When Marquee Sports Network was being presented to us as Cubs fans, we were told we’d get “a network that’s as dedicated as you”:
Sounds great, right?
Instead, we’re getting a network that’s being programmed by broadcast executives who have, in my view, given us the idea that “We know what’s good for you.” As not only a lifelong Cubs fan and Chicago-area resident, but someone who was a television director at a Chicago station for 30 years, I can tell you that none of us — neither fan nor TV person — likes that sort of thing.
Honestly, I cannot think of one thing that Marquee does better in its game presentation than we saw over the last few seasons on WGN-TV, NBC Sports Chicago and ABC7 Chicago. Marquee’s executives should realize that they’re not coming into a market full of novices in Chicago — Cubs fans have been watching literally almost every one of their team’s games for at least 50 years and all the home games for 20 years before that. We know what we like, we know what works and doesn’t work for us. Marquee would have done well to simply watch a few 2019 games and do what they did.
Since they didn’t, I have some suggestions on how they can make the broadcasts better.
The scorebox is a relatively new innovation in sports broadcasting, dating back to the 1990s. It’s really useful — if you turn a game on midstream, you can instantly know what the score is, how many outs there are, the pitch count, etc.
You can do that, that is, unless the scorebox looks like this:
The first problem with this is that it’s at the bottom of the screen. Literally no other baseball broadcast uses a scorebox in that spot. Why? Because your eye naturally goes to the top of the screen. The best scoreboxes occupy the upper-left corner, like this one from NBC Sports Chicago:
Clean. Easy to read. Good contrast on the dark numbers on the white background, easy to view for people who have vision issues. For Marquee’s, you have to start reading left-to-right. From the image above, all right, the Brewers have 0, how many do the Cubs have? One, but it took me a couple seconds to read all the way across the screen.
Since I suck at Photoshop, I asked Mike Bojanowski to take Marquee’s scorebox, deconstruct it, then reconstruct it in the upper left corner:
Easy to read. Good contrast. All the information that was on the bottom of the screen is now at the top, where your eye naturally goes. The pitch speed would appear where the count does, briefly, after each pitch.
Almost all baseball broadcasts have the scorebox in the upper left. Fox-TV and the Fox regional sports networks use a scorebox in the diagonally opposite position, the lower right:
Fox’s box is easy to read, too. Good contrast on the colors, numbers easy to read against the dark background. So I asked Mike to make a Marquee scorebox in that corner:
That works too. Again, the numbers are easy to read, everything’s together in one corner instead of being spread out across the top of the screen. I’d prefer it in the upper left, but maybe this works for you.
You’ll notice that on the NBC Sports Chicago and Fox scoreboxes, the number of outs is noted as a digit instead of the dots that Marquee uses. This is also a good idea; for one thing, the dots are awfully small. Not everyone’s watching the game on a 65-inch TV at home!
So there it is, Marquee — Mike and I re-designed your scorebox, using the same style, only putting it in a better location. I’d love to see it in the upper left, soon.
Let’s play dressup!
Now let’s talk about something that a lot of people don’t think is a big deal. And let’s be honest — it probably isn’t. But putting Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies in suits and ties, to me, kind of separates them from the fanbase. It’s way too formal for a sports event:
Yes, I am aware that network-level sports broadcasters wear suits and ties. While Marquee wants to give us a “network-quality broadcast,” I can say with some confidence that no Cubs fan before 2020 thought, “If I can’t see Len and JD in a shirt and tie, I won’t watch!” It’s unnecessary formality. If only Marquee might have tried them in polo shirts... oh, wait, they did:
That’s from a spring training game broadcast February 25. Nice-looking shirts, no? So... why not just have them like this all year? This sends the message, “Spring training games are fun, but regular season games have to be dressup.”
Am I making too big a deal out of this? Maybe, but again, in the less-formal era in which we live, why not let Len and JD be our friends in the booth rather than look like TV news anchors?
Too cute for TV
Have a look at the graphic here:
“Quees” to the game? Seriously? That is being overly cute to just be overly cute. In my view, that takes away from the point of doing this, talking about the KEYS to the game. Cut the cute, Marquee — just give us the facts.
The good stuff
Now that I’ve told you about the things I don’t like about Marquee’s visual presentation, let me tell you about a couple of things they’re doing that I do like.
This graphic is something I haven’t seen any other TV channel do:
This is not only really useful information, it’s presented exceptionally well. It shows the breakdown of Jon Lester’s 2020 pitches by number and also visually. This is a well-designed graphic and I’d love to see more in-depth statistical information presented this way.
I also like this new graphic that Marquee has premiered:
Those numbers and arrows are wind speed and direction at different points in the ballpark. The official wind speed as noted in the boxscore for Sunday’s game was “Wind 10mph in from Centerfield,” and when you hear that you usually think about a wind that’d knock some baseballs down from going out of the ballpark. But a single wind number doesn’t necessarily mean the wind is blowing that way at every part of the park throughout the game, and this graphic clearly shows that in fact, a lefthanded hitter might actually have been aided by the wind a bit during Sunday’s game.
Marquee has a full page on its website explaining this further, and there’s another image on that page showing how the wind can swirl at different parts of the ballpark.
This is exceptionally well done and I’d love to see more things like this — things that the viewer might not have thought of, but that could affect the outcome of a game.
Here are the three things Marquee could do — right now — that would vastly improve the game broadcasts, in my opinion:
- Move the scorebox
- Less cute, more stats
- And get casual with Len and JD
I would really, really like Marquee to succeed. They’ve inherited an extremely loyal fanbase of Cubs followers who are accustomed to watching nearly every game on television. The bottom line should have been: “Give them what they’re used to, and enhance it,” rather than reinventing the wheel, which is the feeling I’ve gotten so far.
Granted, we are 20 games into a season with no fans in the stands and other things that prevent Marquee from doing a broadcast as has been done in the past (example: social distancing between Len and JD, and their inability to travel to road games). But in this article I’ve made suggestions for some simple fixes that would make this Cubs fan, at least, much more comfortable watching their broadcasts.
They should feel like comfy old clothes, not some stiff-collared new shirt that you have to stretch out and wash 30 times before it fits right.
If you’re reading, Marquee management, please take these suggestions in the spirit in which they’re given, from a former TV director who would just like to see your broadcasts remain the best in the business, as Cubs games on TV have been for over 70 years.
Marquee Sports Network should place its scorebox...
This poll is closed
... exactly where it is now, centered at the bottom of the screen
... at the top left of the screen
... at the bottom right of the screen (like Fox-TV)
... somewhere else (leave in comments)