BASEBALL: AN EXPLAINER.
Card 1: What is baseball?
Baseball is a sport that trudges through the vast tedium of its enormous sample size -- thousands of games per year -- only to reach the conclusion each Fall that it is governed largely by chance and its champions are more or less arbitrarily determined. It differs from other sports in that other sports, which play fewer games, accept the arbitrary nature of the universe and have saved themselves the trouble.
Also, baseball requires its players to wear leather hand puppets; in some markets, Major League Baseball has successfully classified itself as a community puppet show for tax purposes. What a shitty puppet show!
Card 4,755: What is happening in this GIF?
Troy Tulowitzki has hit a single to left field, driving in runners on second and third. About 25 feet past first, Tulowitzki stands flat-footed and waits to be tagged out. The idea may have been to bait the Mets into a pickle, affording the second runner time to score, but in practice this was absolutely unnecessary, and Tulowitzki had plenty of time to retreat to first. Troy Tulowitzki stopped playing baseball in the middle of a play, and there is no satisfactory explanation for it.
Card 4,756: Is Troy Tulowitzki a super-bad baseball player or something?
No. Troy Tulowitzki is the very best hitter in baseball this season.
Card -43: What is purpose?
It is imaginary.
Circus shots at least as impressive as this one have been made before. The difference is that Vince Carter, the Harlem Globetrotters, and the Dude Perfect guys always flip out at the end. UCLA's Bryce Alford and his pal are on another level entirely. The no-sell is at least as improbable as the shot itself.
Sometimes, the presentation of a GIF can offer instruction of how we should digest it. This GIF is clearly taken from someone pointing a camera at a TV screen. It was made not by a Timothy Burke or Clay Wendler or any other such professional GIF journalist, but rather, a proactive citizen who sprang to action when we needed it most. This person really wanted us to see this moment. He didn't want context, and so we shall not want it.
Note that Niese looks for the ball from second base. It's not there. But when the ball hits him one second later, he turns back to second as though that's where it came from. Dude, lab mice can do better than that.
Yoenis Cespedes is standing in the back of his own end zone. A man stands in the opposite end zone, holding a bucket sideways. This bucket, because this illustration clearly needs another sport, is about the size of a basketball rim: directly above home plate, high enough to avoid cracking the runner in the helmet, but low enough to let the catcher tag out his man in a single, smooth motion. This also has to happen as quickly as is humanly possible.
An outfielder gunning a dude out from long range is my favorite play in baseball. (That's how I justify Jeff Francoeur as my favorite player in baseball. The only other possible justification for that would be, "because I hate baseball.")
Given a long enough timeline, hitting a baseball back into the pitcher's machine is inevitable, which doesn't mean it's not a miracle. All I can do, though, is lament that Matt Joyce didn't wind back up and take a stab at the return pitch. When life affords you the chance to hit a baseball alley-oop, you must always be ready.
Congratulations to this batter for becoming perhaps the first-ever professional baseball player to trip over his teammate before he even gets out of the batter's box.
Here we visit Wild-Avalanche, which is either a Stanley Cup playoff series or some manner of "Crocodile Mile" knockoff. Look at how quickly the Wild's immune system rejects a losing element. Hockey players aren't on skates because it's faster, or it's tradition, or anything like that. It's so losing players can be shoved out of the scene more quickly. We don't have time to reflect on the entire evolution of the NHL in this space, but I'll just note that hockey sticks closely resemble Vaudeville canes, and that isn't an accident.
(Made by @Nick_Pants, submitted by Jesse)
Sometimes I talk about GIFs as though they're art without a single, deliberate artist. Indeed, there can be art without an artist, a creation without a creator. What's back there? What caught Chris Sale's 500 kilotons of impotent rage? Perhaps it was a stack of crates or a box fan. Perhaps the White Sox have Jimmy Snake-Eyes tied up in the basement, and he's playing hardass because he thinks the boss is out of town. Maybe it's just a really, really, implausibly wild pitch. At any rate, the director's chair is empty, but the direction is perfect.
In certain stretches of this year's Finals, the Spurs were capable of outplaying and humiliating a world-class team on a level I don't think I've ever seen. Back-to-back Spurs wins were no-contest formalities by halftime, which absolutely should not happen to a) these Miami Heat, much less b) these Miami Heat, who beat them in last year's Finals.
This GIF is my favorite illustration of how great they were capable of being. The San Antonio Spurs can manipulate time, stretching it out in some places and speeding it up in others, until suddenly, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter are quicker than you.
You're a jerk and you've earned it, Pop. In addition, seeing you in a T-shirt is like seeing Ulysses Grant in a Mossimo hoodie.
I usually don't bite on "crazy fan" GIFs. I just think they're gauche, dull, and played out by a factor of five million. The small child is dancin' around! The man is wearing a horse mask! It reminds me of the time Borat goes to a comedy instructor and is asked to tell a joke, and his joke is just a chair wearing shoes on its legs and walking around. "Well," she tells him, "that is a funny image." (That, actually, is how I feel about at least 50 percent of purportedly funny things on the Internet.)
Now that we've established that I'm a snob and a hater (why did y'all put a snobby hater in charge of curating the GIFs, dang), I'll let y'all know that this is a fan GIF that finally broke through with me. The bold entrance of the giant robo-hand is everything.
It's a major tournament; I wish I could say you rose to the occasion. It looks like your swing needs adjustin. Please forgive the informal grammar, but you might want to keep the club higher, if U.S. Open to some constructive criticism. This was a bad golf swing.
The video is here, and amazingly, it doesn't seem to be a work. The coach falls to the ground with all the ceremony of a throat-shot corrupt mayor in a spaghetti western, because this is German pub-league soccer, and the stakes have never been higher. As of this writing, I can't say whether this is the best GIF in the field, but it is the one that makes me laugh the hardest.
The problem with baseball's safety nets is that, while they protect us from foul balls, they let all the stupid through. UC Irvine scored two earned runs on a bunt. That's way too much stupid. BASEBALL CURTAINS NOW
It was almost as though Robin van Persie scored five goals in this moment. Up until this point, it looked like Spain were headed to halftime with a 1-0 lead. And then van Persie sold his ass out on a header that defied physics, and absolutely nothing happened after that besides Spain, the defending World Cup champions, getting the unholy piss beaten out of them. This is my favorite match of this World Cup so far, because it delivered my two favorite sports things: an incredible shot, and a completely shameless ass-whoopin'.
The Netherlands' win almost seemed mandated by the heavens. As our own Kevin McCauley put it, "I commend Stefan de Vrij for inventing a new way to score, which is very difficult in 2014, given that soccer has been played for eleventy billion years." He just sort of heads the ball against his body as though it's nothing more than a part of the pitch.
Spain was completely taken to school that day. In the second half they didn't really show up; it was more of a study-from-home program. Such is the benefit of attending De Vrij.
I refuse to believe that there's a shred of intuitive logic behind the "passed ball on strike three" rule. A batter can't up and run if the ball gets past the catcher on strike one, or ball three, or what have you. Why should that be the case on strike three? The baseball and softball rule books were paid a visit by the bullshit fairy. That's the only explanation I can offer. The fairy then flew away to another land to inflict the "kickoffs are live balls" rule upon American football, and never imagined that someone, someday, would exploit this rule to whiff a home run.
(Via The Big Lead)
Both of those dudes are total statues. It's the biggest game in the history of Greek football, and they just watch the tiebreaker roll by. It's like they're little foosball players. They aren't moving, because the guy spinning the bars has just been shot.
Think of what a man must have done to catch a bullet at a foosball table. You place a hit on a man in the middle of the Dave & Busters, you're sending the message that nobody -- nobody -- fucks with your stash of Dannon Activia in the break room fridge ever again.
This is arguably the most popular sports GIF of the last month. Concerning Mr. Stephenson himself: returning readers may recall that about a month ago, I posted the season finale of NBA Y2K, in which I offered to create versions of y'all in the game if you wrote me a poem about basketball. Many were great, but there's one, from @mattisbear, that continues to stick with me.
Slam Ball Your Calling
That is a good point.
This is the only GIF you see here that I actually made myself. It's on a soccer pitch and it's from something written on SB Nation, so it counts: in this season of 24, a group of attack-drone-commandeering terrorists demand the head of President James Heller. He agrees, and is blown up by a giant missile.
The greatness of this moment is dimished just a bit by the knowledge that this was a trick orchestrated by Jack Bauer, and the President didn't actually die. But for a week, we didn't know that. It was the violent assassination of a U.S. President, and it was also one of the funniest things in the history of network television, intentionally or otherwise.