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Vine was the best way to enjoy sports

Vine, Twitter’s platform full of six-second looping videos, is dead. Long live Vine.

If you’re a devoted follower of Sports Twitter, you know how important Vine is. It was everyone’s go-to platform for sharing sports highlights, and everyone used it because it was so easy. All you had to do was rewind your DVR to a moment you thought needed to be shared, film your TV with your smartphone, write a caption (if you wanted), and tweet it out to your followers -- all of that could be done within seconds after the moment passed. And within minutes, the Vine would spread throughout the internet. The six-second limitation was really helpful as well; it meant there was no fat around the meat you wanted to consume, no dead space around seeing someone like Aaron Gordon dunk over Stuff the Magic Dragon. You’d get in and watch a couple loops, get out and be on with your day.

And the sports world, filled with countless highlights, from broadcast television to a kid’s backyard, was the perfect place for Vine to thrive. Just look at the Twitter feeds of outlets like SB Nation, The Cauldron, For The Win, Deadspin, ESPN, Bleacher Report, and all of their writers and reporters — look at them on a night that’s loaded with sports. Not a single day goes by without all of them posting a Vine of a sports highlight. Not a single day goes by without a Vine getting retweeted and liked thousands of times on Twitter.

Vine was better than America’s Funniest Home Videos or SportsCenter’s “(Not) Top 10.” No commentary, no funny voices. The videos spoke for themselves. They became their own art. It wasn’t Twitter or Vine that decided that was the case — it was the people. It was people who thought, “Hey, filming my TV is probably illegal, but my followers need to see this man getting his heart broken by soccer.”

There are a select number of people on the internet who could take it a step further and remix highlights to their heart’s content. Excuse me while I toot my own horn, but I’m pretty proud of this Vine I made of Antonio Brown’s Tetris hair disappearing as if it were in the game.

But for ordinary folks, Vine eliminated the barrier to entry in sharing sports moments. Before Vine, we had GIFs to fill our need for highlights. But to make GIFs, you needed a grocery list of programs on your computer, a brain that knew how Photoshop worked, and most importantly, patience to make the damn GIF.

Not everyone has those capabilities. But everyone has a TV and a smartphone, and those were the only tools you needed to use Vine as a sports fan.

The death of Vine doesn’t necessarily mean that barrier to entry will go away. People can still post their favorite sports highlights on Twitter Video and Facebook directly from their phone. But it’s just not the same without Vine. Watching a video on Vine is like riding a really short carousel; you can’t rewind the ride, but you’re OK with that because the moment you missed will return again. And again. And again, until you decide to stop the ride.

Or until the ride decides to stop itself.

* * *

I don’t think Vine could have foreseen what it was going to become when it launched. I don’t think they could have known they were going to be a storage unit for Sports Twitter. Look at Twitter’s blog when Vine launched — it was so much more innocent. All they wanted was to give people a new way to express themselves creatively, or even show off their most mundane moments. Instead, it became a place where one of its most popular Vines is a young woman vaping a huge plume, and an audience member’s only reaction is a nasally “wow.”

There was no one to guide you on knowing why something on Vine was funny. With sports, the reasons were clear: You needed to see LeBron James’ chase-down block, you needed to see Kanye smiling at a Bulls game, you needed to someone’s brother dabbing at the Spelling Bee. But everything else? You had to figure it out for yourself, and that was part of the fun on Vine. All the weird Vines were essentially Rorschach tests to see what resonated with you the most. In that vape Vine, did you laugh because the girl blew out a ridiculously huge cloud, or was it the kid’s inflection in his “wow?” Only you can decide that. (It was totally the “wow,” though.)

Here’s a Twitter thread from former Vine designer Bobby McKenna that features every Vine he’s ever loved (and counting). Some of these Vines may not make you laugh, and some are actually NSFW, but if you have the time, please watch them all.

* * *

I would not be at SB Nation without Vine. No, I wasn’t one of those Vine stars you’d read about, the ones who’d move to Hollywood to grow their brand (and eventually flee Vine for other platforms to, uh, grow their brand.) I was (and still am) just a person who liked how Vines were short; how Vines looped, which made it fun to remix things; and how easy it was to use, especially for me, who only had an iPod Touch when I started.

When I applied here, one of the questions asked was, “What was your favorite Vine in the past year?”

My response:

I don’t know if this angry hockey dad Vine was the reason I work here, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Here’s a testament to Vine’s power: So many talented people blew up because of it. Take Japanese music producer Qrion, for instance, who blew up because of this Vine from Brandon Boyer, in which she’s DJing a Legend of Zelda and Juicy J mashup made by fellow producer Hitmane:

Or writer Demi Adejuyigbe (better known as “Electrolemon”) whose Vines helped him get a gig on Comedy Central’s @midnight, and is currently working on NBC’s The Good Place.

Or the band Dear Ears, who started off as three ordinary Vine musicians in different parts of the country, who became best friends because of the platform and eventually released an album.

This is just a small sample of folks who gained success through Vine, and will have to forever credit its strange, three-year existence for important moments in their lives. And while Vine was a great place for Sports Twitter, it was also kind of dumb:

Dumb in the way that people managed to get gigs because of Vine. Dumb in the way that people got angry or disillusioned because of stolen jokes. Dumb in the way that Vine was yet another branch for the internet’s toxicity to spread and eventually hit marginalized users. Dumb in the way that Viners eventually get burned out creatively.

There was a time when a majority of them used to make so much content either for fun or for work* — not so much these days, and not anymore after this news. The aforementioned dumbness and decreased output are probably not the reasons why Vine was killed off — Twitter’s been having its own troubles, and perhaps Vine was collateral damage — but they certainly don’t help convince Twitter to keep it around any longer.

*Back then, a sponsored Vine may have sounded corny or like a person sold their soul to the devil, but you can’t knock a person’s hustle, and people have to eat.

I don’t know what will happen to the Vines that still exist, the silly ones I keep thinking about, and the remixes I’ve made while I worked at SB Nation. “Nothing is happening to the apps, website or your Vines today,” wrote Vine in its announcement. We all know that’s not true. Some content may be backed up onto other places like YouTube and Facebook, but everything else will die eventually. The servers these Vines exist on will die eventually.

Everything has to die eventually.

But what I do know is that lives were changed because of this dumb app. It’ll be a long time before there’s something to replace Vine, something that can capture its imperfect magic, something for Sports Twitter to have fun with. 20 years from now, it’s going to be really, really weird to explain to children what the hell this app was, especially the kids whose parents fell in love or became famous through Vine.

Vine is dead. Long live Vine.