2008 was a year of firsts that was second to none

The theme for this year's year-end story is "first," a first.

How many times did we hear the word in '08?

First Gitmo trial. Pope Benedict's first visit to the U.S. as pontiff. First time a barrel of oil sold for $145. First prison time for O.J.

And didn't it make you proud that the United States was the first big economic domino to fall? First time the market dropped by 777 points in a day. That's one that you remember.

First black hole spotted in our galaxy. (So, OK, maybe we need to put that hole in our 401(k)s in perspective a bit.) The first physicist to coin the term "black hole," John A. Wheeler back in 1967, died this year. Science-fiction writers still weep.

Our elections, of course, were where the word rolled off the pundits' lips like beer after a Novocain shot. The firsts were momentous, they were minute. And here's the first that we can't quite get out of our heads — Paris "I'm, like, totally ready to lead" Hilton, discussing energy policy, in an ad, in a monokini.

Oh, the election "first" that you were thinking about was the Obama guy?

But you've already heard he was the first African-American to win the presidency, first to raise $150 million in a month, first BlackBerry president, first geek in chief.

Nor do we have to tell you again how Hillary Clinton was the first woman to win a primary or Sarah Palin was the first woman picked as a vice presidential candidate on a GOP ticket.

Really, the flurry of firsts was a lot more exciting than that.

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