Sports media: WGN Sports’ graphic design is more like graphic decline
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At the start of baseball season, I railed on WGN Sports for its new score bug and graphics. And I wasn’t alone. Readers’ response was overwhelmingly negative toward them. They were poorly organized, hard to decipher and lacked color.
Little has changed in basketball and hockey season.
The graphics are too small, the basketball score bug in particular. People are watching games on 50-plus-inch TVs, yet they’re looking at a score bug the size of the space bar on a keyboard. And the image with the team logos, full names and score is in a tiny box that gets lost on the screen.
The graphics also are too tight within their frame. For the basketball score bug, the quarter, game time and shot clock have little space between them. It’s like an iPhone in its box. There’s zero wasted space but, in this case, for no practical purpose.
WGN’s regular score bug is the only one I’ve seen that doesn’t incorporate team colors, aside from flashing the logo when a team scores. It’s black, gray and white, which is bland. The basketball bug gets a dash of color with the shot clock, which looks like aqua blue until it turns red with five seconds left. There also are tiny dashes of the same blue under each team to indicate timeouts left.
I’m no fan of the timeout indicator, either. It’s not that I can’t count the tiny dashes; it’s that they’re, well, tiny. (Do you sense a trend here?) And I noticed they weren’t used every game earlier in the season. The game Nov. 28 against the Bucks was sans timeouts, for some reason.
Plus, the bug doesn’t keep track of fouls. That’s pretty important, too. The hockey bug doesn’t need to tell us anything more than the score, time and period. The basketball bug needs to show more information. Viewers shouldn’t have to wait for a ‘‘Game Reset’’ graphic.
One issue I didn’t raise during baseball season was the use of a hexagon in the graphics. In baseball, the bases form a diamond and home plate is, for all intents and purposes, a pentagon (an irregular pentagon for you geometry buffs). So why use a hexagon? Turns out, it’s the primary shape of the graphics package. Poor choice.
How WGN uses the hexagon to display the score is silly. The hexagon — which is tilted, so there’s an angle, rather than a straight line, at its top and bottom — is split in half diagonally. A team is on either side, and its score is next to its half. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I think I know why: Because it looks ridiculous.
WGN’s production of game broadcasts never has been an issue. I don’t ever recall coming away from a broadcast wondering what the crew was thinking, and this goes all the way back to the Arne Harris days of Cubs games. But WGN’s graphics package leaves me shaking my head every time.
Speaking of score bugs . . .
Even when networks use color to differentiate teams in a score bug, it can be confusing. I didn’t know who was who while watching a Pelicans-Trail Blazers game this season on TNT. The Pelicans wore red uniforms, but their score-bug color was blue. The Blazers wore white, but their score-bug color was red.
Networks designate a primary color that isn’t white for each team, regardless of the uniform color worn that game. That’s understandable, but with teams owning a wardrobe’s worth of uniforms these days, particularly in the NBA, it would be helpful if the score-bug color matched the teams on the screen.
A Spurs-Bulls game on NBC Sports Chicago was a rare such instance. The Spurs wore black and the Bulls red, and the bug matched. If they won’t use white, networks at least should make one uniform color match the bug. It would help the easily confused types in the audience, like me.
Bears pregame hoopla
The Eagles-Bears wild-card game Sunday marks the Bears’ first playoff game on NBC since they beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. NBC 5 Chicago will take advantage with an hourlong pregame show starting at 2 p.m.
The ‘‘Sports Sunday’’ duo of Siafa Lewis and Jeff Blanzy will be joined in studio by former Bears receiver Rashied Davis and longtime sports reporter Peggy Kusinski. Reporter Mike Berman and longtime NFL writer Dan Pompei will chime in from Soldier Field.
NBC’s ‘‘Football Night in America’’ follows at 3, and the game broadcast with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya begins at 3:30.
Gambling is on the air
The Score is launching a weekly half-hour sports-wagering show at 8:30 a.m. Saturday called ‘‘Early Odds,’’ featuring Joe Ostrowski. Its focus will be on Chicago teams and the biggest national sports events. Ostrowski will be joined by guests each week, including Las Vegas bookmakers and analysts.