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GIF Tournament IV: 'Hockey Sorcery!' vs. 'Sniped Mets Fan'

After nearly 30,000 votes, you and I have decided upon the four greatest animated sports GIFs of the year so far. Today we take to the polls once again, and decide which two GIFs advance to the championship.



Voting will remain open until 11:30 p.m. Eastern. Click here to vote in the other Final Four match-up.



Submitted by @BryanAGraham. Won Week 37 of THIS WEEK IN GIFs with 1,165 votes. Received 1,137 votes in Round 1, 890 votes in Round 2, and 1,006 votes in Round 3.

This is the top overall seed of the tournament, by virtue of voters who flocked to the THIS WEEK IN GIF polls in record numbers. We just couldn't comprehend it. The sports GIFs that endure on in our memories tend to make us laugh endlessly; it's rare that they simply amaze us.

This one does. Now, it's true that for the briefest of moments, we can see just a bit of the referee's helmet peeking out from behind Patrick Kane's head. Whether that matters to you is between you and your religious advisor. I would rather dwell on the geometric miracles by which this illusion even came to be. Kane had to be just large enough, and the referee just small and far away enough, to remain hidden until the reveal.

Perhaps even more interesting: that this moment was ever GIFfed at all. My theory is that someone made a GIF of this simply for the sake of documenting Johan Franzen's smack. And then someone looked, and looked again, and saw a flash of sorcery that was meant never to be witnessed.

Humans are looking and staring and gawking and skimming all the time, at everything we can, and technology is opening more and more telescope and microscopes through which to do so. But there is so, so much that goes unseen. So many miracles that arrived and vanished in the wilderness, deep in the oceans, out in the stars, for an audience of no one. This was very nearly one of those. It wasn't. It is our GIF.



Via @ckirsch714's Vine. Special nomination. Has not previously appeared in THIS WEEK IN GIFs. Received 887 votes in Round 1, 1,114 votes in Round 2, and 1,008 votes in Round 3.

This GIF is an animated refutation of the notion that slapstick is simple. This is sophisticated slapstick, and it demands multiple layers of consideration:

1. The Cardinals and Mets, despite living over a thousand miles apart and belonging to different divisions, share a special history. They've met in the NLCS a couple times since 2000, including an epic seven-game series in 2006. They were playing each other when Mike Laga hit a foul ball out of Busch Stadium, and a few years ago they played for 20 innings. Special things happen when these teams encounter one another.

2. This is another moment that could very easily have gone un-noticed, or at least undocumented. When I watch this, I can't help but think of all the amazing things we've missed out on entirely, and I'm so glad GIFs are here to lend us this window into the world of the otherwise-forgotten.

3. After the gentleman falls, he just sort of lies there like a shirt tossed over a hamper. One of his associates sees the fall as it happens; the other turns a second later to see him lying there. Neither takes action or expresses concern. New York.

4. The Cardinals fans, seated a couple rows ahead, hear the commotion, and seem far more concerned, or at least interested, than the man's friends. Middle America.

5. This is also a GIF of illusion. Pitcher Trevor Rosenthal is just checking the runner at first, but he's doing it at the exact right moment. One would be forgiven for imagining the crash echoing throughout the cavernous, mostly-empty stadium, and to Rosenthal's ear. "What? Oh." He turns back around and exhales. "Oof."

6. This GIF perfectly captures the spirituality of a sparsely-attended baseball game. There are so many baseball games, and so many seats, that many stadiums in the late innings tend to resemble a movie theater showing a film in its final week of circulation. It could be ennui, but it's not, because everyone's ... okay with it.