I’m what you would call a casual sports fan. One of my roommates, however, is always watching ESPN. I wandered into the living room on Sunday while “Sportscenter” was on and saw the BEST THING EVER.

     First, some background. My pet peeve with watching football for the last, oh, 26 years has been the presentation of information. The top of the screen would usually have some sort of strip across it with a number denoting the quarter (1-4) and another number denoting the current down (1-4). Usually, these numbers are not labelled. People like my roommate, who watch football all the damn time just KNOW which is the quarter and which is the down. People like me spend a few plays watching to see which number changes to asses the present state of the game.

     The information graphics would change from season to season and channel to channel, and sometimes they were better than others. Usually you could determine which was the quarter number because it was closer to the gameclock. Still, i’ve always said that there had to be a better way to do this – someone should be able to glance at the screen and get all the information immediately without having to fall back on deductive reasoning.

     Anyway: back to Sportscenter. Apparently, this season, FOX (At least I was told it was FOX) has started superimposing an arrow on the field conveying who has posession, what down it is, and how many yards to go for a first down. This SORT of solves the problem, unless you tune in during a time out or something. I only saw clips on sportscenter, so I don’t know how they handle the information between plays, but this is a step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.

     I think I freaked my roommate out a little bit, because I was so excited when I saw this that all I could do to display this excitement was point at the screen and yell “YEAH!” The fact that a play had not yet begun when I chose to point and yell made the whole situation even more ridiculous.

     I tried hunting around a bit for an image of the ‘Arrow’ in question. I watched a few of the NFL video clips on foxsports.com and wondered why they were all talking heads and no sports before it dawned on me that the NFL probably hasn’t liscensed game footage for the internet yet. Not satisfied with simply making watching football way nerdy, I pressed on – searching google for usability studies on sports information graphics. So far I haven’t turned up too much, but I did find this usability study on Electronic Program Guides, which my local cable company (Comcast) should definitely peruse, as certain submenus of our ‘On Demand’ system kick you back to the main menu every time you try and back up. I’m sure ESPN or the networks must have someone who does this internally. What a great job that would be.