Unexpected tidings of joy

So I was just sitting here,  mourning another night without NCAA basketball, when the sports day took a sudden, unexpectedly happy turn.

First came the news of Marcus Lattimore's triumphant return to Williams-Brice Stadium, where he was last seen being wheeled away on a stretcher as football players from both South Carolina and Tennessee knelt in prayer. Lattimore, who dislocated his knee and tore ligaments that desolate October day, performed light workouts in front of coaches, ex-teammates and scouts from 31 NFL teams, though Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis was the only NFL coach in the building.

The Associated Press reported Lattimore received loud applause, and there has rarely been an athlete more deserving of adulation - regardless of the numbers he put up, though those are impressive. In my years spent inside locker rooms and on chewed-up football fields and in front of podiums, I've heard enough piousness from athletes to induce inward eye rolls when the often-choreographed talk strays anywhere close to God. But Lattimore did more practicing than preaching, visiting children in hospitals without telling his coach, much less the media, and received an outpouring of support from fans, of football and of his character, after his second serious knee injury in as many seasons.

He seems to be a genuinely good person to whom a succession of really bad things have happened. Here's hoping both his knee and his draft stock get stronger by the day.

I wish Lattimore well for selfish reasons, too. He was after my time at South Carolina, both as a student and a reporter who covered the Gamecocks (including their 0-11 season of 1999). Those times featured little of the success that has become - dare I say - almost commonplace these days. Used to be, the only South Carolina football highlights shown on ESPN were of USC defenders getting run over by an opposing running back, not of Jadeveon Clowney's smackdown heard 'round the world. Used to be, students hopefully showed up for the novelty of an ESPN Thursday night game, only to see Kentucky's triple option run roughshod over defenders who thought "keep contain" some sort of cryptic Tupperware reference. Used to be, any hint of national attention was unwelcome, sure to produce more fodder for the Chicken Curse that caused a team ranked No. 2 in the nation to inexplicably lose to Navy in 1984, that kept a program winless in nine bowl appearances during a span of 49 years, that saw a beloved coach die of a heart attack at age 51.

Lattimore is the face of brighter days at my alma mater, and on behalf of good guys everywhere, and out of hope that these halcyon gridiron days can continue in Columbia, I wish him all the best.

The second unexpected nugget of happiness came via Tim McCarver's announcement that he is retiring as a baseball announcer. Granted, my initial euphoria was tempered by learning said retirement will take place after this season, but at least the light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight.

It's hard for me to articulate why I dislike McCarver so. I can't recite from memory any of his cringe-inducing malapropisms or point out any specific tidbits of information he got wrong, wrong, wrong. I just find him smug, unable to tell a story of How He Played The Game without sounding like a disgruntled know-it-all, unable to impart his knowledge of that game without making the listener feel less than. He and Joe Buck, whose talent has yet to live up to his lineage, in the broadcast booth make me turn down sound on the TV and search for a radio or Internet broadcast of the game I'm watching.

I'm sure a lot of the dislike is tied into the Foxifcation of sports - the non-stop graphics, the relentless color-coding and dumbing-down of sports for people who don't like sports - and, sad to say, that trend isn't going anywhere. But maybe now it will sound a little less grating, at least.

Now, back to Twitter to see what other good things might be happening on the day before the Sweet 16.