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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The one (well, two) NFL games I know I'll be watching... and why

(Hat tip to Sports Media Watch for tipping me off to this one.)

Most of the innovations in sports graphics have been made by Fox. It was Fox who, if not invented, at least popularized the modern score box, and Fox led the way in the transition to the modern score banners used in every non-tennis sport by every major sports operation in some form except on CBS' football coverage. But a transition more profound than the one to banners, and possibly as profound as the introduction of boxes, may be being spearheaded not by Fox, but by ESPN.

When the new Monday Night Football regular season starts on, well, Monday, ESPN will introduce the "Monday Night Football Dashboard", which will consolidate the information presented by a box or banner with statistics and player information and that sort of thing. It sounds like ESPN will attempt to condense the banner (although for the past two seasons and this year's preseason MNF has used something better described as an "orb", a centered design since modified by NFL Network but not seeing wide use elsewhere) with the line of statistics that has been obvious on college football broadcasts and which recently saw a semi-notorious application on MLB broadcasts with pitch-count-by-pitch-count statistics for each batter.

The graphics designer at ESPN interviewed by the Sports Video Group web site says "I think [viewers will] know it's a better experience. But they won't know why." I know few people obsess as much over graphics as I do, but even if the "dashboard" contains a preservation of the "orb" I find that somewhat hard to believe. At any rate, I sure as hell hope I'm able to catch the MNF opener and see it in action, see just how different it is, and see if it's something other networks might copy, or if it's worth copying.

(And might this have something to do with ESPN's move to only showing college football starting lineups at the top of the screen, above the banner, and only spotlighting "impact players"?)

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