I went looking for Me In 2024. He wasn't hard to find; the only one without Google Glass in the coffeeshop listening to some obscure decade-old R&B and unable to hit those falsetto short-"i"s. He was happy about the Reds dynasty and not too bummed out at all about the loss of New York to global warming. Fortunately, he was also in a mood to reminisce.
"Hey, young Cy," he began, ready to unwind a yarn.
"Why do you call me that? You know my real name."
"Yeah, but you don't know mine," he chuckled, with not a little bit of ominousness. "What were y'all thinking with .gifs? I know you thought that you were just trawling for easy recs -- and good call there, since recs become currency in 2016 -- but was that it? A few cheap chuckles and some goofy data visualization?"
"Well...you have to understand, technology was different back then..." I got stammery and sweaty in a hurry. It was hot in 2024, what with the lack of ice caps contributing to desertification on a scale we'd call Biblical if we worshiped a murderous God.
"You don't even remember how we got rid of those stupid gifs, do you? It was all because of Billy Hamilton.
"Yeah, you know Billy Hamilton, right? Boy, it took him a couple months to get his eyes screwed in straight, but he became a demon afterwards. You know that Jon Jay is the only American who still smokes? Yeah, he picked up the habit about 10 years ago. Phillip Morris even sponsors the Cardinals now, but I digress. We all loved those .gifs back before our Losantivillains put #6 at the top of the order, but they're just no fun now. Here, let me show you."
He gestured at the coffeeshop wall and flicked some buttons on his laptop.
A smile separated my nose from my chin. "Oh yeah, I remember that. Good stuff!"
"'Good stuff'? Bullshit!" Future Me sneered, and my cheeks stopped their squeeze.
"The best of 2014 technology, and all you can see is a dude take 37 steps! This was one of the most thrilling things of that year, this was the subtle reveal of the monster that terrorizes the woods in the second act, and all you can see is a guy run like the framerate's busted!"
I had to say he had a point. I remember when gifs used to thrill, when they used to make me laugh or when they made me scream. But now it was 2014, and I was going over each one like the Zapruder film, trying to separate the medium's flaws from the wonders it held.
"What can I say? We had so little to hold on to back then...we wanted to see the beautiful things as much as possible."
"You call that beauty? There's a time and place for .gifs, I know. The Cubs...the Astros...Benny Hill had his Yakety Sax and Crappy Ball has its gifs. But Billy Hamilton? Let me tell you, he broke gifs.
"21st-century speed has no place in 1990s technology. Like Buck O'Neill said, Billy is faster than that. A gif can't capture that...shit damn, I don't think that what passed for HD back in 2014 could capture that. All you're seeing are legs moving and a ball not. You aren't watching speed.
"Billy Hamilton's speed back then was the stuff of poetry. Y'all were chasing pageviews, but blind Homer was the role model you should've been chasing. The man moves towards home like a cheetah to a downed fawn and you're wasting your time measuring hundredths of second like the fountain of youth is sourced in code.
"Close your eyes and listen to Hamilton's footfalls. Quick and getting quicker, they're getting confused in your mind with your heartbeat as he closes down to the plate, and meanwhile the ball is in the air like a death sentence chasing the doomed man, sentenced to the guillotine for the stupid crime of tagging up on a popout.
"But Billy Hamilton ain't your common convict, man. Stupid St. Louis, sending a boy's candy-ass throw to do a man's job of killing the fastest feet in the United States. Billy beat the throw, beat the rap, and slid halfway to the upper-deck.
"For #6, it's only a matter of when. You can see that .gif on repeat but it's not like that in Jon Jay's nightmares. It can be on your frontmost tab, but what's that compared to the back of the NL Centrals' minds? Billy kept on coming, every damn time he was on base. You won't see that opponent's fear, you won't see the Cincinnati grins. You didn't see the cocky backstops thinking they'll outgun the fastest pistol, you didn't see those catchers' corpses when you traveled 3,650 days to come talk to me here.
"There's no .giffing Billy Hamilton. There's talking about Billy Hamilton, now and then. At least now we respect our adjectives, unlike you bozoes who wasted them on explainer journalism and callback humor about mid-90s tv shows.
"So go ahead, watch those repeating images flickering with a speedster's legs. They don't hold a candle to what you felt watching it live. Homeboy outran light and sound alike, makes no difference to him."
My throat was parched, I can't imagine how he felt after talking so long. "So how do you capture a career like his? What was that career like, anyways, 10 years on?"
Future Me made a razor-straight line out of his coffee powder and sniffed it up through his credit card.
"From 2014-2023 he was faster than you, and you traveled 10 years in a second just to hear me say it. It's a career for hyperbole, just for the sake of seeing if he can make it come true."
He coughed, a cough that turned into a smile.
"If you wanted a slash line, you should have bothered Future JinAZ."