Decoding the Secrets of Sports TV: Numbers? On the Screen? What?

Look, I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve accidentally attended three or four Major League Baseball Games, and I was sober enough at one of them to still have a mostly solid recollection of the experience. Suffice it to say that I know how the game is played—from the first beer I grab during the national anthem to the middle of the seventh inning, when I leave early on the off chance they select me for the KissCam.

One thing that’s forever baffled me, though, is what the heck those numbers at the top of the TV screen mean. I mean, those numbers don’t show up in real life, so I guess it’s something that they do for the folks at home, but why? It stands to reason that some of those numbers are meant to keep score. But what about the other ones? There’s that weird number that keeps going up as the game goes on and has that arrow that’s either above or below it. It that supposed to be some sort of compass, or what? And those four tiny diamond-shaped squares that light up sometimes. Is that a tiny Dance-Dance Revolution game to keep viewers at home active? We can only speculate.

For years, I pretended I knew what they stood for to fit in. At dinner parties, I was a nervous wreck, profusely sweating in anticipation of some jerk asking me to decode those damned enigmas. After an especially unfortunate incident involving a Chicago Cubs game, several foreign dignitaries and an appendectomy, I decided it was time to ask around and see if any of my loved ones knew the key to this mystery. I asked my wife if she knew what the numbers meant. She blocked my phone number. I asked my son if he knew. He began to explain it, but then he got a text from his friend and left to go yell at cops. I even asked my cat, who calmly but firmly explained that the only league he follows is the WNBA.

The bottom line is this: these numbers are a mess. Just a mess. And I won’t stand for it any longer. From this day on, this reporter will refrain from watching a single MLB game (unless nothing better is on) until someone can tell him what the heck those numbers mean! Got it? I won’t take it anymore! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out what the hell that yellow line on the football field means.

Sam Schuman is a sophomore at Oberlin College. He would very much like his appendix back.

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