The Thin Yellow Line

I have been sick. Like really sick. Down and out and down again. That kind of sick where no matter how much you might want to get up and get moving…it is just…not…happening.

Because of this, I have been home from work during the day. And yesterday while I was home I caught a story on NPR’s All Things Considered that talked about the sports graphic company Sports Vision.

These are the guys best known for the now infamous “yellow line” used during tv coverage of American football games. In a lot of ways, the yellow line changed sports on television forever, for it opened the floodgates from broadcasters just showing the score graphic to games on TV being more graphic than live action.

The reporter credits them for changing it for the good. But with the exception of the yellow line, I think the graphic overdose has ruined sports on TV. No one liked Madden’s telestrater, and just making the graphics more professional does not make them any less annoying.

Sure, showing the score is handy, I guess, but anything more than that seems like overkill and ends up taking away from the overall viewing experience. It breaks down the fourth wall, to put it a different way.

And cricket commits the sin of graphical overkill more so than any sport.

In the short time I have followed the game, I have seen every graphical gimmick imaginable – often with hilarious results. And while, for the most part, said gimmicks are only really used between deliveries, it still takes away from the overall enjoyment. Even the score being on the screen the entire time seems useless for a game that moves as slowly as cricket does. Just show the scorecard between overs. That’s really all we need.

Lots of people complain about cricket commentary teams – that they talk far too much. And while they do, I can say that I have learned a great deal from them.

However, I can also say that I have not learned a single thing about the intricacies and strategies involved in cricket from an onscreen in-game graphic.

If sports broadcasters really want to recreate the experience of watching a game live in person, then they should use less graphics, not more. And if recreating the live experience is not their end game – if it is instead creating an all new sports experience – an experience that simply cannot be replicated outside of ones living room – then I am not sure that is a good road for sports broadcasting to go down. I think making the in home experience so vastly different than the live experience is going to be a negative for sport overall.

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Bringing this all back home: cricket, more so than any other sport – simply due to how long the game is and how international it has become – relies on television coverage to give cricket followers their fix. The games are often on weekdays, and more so than not ones team is playing on the other side of the world. And so the at-home experience for cricket needs to be pleasant, to be informative, and to be, well, an experience. 

But I think they are going about it the wrong way. Take away the graphics, the announcers, and just let the game breath. That’s my two cents.

I could not find a decent cricket video to explain what I mean, but this highlight video of Arsenal v Wigan from last season proves my point for me:

That right there is how sports should be viewed at home.

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I guess what I trying to say is: I hope Sports Vision goes out of business and takes their yellow line and their glowing puck and their fighting robots along with them.

And confidential to the company’s CEO, Hank Adams: using the phrase “man cave” in the first sentence of your interview completely negates what is to follow. For a couple reasons:

1) It is a stupid term. Just say “den” for crying out loud.
2) As a commenter on the article points out, it is more than just vaguely sexist.

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