Last Friday, SB Nation was rocked to its core by SCANDAL. We had spent most of March holding a "Greatest Animated Sports GIF Of All Time" Tournament, a 64-GIF competition that was to end with one GIF standing apart as the best in the history of civilization. The championship round was neck-and-neck; after approximately 3,000 votes, MORTIFIED MICHIGAN PUNTER and ROLLERBLADING RAPTORS MASCOT were separated by only about 15 votes.
And then, DISASTER BEFELL THE TOURNAMENT.
An unknown party spammed the ballot, adding thousands of votes for RAPTORS MASCOT in a matter of minutes. A second party then responded by attempting to spam the ballot in favor of MICHIGAN PUNTER. And in no time, the poll was rife with VOTER FRAUD. Upon realizing this, I ultimately had no choice but to suspend the balloting, lest the results remain FOREVER TAINTED.
I told you I would meet with you again to resolve this tournament, and that is what I mean to do today. We will still have a public vote; this vote, with or without CORRUPTION and SHENANIGANS, will account for 50 percent of the overall voting.
The other 50 percent will be determined by a GIF TRIBUNAL I have assembled in the interests of mitigating FRAUD. Said GIF TRIBUNAL is comprised of animated GIF experts throughout SB Nation.
If one GIF can win both polls, it will be christened the greatest animated GIF of all time. If not, the two GIFs will remain FOREVER TIED.
Before we proceed further, let's take one last look at the GIFs we will be voting on.
MORTIFIED MICHIGAN PUNTER.
ROLLERBLADING RAPTORS MASCOT.
And now, let's hear from some of our members of the GIF TRIBUNAL.
Mike Prada, jack of many trades at SB Nation, blogger at Bullets Forever:
Gotta be the Raptors mascot. While the Michigan punter is wonderful, it's also one motion that makes you laugh. The Raptors GIF is funny for every single frame, which separates it from Michigan punter for me.
Jim Bankoff, aka James Nation, CEO of Vox Media:
I am in charge of this company and it bears my name. The Raptors gif is a superior animated sports gif.
James "SB" Nation
Spencer Hall, of SB Nation and Every Day Should Be Saturday:
There are so many tangents to the image. Why rollerskates? Why have the raptor at all? Weren't raptors actually the size of small turkeys, and largely ineffectual skink-eating carrion fiends of the Jurassic period? Why then make him look like Barney after a chemical peel, and then put him on roller skates? At 0.3 seconds into this GIF you already have a novel's worth of mysteries, and that's before he begins jib-jabbering his way earthward. This GIF is the inspiration for Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, and it traveled back in time to inspire genius retroactively. That's how good it is, and that is why it is my choice for GIF of the century.
Ryan Hudson, social media editor at SB Nation:
Raptors mascot. If someone didn't know what a GIF was, or had just never seen one before, that's what I would choose to show them.
The Michigan punter is sublime. It's a second in which a man's life is absolutely and temporarily ruined. We never get to see that so clearly in a facial expression, and with the GIF, you get to see it over and over again, checking for the exact moment that he realizes that everything is ruined.
But the Raptor mascot is perfect. There's confusion at first because you're not initially sure what's happening. Then it's clear that you're watching something completely absurd in isolation -- and that's a big part of the GIF, to take something out of context and say "notice this." It doesn't always have to be an inflatable mascot on rollerblades. It can be the way an announcer stares into the camera while his co-host is talking, something you aren't going to pay attention to unless you're prompted to.
Raptors mascot works as a good GIF before he even falls down. His teeth are going ARGGH ARGGH RRRRMM, flapping around all crazy-like. It would work on its own as a GIF that says, "Seriously, have you ever thought about mascots? What the shit are these things?"
Then he falls. Oh, god, how he falls. Right on his face. You watch it over and over and over because it's just a perfect fall. He loses control, and you can hear the Hanna Barbera sound effects as he scrambles to right the ship. And then he falls right on his nose. You can watch that over and over again.
And then the ninth time you watch it, you notice the tail. Oh, man, the tail. It slumps down with absolutely perfect timing. You can hear the slide-whistle. And then it starts over again. Raptor going nuts. Raptor scrambling for balance. Raptor falling right on his nose. Raptor tail confirming that the raptor is dead.
Rollerblading Raptor. There is no question about this.
Bill Hanstock, newsdesk:
I cast my vote for Raptor. The noble Raptor has given so much to us, so many times, in our moment of need. It is our constant, if you will.
While the Mortified Michigan Punter is certainly a worthy competitor and has earned his spot in the championship game (and then some), it just isn't his year. I think it all boils down to this: These are both GIFs about failure, but there is an underlying sense of hope to the Raptor GIF. While he falls, and his sad little tails flops down, he was having the time of his life up until then. Who among us hasn't fallen while going for greatness? The subtext is there that the Raptor will get back up; that he will skate again. This is just a bump in the road.
With the Punter, we have no idea what happens after that ball leaves the frame. Was this his one moment of glory that he will never get back? Is this a memory that will haunt him at nights, long after he has left football behind and works at the Texaco station? Will this be his most palpable regret? We are laughing at his misery and misfortune, and therein lies the crucial difference. We can all laugh at the punter, because we are thankful that he is not us. With the Raptor, he may very well be ourselves. We laugh with him, because we are him.
Tom Ziller, SB Nation's NBA editor, blogger at Sactown Royalty:
Raptors Mascot, for only he can bring joy to children of every culture. Raptors Mascot: humanity's uniter.
Chris Mottram, senior editor, SB Nation:
The Rollerblading Raptor. While both of these possess the qualities necessary for a great GIF, it's the complexity of the Raptor which gives it the edge. There are five different things happening in that three second GIF that are hilarious, whereas Mortified Punter only offers one moment of brilliance (albeit a fantastic moment). The Rollerblading Raptor is the gold standard of sports GIFs. The one upon which all other sports GIFs should be measured against for all time. There will never be one better, despite the admirable efforts from Mortified Punter, Yankees Fans and many more that are yet to occur.
Jeff Gluck, SB Nation's NASCAR editor:
Voting on the GIF Bracket Tribunal is the greatest honor of my GIF judging career. This is not something I take lightly. Therefore, I will cast my vote for the only option possible: RAPTORS MASCOT. Thank you.
Andrew Sharp, featured contributor, SB Nation:
There's just no way around it. I'm wounded, you're wounded, we're all wounded. Worst of all, the integrity of the GIF Championships has been wounded forever. Innocence has been lost and in its place comes a question: What do we become without integrity?
What do we become without fairness?
What do we become if cheaters prosper?
A Nation of cowards, that's what. An SB Nation of cowards.
These are dark days. Dark, dark days. But we will not buckle under the pressure of a clownfraud minority. Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. We will press on. The inches we need are everywhere around us, and I'm willing to bet ROLLERBLADING RAPTOR will go that inch for you. For me. For the GIF Championships. The Liberty Bell has a crack in it, but it still shines, hundreds of years later. Make the ROLLERBLADING RAPTOR our Liberty Bell, and make the GIF Championships a beacon again.
Brian Floyd, editor, SB Nation:
My vote goes to the Raptors mascot for a few reasons.
I see a lot of GIFs, each and every day. And Rollerblading Raptors Mascot is the standard by which we gauge excellence in GIFfery. Like a fine wine, it's aged well over time, rightfully taking its perch atop the world of unmodified sports GIFs.
The Michigan punter is a fine GIF, sure, but young in GIF years. It's a newcomer on the scene, bursting down the doors of the old guard and ascending to the highest peaks of GIFfery. It's still but an infant, though, and its time is not now. It may one day grow and become the top dog, but not yet.
The GIF Championship was, to borrow a wrestling analogy, a double count-out. Both sides engaged in nefarious strategies, and both sides were caught. As such, the belt stays with the reigning champion: Rollerblading Raptors Mascot.
May this be the beginning of a beautiful GIF rivalry.
* * *
As you can see, the GIF TRIBUNAL currently leads heavily toward RAPTORS MASCOT. Our voting currently stands at:
This number may change throughout the day as more SB Nation folks swear themselves in as members of the GIF TRIBUNAL.
And now, to the public vote. This poll will end Tuesday at 5 p.m. Eastern. Will you join us in our (apparent) consensus, or will you heave a wrench through the shroud and into the teeth of our designs? It is your choice, friends. We trust you will make the correct one. See you on the other side.