The 10 Best Scoreboards
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in February of 2016. No matter what game is being played, from basketball and football to darts and cornhole, one of these scoreboards will make certain the players and the crowd know who is winning. From compact, tabletop options to electronic models complete with sounds, one of these will be perfect for your school, club, or sports hall, and we've ranked them here by versatility, legibility, and build quality. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 02, 2020:
Your scorekeeping needs are liable to be very specific depending on the sport you're keeping track of. In addition to the score and the time left in a given game, you might need things like play clocks or shot clocks, or ways to keep track of penalty minutes, fouls, and more. Of course, for less mainstream sports, there are often particular demands that even big light-up scoreboards can't meet. The Piero Lorenzo Cricket, for example, would be useless for anything that doesn't take place on a dartboard, but it's perfect for cricket. And while the Midwest-Masterpiece Decal Overlay could theoretically be used to keep score on any game that goes from 0 to 21, it's sized to be installed on the back of a cornhole board.
Assuming you have simpler needs, like keeping score for a moderately competitive intramural game or for an event between teams of young children, something like the Sportable Multisport Indoor Tabletop or the Gametime Technologies Digital should be the first thing you look at. They're a little pricier than their analog counterparts, but they can bring a lot of extra atmosphere to a game, including music and buzzer sounds. The Gametime model is particularly nice for integrating a smartphone app for board control. There's a regular control panel on it as a backup, but adjusting it on your phone is quick and easy.
Varsity Scoreboards This company can produce something to meet the needs of just about any level of major sport up to fierce high school competition. They also offer portable solutions that rise to the same high standard of legibility and performance you see on their permanently installed models. They certainly aren't cheap, but if you're in charge of the budget of a small athletic department in need of a new board, this is a great place to start. varsityscoreboards.com
A Brief History Of Scoreboards
The first scoreboard made its debut at a Harvard football game in 1893, because of course Harvard students would want a way to keep score.
Without them, we wouldn't have a way of knowing who was winning the big game, we wouldn't know which lawn care company was sponsoring the team this year, and we wouldn't have a quick go-to insult whenever the other team's fans are wittier than we are.
We're speaking, of course, about scoreboards.
The first scoreboard made its debut at a Harvard football game in 1893, because of course Harvard students would want a way to keep score. There's little that's known about what form this scoreboard took, but you can bet that the word "Harvard" was prominently displayed in multiple places.
The first electric scoreboard came around about 15 years later. However, many professional clubs were hesitant to introduce scoreboards in their parks because they were afraid that, if they did, people would no longer buy score cards from them (and apparently they were right).
It quickly became clear, though, that fans were interested in having an easy way to learn important information without having to do all the work themselves (after all, this took away from valuable drinking time). Manual scoreboards began to sprout up in ballparks across America, which were operated by dedicated personnel — usually as many as five at a time.
These boards soon evolved to offer spectators team lineups, stats, and scores from around the league.
The New York Yankees would prompt the next big leap forward in scoreboard technology, when they replaced their manual board with something called "the electronic miracle." This new board only required two men to operate it, and weighed in at just over 25 tons. It was, by far, the most advanced and impressive model at that time.
That distinction would only last for a year, however, once Comiskey Park in Chicago debuted its exploding scoreboard. This monstrosity had multi-colored pinwheels and shot off fireworks after every home run — and, oh yeah, it kept score, too.
This set off something of an arms race among major league teams, with franchises competing to erect bigger and flashier scoreboards at their parks. The Los Angeles Dodgers took it one step further, though, when they unveiled their "Diamond Vision" board. In an innovation befitting the club's home in Hollywood, this board had something no one else did: the ability to show video replays.
Since that time, the focus has been on building bigger screens with the highest possible definition; the Dallas Cowboys took this idea the furthest when they added an 11,520 square foot Jumbotron to their stadium.
There's no telling what scoreboards of the future will be able to do, but if recent history has taught us anything, it's that they'll be used to coerce fans into kissing each other.
Picking The Right Scoreboard For You
If you're in the market for a scoreboard, then one thing's for certain: you're serious about your competition.
Of course, there are reasons to buy a board that have nothing to do with shoving your superiority in the faces of your friends and family. You may need it for your kids' basketball league, or as part of a fundraiser.
If you're expecting a large crowd, or if they'll just be seated at a distance, make sure whatever board you get is easily readable.
Whatever your reason, that should factor into your purchase decision. If it's to host a fundraiser, you'll likely want to limit how much you spend on it, while if it's for a children's sporting event you should consider just how accurate you need it to be (after all, if there's any sort of skill disparity, scores can get out of hand quickly).
Also, consider just how many people are going to need to see it. If you're expecting a large crowd, or if they'll just be seated at a distance, make sure whatever board you get is easily readable. Look for large numbers with clear contrast to the background.
You'll need to decide between a digital and analog model, as well. Either one will likely require a dedicated person to man it, so it's up to you to decide which kind is more user-friendly for whichever scorekeeper you have in mind.
Ultimately, though, the most important thing is to find a model that's easy to photograph, so you can text it to your friends to remind them of that time you humiliated them at cornhole.
Tips For Running A Scoreboard
If you get tasked to run the scoreboard at a sporting event, you may feel like you're under a lot of pressure. Don't worry about it, though — with these tips, you'll be sure to ace the challenge.
The first thing you should do is consult with the officials running the event (both the organizers and the referees). They should be able to tell you everything you need to know, such as the rules for scoring, what your responsibilities are, and how to run the board.
If the game you're going to be working isn't terribly familiar to you, take a few hours to brush up on it.
If the game you're going to be working isn't terribly familiar to you, take a few hours to brush up on it. At the very least, learn how the scoring works. Also, if it's completely foreign, you should seriously consider bowing out — no one is less forgiving of screw-ups than a large crowd of sports fans.
While you're working, it's important that you pay complete attention to the game. This means no checking your phone or chatting with friends; it's easy to miss a pivotal moment of the action if you're distracted, and every point counts.
Most importantly, though, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're unsure of what to do in the moment, flag down one of the refs and ask. Again, it's better to take the time to get it right than it is to make a mistaken assumption.
Beyond that, try to have fun. Being part of the game can be tremendously rewarding, and you'll have the best seat in the house for the action. Enjoy it.
And if anyone gives you any guff, just smile and deduct a point from their team.