pitching for the Atlanta Braves. And I do cover sports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But now he’s with the Red Sox, and the thought of him returning to town and beating the Braves and then sneering at me afterward was, shall we say, not my idea of a night at the opera. Or a day at the races. Or any other Marx Bros. movie you care to name.
So now, barring a rainout or a dastardly bait-and-switch by Boston manager Terry Francona, I’m off the hook. I can stop breathing deeply and lighting scented candles. Turner Field just became a Smoltz-free zone.