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WGN-TV, you have real problems with your scorebox

And the production values weren’t great, either.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this article about the scoreboxes used by both WGN-TV and NBC Sports Chicago on their Cubs broadcasts, and how they both needed to make some tweaks.

NBC Sports Chicago did make the change I noted, which was switching “CHC” to “CUBS” in the box, as they had done in previous years.

WGN... I hate to say this to the station that has carried Cubs games for 70 years, but man, you guys have messed your scorebox up completely.

For reference, here is the scorebox WGN-TV used last year (and for several years before that):

That’s easy to read, has all the useful information anyone would need (the pitch count disappears briefly after every pitch for the pitch speed), and it’s positioned well on the screen. In general, white text on a black background is best for television.

This year... well, that’s just not the case. To review the ever-changing WGN-TV scorebox, here’s what it looked like March 25 on a spring training broadcast:

That’s... too monochrome. Too hard to read the number of outs. Not enough contrast with the blue. They fixed it up once the season started... a little:

It’s still too monochrome, and now the team names are smaller. The outs are nearly incomprehensible... they’re the two blue dots on the right side, but that’s not intuitive.

I mentioned some of these things in my previous article. And as of Friday night, WGN made everything worse:

Well, now the outs are white. And horizontal. And still not intuitive. The blue used for the top or bottom of the inning indicator is pretty low-contrast, as are the team names, which are white on gray. The backgrounds are lighter, making the whole thing fade into the crowd behind it. And for me and quite a number of others, this box was cut off at the top of our TV screens. Here’s a photo I took of my TV screen Friday night:

What appears to be the entire box at the top really isn’t; the box is cut off about halfway up. What you see on the photo above is a reflection of the bottom half of the scorebox on the frame around my TV screen. Obviously, this is not optimal. I will say that I checked another TV in my house and I could see the entire scorebox, though it was pretty close to the top of the screen and still very, very small. I watched a bit of the White Sox game Saturday on WGN, before the Cubs game began, and they had the same issue — the box cut off at the top of my screen. So it’s a WGN-wide issue, not just caused by (say) one specific remote truck.

The bottom line here is that even with all the little tweaks WGN has made to this scorebox over the first three weeks of the season, it’s still not good. Neither is their graphics package, which has a lot of... hexagons in it. It’s just odd-looking.

As I’ve noted before, I am writing this from the viewpoint of my previous work as a television director. Often, graphics departments come up with something that they think looks great on a huge monitor sitting two feet from their faces, but doesn’t work in the real world. And if these scoreboxes are hard to read on 55-inch screens, imagine someone trying to look at it on a smartphone. That would be virtually impossible, even if it’s not cut off at the top.

So I’m making this call for WGN-TV to go back to their 2017 scorebox. I realize this is all part of a complete graphics package... if so, they should dump the entire thing and start over. It’s just not good TV.

Speaking of not-good TV, this is not-good TV [VIDEO].

That is a terrible angle to show an entire play from. First, it’s a bad angle to see the pitch come in; it’s the shot many of us in TV dubbed the “umpire’s butt” shot. And after that, the actual action fades into the background of the shot. It’s just bad television, as you can see here. Where’s the ball in this shot?

Now, I suppose it’s possible that the camera they call “high home” (upper-deck facade behind the plate) was temporarily out of commission — that’s the camera that would normally show a play like that one.

Even so, no cutting to other cameras for that play? Poorly done, WGN.

(Answer to the question above: the second baseman has just fielded it. But you can’t really tell from that angle.)

Hopefully, they’ll have done something to fix all these issues before their next broadcast Tuesday from Cleveland.