Sports graphics: Baseball, ESPN, Golf, and other things

Getting this out of the way before the NFL preseason starts in earnest:

A new element is all the rage in baseball graphics, pioneered by YES Network, with NESN changing its graphics shortly into the season to accommodate it, and starting to make appearances on ESPN. If the experiences of YES and NESN are any indication, this new element will effectively force already-crowded banners to become two-line boxes to squeeze it in. (How many banners are left on baseball coverage beyond Comcast SportsNet?)

I’m referring to the pitch count meter. The general trend seems to be to make the pitch count meter share space with wherever the speed of each pitch appears. YES and NESN have put the score and places of runners on the top line, and nothing else, with everything else going on the bottom line…

…while ESPN has put both elements in the same space as the positions of the runners on base. The pitch speed is displayed first for longer than normal, followed by the pitch count for a shorter period.

Incidentally, the design of YES and NESN’s boxes seems to suggest that Fox may want to consider a version of my original baseball two-line box idea. If Fox wanted to impose pitch count on its current two-line box, it would have to adopt an approach similar to ESPN’s and display both pitch speed and pitch count in the same space as the count and number of outs. (Incidentially, did anyone notice the red-white-and-blue theme all Fox and FSN graphics adopted for the positions of runners on base for July 4th weekend and reprised for the All-Star Game?)

In other baseball graphics news, MASN joins the box bandwagon, while SportsTime Ohio, whose graphics I’ve mocked in the past, creates a graphic easily mistaken for ESPN’s (using the same font and the same color down the sides of the team abbreviations seen in ESPN’s other new graphics) and may have outdone them in the process. The graphic still inexplicably disappears when not showing the pitcher-batter confrontation, and not displaying “MPH” on the pitch speed is jarring, but at least it doesn’t show a team logo when no one is on base for no reason anymore.

I get the sense that ESPN’s graphics for non-SportsCenter studio shows, which have been seen on “Winner’s Bracket”, “Baseball Tonight”, “The Decision”, and during ESPN’s World Cup coverage, were designed after the SportsCenter graphics and possibly following a change of priorities. Especially when a headline is shown at the bottom of the screen, the somewhat robotic look actually looks spiffier than SportsCenter, despite the latter supposedly being the flagship show. In addition, the graphics, especially the colors, look too specific and may have been designed for color symmetry with the World Cup world feed in mind; it’ll work for most sports, and worked really well during the World Cup, but it’s not meshing well at all on Baseball Tonight. BBTN could have done well to adopt the sport-specific look now seen on NFL Live and College Football Live; time will tell if that look survives the transition to the new graphics (though college football probably wouldn’t suffer from a full transition to them).

I much preferred ESPN’s actual World Cup score graphic to those on Univision and CBC, especially since ESPN didn’t try and fail to ape the world feed’s other graphics. But as the World Cup went along, ESPN first put up a display of team jerseys on the screen whenever it could, and then incorporated them into the graphic itself, at the expense of consistency with the world feed graphics. Had ESPN been thinking ahead, it could have added jersey colors in a way that created more flow, such as in a line underneath the team abbreviations.

During the World Cup, I noticed that ESPNews had dropped its larger BottomLine in favor of a BottomLine more like those in place on other ESPN networks. I haven’t been keeping up on my feeds so I don’t know if this has already gone through the sports media blogosphere (although SportsCenter will be expanding its presence on the News soon), but it seems odd that ESPNews is still using its old graphics, especially since they spill off the edges of the screen in SD. Might a change to get closer to ESPN’s other graphics be in the works?

If the graphics ESPN had during the British Open are its new golf graphics, they weren’t in place for the US Senior Open. They’re not dissimilar to graphics ESPN has sometimes added to other networks’ golf highlights during SportsCenter, and while they show the level of customization available across sports (even with changes in colors), they definitely reflect ESPN’s new graphic style… when displaying the leaderboard and studio personnel. I’d prefer the player-name-crammed-to-the-side style used in other sports than what ESPN actually used when showing player stats, involving the player name across the top in a jarringly different large Arial font. Look at the bottom video and tell me the front nine and back nine scores couldn’t have been shown consecutively – wasn’t the point of the new format to avoid taking up too much space? Even the World Series of Poker is using the name-crammed-to-the-side style!

Augusta National finally entered the 21st century, and adopted graphics for the Masters more like CBS’ current graphics for other golf tournaments, while still looking unique.

Versus’ new IndyCar graphics are a downgrade, and look too much like ESPN’s new motorsports graphics – complete with displaying time behind the leader on the same line as the name of each driver! On the plus side, shortly after (or maybe even before) my last roundup Versus did indeed shake up its other graphics – they’ve gone from aping old ESPN graphics to old Fox graphics, but it’s a start!

Finally, NBC… what are you doing, man?!? After how much I praised how you managed to get timeout indicators to mesh with the rest of your graphic, you go and adopt these bulky white things at the Hall of Fame Game.

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