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2008 In A Nutshell: Lawn Dart

How more than 600 people made it into that .gif museum without making their computers blow up is beyond me, but the masses have spoken, and it looks as if the event deemed the best representation of the season as a whole is Raul Ibanez's very own Lawn Dart.

The message, I think, is pretty clear. Much like Raul in Yankee Stadium, the Mariners began the 2008 season in a competitive field. They had the look of a contender, they were a pretty popular pick to win the AL West, and it seemed as if they were really ready to start playing with the big boys. Regardless of what you thought of their offseason, almost everybody agreed that 2008 would likely be a season played under a lot of pressure in front of a lot of people. And that got the fan base excited.

But for all of their positives, the Mariners, like Raul, came with some sinister drawbacks that didn't get enough attention. In Raul's case, not enough people talk about his bad defense or vulnerability to late-inning lefties. In the Mariners' case, not enough people were talking about the bad defense, the potentially punchless offense, or the delicacy of the pitching staff. It was a roster loaded with upside but littered with downside, and while many chose to focus on the former, few would shed much light on the latter, and when it was mentioned, rarer still were the issues considered significant enough to jeopardize the entire season. They stood as questions without answers. You have to wonder now if the men in charge didn't ask each other those questions because they were afraid of the response.

If the Yankee Stadium field is 2008, then Raul Ibanez is the Mariners: talented but deeply flawed. And as the ball rolls towards his glove - signifying the opportunity to make a move presented when the Angels lost 40% of their rotation - Raul reaches down, seizes the opportunity, and instantly puts his flaws on display for the whole world to observe. It's comical in its feebleness. The degree of ineptitude and the haste with which it reveals itself are mesmerizing. No John Lackey. No Kelvim Escobar. And the Mariners responded by opening 2-5 and standing at 15-26 when Lackey made his season debut. A wonderful opportunity gone to waste because the Mariners couldn't wait to completely and utterly embarrass themselves on a national stage. Embarrass themselves in ways not even previously thought possible. .250 from Ichiro? A total meltdown by the closer? Swept by the Orioles? The Mariners entered the 2008 season ecstatic to have a chance and made it one day before crossing paths with the Shit Parade. One day. Raul's throw flew about two feet.

The final shred of symbolism? The one bit of nutshellitude that really puts this over the top? Not only is Lawn Dart a .gif, but it's a .gif of an instant replay. 2008 wasn't just a nightmare of a season; it was a nightmare of a season that we had to live over and over again with every passing day. Every game was a loss, and every loss felt like the loss before. It was a punishing cycle of agony from which the only escape was to try and find humor in it all, but every time you'd dare to laugh, the cycle would begin again, and the wounds would be opened anew. 2008 took everything you thought could go wrong, ground it up with a mortar and pestle, diluted it in fart juice, and injected it into your stomach. It's amazing as many people made it through as they did. I'd say that this was simply survival of the fittest, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I might have that backwards. It seems like a normal person shouldn't be able to survive something like 2008. It seems like there must be something wrong with those of us who did.

The .gif finally stopped cycling in my window. Apparently they don't go on forever. I guess that's appropriate. 2008 is over. We can finally close the books on the most difficult chapter I personally have ever read and look forward to a better tomorrow. The future may not be bright, and it may not be bountiful, but compared to the past we've only recently been able to escape, it'll be hard-pressed to be any more humiliating.