The year 1994 might be remembered most in American sports for the baseball strike that wiped out the World Series, which had been played every year since 1904.
But there was another development that year that changed how sports would be viewed forever: ABC and Fox TV introduced us to the score bug.
ABC used it during the World Cup, and Fox used it during its first season airing NFL games, calling it the “FoxBox.” (Not to be confused with FoxTrax, the glowing puck used during NHL games. But that’s for another column, and it wouldn’t be flattering.)
Never had the score of a game – any game – been shown on a TV screen throughout a broadcast. Only video gamers were treated to such a luxury. But it wasn’t long before every broadcast of every game had a score bug.
The bugs have evolved over the years, changing in shape, size and placement. ESPN rolled out a new bug for MLB games this season, moving from a box in the lower-right corner of the screen to a bar in the upper left. The switch is perplexing because the box was perfect. It had the pertinent information organized neatly and clearly.
WGN also changed its score bug for Cubs and White Sox games, but it’s not so much a bug anymore as it is a cockroach. Which is to say, it’s ugly.
The first problem is what stands out most: the pitch count. It’s the biggest box in the bar. Granted, every baseball score bug shows it, and that number is closely watched. But the most important box should be the score, and it doesn’t stand out with the team abbreviations proportional to the word “PITCHES.”
Then there’s the separation of elements. The background color of the team and its score is different. The inning and pitch count have the same background (which is the same as the team background) but they’re separated by the diamond signifying the baserunners. And the diamond has the same background as the ball-strike count, but they’re separated by the pitch count. Your eyes don’t know where to look.
And it’s not just the score bug that’s a problem. The linescore shown at the bottom of the screen before each inning is too small. Batters’ information has appeared too compact and confusing. And, worst of all, the out-of-town scoreboard shows a team’s score before the team, and the inning is to the right of the score. It appears as “0 Padres 3 Astros 5.” What is that?
NBC Sports Chicago has it right. Its bug is a bit bigger than necessary, but you know what’s important right away. The biggest numbers are the score, and they have the same color background as the teams. They’re clearly delineated from the rest of the bug, with the other information organized neatly on a white background.
WGN and NBCSCH (by the way, is there a longer sports abbreviation this side of CONCACAF?) carry most of the Cubs’ and Sox’ games. Fans will see these score bugs in their sleep. So how ’bout it? Which bug do you prefer? Email or tweet me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffreyA22.
White Sox play-by-play voice Jason Benetti took a couple playful shots at the Cubs during the Sox’ game Monday on WGN. The Cubs postponed their home opener that day because of snow, and justifiably so. But the Sox were able to play their home game. So Benetti made sure everyone knew there was one game in town.
“Saw some folks that were in Cubs gear stopping by,” Benetti said over a picture of fans in Cubs gear. “They wanted to see baseball today, so they figured they’d head over to the South Side instead.
“Wonder if we can get a word from Craig Counsell on what he thinks about the Cubs postponing today’s game. He’s had some thoughts on that previously.”
Counsell, the Brewers’ manager, was miffed last season about a rainout at Wrigley Field when it turned out it never rained. “First time for us we’ve had players treated for sunburn after a rainout,” Counsell said.
— New protective netting and dugouts at Wrigley have had a noticeable effect on the TV broadcast. With the dugouts farther down the lines and the netting extended to the outfield end of the dugouts, the upper-deck camera behind home plate must look through the screen on balls hit to the left- and right-field corners (see picture).
Also, with the camera wells farther down the lines, viewers are seeing different camera angles than they’re accustomed to.