OTHER SPORTS > Charting an NFL game

January 2013

This is a work-in-progress concept. It has flaws. It's a first attempt at charting an NFL game.

Before I explain further, I should mention that my knowledge of American football is minimal at best: I enjoy watching NFL games, I know what a quarterback is, but beyond the basics, I know nothing. The idea of making a chart like this came about because I want to understand the game better. My main sporting interest is baseball, and I had a thought that, to aid my understanding, I could take the idea of the baseball box score (giving the reader a brief overview of what happened during a game) and the idea of keeping score (using graphic elements and abbreviations to tell the story of a game), and applying those ideas in a graphic way to a football game.

It is entirely possible that something like this already exists. I've seen the Drive Chart on NFL.com's GameCenter, but they don't really tell me, a novice football follower, much graphically. In the chart, I am trying to keep the visual language as simple as possible, but also express as much as I can without the viewer having to keep referring back to the key to see what each graphic element means.

Like I mentioned, there are flaws. There are a few inconsistencies here and there, but I plan on doing another chart of a different game, hopefully this weekend, to address those flaws, and tighten up the concept and design a bit. For one thing, I'd like the next version of this to have fewer words. To add graphic symbols for interceptions, fumbles, penalties, and timeouts.

That being said, I figured it might be worth putting this online in its flawed state for people to look at. I'm moderately happy with this first attempt. I feel like a few more games of data might be enough to tighten up the concept to a point where I could hopefully be able to do something "live," to follow along a game and fill out a chart, like I would keeping score at a baseball game. Oh, and one thing I guess I should mention: I've not changed ends for the teams when they change ends in the game. This is purely to keep the chart neat and understandable: Baltimore are playing left to right, Denver right to left. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to contact me.