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In Fond Memory of the Greatest Sports Vines

Tuesday marks the end of Vine, a looping video app that was one of the best things about the internet. Sports, and everything else, will be poorer for the loss.

by David Roth
Jan 17 2017, 9:45pm

In the days to come, people with knowledge and experience and sources will tell you more about why Twitter chose to shut down Vine, the looping video application. When the news broke in October, Twitter gave an extremely tech company non-explanation; there are various reasons having to do with slow user growth and Twitter's own robustly borked internal doings, but they are not really very interesting and anyway you would do well to get them from some of the (many) people more qualified than I. But in this uninformed man's opinion, the end of Vine can be traced back to the internet's original misunderstandings: the idea that all of this has a purpose, and that it must grow.

There was a specific thing that Vine did—show you videos up to six seconds in length, looping endlessly, the best of which generally featured animals—but that is not quite the same thing as Vine actually doing something. It simply was, and for a while it was popular enough to spin off a strange side economy of overenthusiastic fameball auteurs, and then it wasn't. As of Tuesday, January 17, Vine will no longer be even that. Old Vines will remain online, for who knows how much longer, but there will be no new Vines.

Or, anyway, there will be no new Vines as such. Shiba Inus will still dance with vacant, joyful expressions on their faces; rural teens will still film themselves getting injured; children will say LeBron James' name in unusual ways and people will look confused around Boban Marjanovic. These will not happen for a reason, not any more than they ever happened for any reason. They will still wind up somewhere on the internet, most likely, but they will not be Vines. If you are sad about this, it's probably because of a Vine that you remember fondly. And if you are a fan, it's likely that you remember a Vine that captured some sports-related moment in all its brief, bright, recursive singularity. For all the things that Vine was not, and all the other things it might have become and will never be, it was good at that.

So here, then, is what Vine did for sports, as told through some of the best sports Vines that the medium delivered during its four years.

The Golden Moment

No sport was better suited to Vine than "the beautiful game," Sand Surfing. Vine allowed fans to capture this fastest-moving sport in a way that brought it down to a more legible speed.

The Power of Repetition

Because of its unique format, Vine allowed viewers an opportunity to revisit a moment not just one searing time, but repeatedly, in a way that unlocked something essential about it. Here, for instance, is a common sports play that every fan has seen dozens of times by age 12 or so. But, when viewed more than once—when viewed over and over—a deceptively simple and all too easily missed poetry reveals itself. There is always more to find than what we see upon a first look.

The Game in the Seats

The most memorable action is not always where the television cameras are pointed. By turning fans into cinematographers, Vine gave fans a chance to share the moments that network cameras couldn't capture.

The Names We Don't Know

Sports are not just in our arenas and on our televisions, but everywhere—in our parks and playgrounds, and in the spaces in between. When every phone can broadcast, there's no reason for any moment to go un-captured, even when it is not playing out on the biggest stage.

The Elements of Style

Sports isn't just about players and plays. The spaces in the game, around the action, are where great performers add the expressiveness and grace notes that make memorable moments so memorable. By giving regular people the power to capture the action around the action, Vine made it easier than ever to capture the moments that make sports great.

Dog Tries to Get Basketball

This dog tries to get the basketball but can't.