Someday I'll tell you about the time I broke up A.J. Burnett's no-hitter.
In fact, today will do just fine.
This was way back in, OK, it was Wednesday night.
I was at a familiar perch about 8 miles above the Consol Energy Center ice watching this black and beige machine known as the Penguins beat the Montreal Canadiens, 6-4, like the rented offspring of a female horse and a male donkey, when suddenly the rare but unmistakable scent of athletic perfection was in the air.
Was it coming from the ice surface, where the Penguins played an essentially perfect first period to erect a 3-0 lead on their way to a 20th victory in their past 22 games?
Or was it an external fragrance, perhaps wafting across the Allegheny River at that moment, some kind of atmospheric destabilization left over from the previous night's raucous Pirates-postponing thunderstorm?
Well, it was approximately both.
The relentless Penguins had backed it off maybe one notch to a setting just under perfection in the second period, but over on the North Shore, Burnett was not only perfect, but not compromising by an inch. The Pirates ace dismissed the first 15 St. Louis Cardinals to face him, then punched out David Freese to start the sixth.
After setting down 16 in a row, Burnett's 2-2 pitch plunked Daniel Descalso imperfectly at just about the time Brandon Sutter rapped home his second goal of the game to make it 5-1 Penguins and introduce the question of whether the NHL is still planning to allow the Canadiens into the postseason.
Michel Therrien's team has had to pull the goaltender in three consecutive games. The Toronto Maple Leafs spanked 'em, 5-1, the Philadelphia Flyers spanked 'em, 7-3, and the Penguins beat them like a rented ... yeah, the final being 6-4.
But never mind that; Burnett had made it through the sixth with a no-hitter in full rhythm, and there hasn't been a single no-hitter around here by a single Pirates pitcher since John Candelaria's skunking of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1976.
My esteemed colleague Ron Cook walked past me in the press box and said that I should think about getting over there, which I suspected was likely true, inasmuch as I had just thought the very same thing.
I mean I was not going to sit here and have Robert Morris beat Kentucky all over again.
This is where I was March 19, sucking my thumb over a 2-1 Penguins flicking of the Washington Capitals, their 10th win a row, while the plucky Colonials were shocking the jocks off John Calipari's underachievers in the first round of the NIT. Had they simply informed me they were going to beat Kentucky, I would have made sure I was there.
Taking no chances this time, I phoned the night desk, just like in the old days, and told them I was calling an audible on this Penguins column and heading for the ballpark to darn well help immortalize a no-hitter or fail to do so.
"What?" said Brent Spanton from the layout desk. "You're going over to the Pirates? You know that's going to jinx him."
"Oh yeah," I said.
I started unplugging my laptop.
"Are you going to the Pirate game?" asked Will Graves of the Associated Press, sitting to my right. "You know that'll jinx it."
"Of course," I said.
And I walked to the elevator, which took me to the third level concourse smack between the second and third period. I navigated well enough through the relevant portion of 18,626 people, the one walking directly in front of me being a female carrying a tray of nachos as though the cheese was made of 100 percent nitroglycerin.
I got to the car.
I turned the key.
I heard Greg Brown, using his cheery voice.
"The pitch to Beltran ... line drive to right, base hit."
And the cheer in that voice disappeared.
No need to thank me.
I got out of the car.
Back in the press box, no one spoke to me, except in that silent way that sometimes translates to, "Way to go, [expletive]."
Not much had changed. The Penguins were even less perfect than when I had left, but they were still beating Montreal like a ... right.
"I'm a little disappointed we gave up four goals," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma would be saying a few minutes later. "I would have liked to limit the opportunities for them, so I'm a little disappointed, especially with how it happened."
We're not gonna talk about disappointment here really, are we?
The Penguins are 33-10, and they're getting Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Paul Martin back to deal with a playoff field that includes the likes of the Montreal Canadiens.
I'm not disappointed.
I've never seen a no-hitter. But at least I didn't miss one Wednesday night.
Did I really break this one up?
Probably, but it's hard to say definitively.
I suspect it had more to do with that woman with the nachos.
Couldn't have been Beltran, could it?
Gene Collier: email@example.com.