Angela Miller, a volleyball player at Oxnard ( Calif.) College, will require lifelong chiropractic care. Her coach, Rey Reyes, said in September, "She has literally carried us on her back." Clement Marie, a football player at Molalla (Ore.) High, is evidently a pyromaniac. Said his coach, David Lewis, after a recent open-field tackle, "He just literally lit the kid up." Perhaps that kid was K.J. Hippensteel, a Stanford tennis player of whom then Virginia coach Dick Stockton said two seasons ago, "Hippensteel was literally on fire."
My jaw literally fell to the floor when I read about Matt Handy, a soccer player at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. After he scored three goals against Bergen Catholic High recently, The Record of Bergen County reported that Handy "literally took the life out of the Crusaders." Surely that calls for a red card.
In 1985, when former Detroit Tiger Denny McLain threw a baseball—painfully—for the first time in years, he told the Associated Press, "I literally died." Mercifully, he lived to tell about it. But then, one need not die to go to heaven. As far back as 1985 the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported of Arkansas State football players, who had just won a big game, "They were literally on Cloud Nine."
Two weeks ago Michigan State defensive end Greg Taplin—while biting on a fake from Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq—"was literally screwed into the turf," according to The Detroit News. (Seconds later he became the first player in history to be unscrewed by the refs.)
Indeed, every Big Ten football game is an acid trip full of odd imagery. Wisconsin linebacker Nick Greisen, recalling his first appearance for the Badgers, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "My knees were literally chattering." When I read this, my eyes literally popped out of their sockets because most knees are incapable of speech. (They merely issue joint statements.)
"We didn't take care of the ball," North Central (Ill.) College basketball coach Bob Bray told Chicago's Daily Herald after suffering a loss, "and literally fell apart at the seams." This frequently happens to athletes. Jerry Stackhouse of the Pistons told the Associated Press, "We literally fell apart tonight." The AP on a Mets-Pirates game: "Both pitchers literally fell apart in the seventh." The Deseret News on the Utah State volleyball team: "The Aggies literally fell apart in the third game." Sports-wise, it seems, we are a nation of Humpty Dumptys.
Fortunately, athletes can be put back together again. "We've got a ton of injuries," Morton (Ill.) High football coach Hal Chiodo told The Pantograph of Bloomington, Ill., the other day. "We're literally held together by tape."
Yankees rightfielder Paul O'Neill can empathize. According to the Journal Sentinel, " O'Neill is literally on his last legs." (Then again, unless you work in a prosthetic-limb showroom, aren't we all?)
At the risk of literally beating a dead horse, I must tell you that my head is literally spinning while trying to comprehend what happened three years ago, when Bentley College (Mass.) upset St. Rose (N.Y.) in the women's Division II college basketball tournament. "I just fell to the floor," winning coach Barbara Stevens told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. "I was literally beside myself."
Recently—while lying beside myself on the couch—I heard a CNN host say to his guest, "You have literally scoured the Midwest." (Alas, the guest was a newspaper columnist, not the world's hardest-working janitor.) That same day the Los Angeles Times ran an item about Jon Albert, who runs a firm that places musicians in commercials. Albert, according to the paper, sent ad agencies a mass e-mail that offered the services of Lee Greenwood, who would be happy to sing, in a 30-second spot, God Bless This Country. When some advertisers suggested to Albert that he was trying to "exploit" the nation's tragedy, he told the Times, "I literally was shocked." (I pictured angry Ford executives attaching electrodes to his genitals.)