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Dusting Off: Manual Scorekeeping

As connoisseurs of history, we sometimes find styles, habits and turns of phrase from the past that we wouldn’t mind bringing back to the present, Doc Brown-style. This time around, we’re dusting off manual scorekeeping.

We live in a world of convenience. So it’s only natural that when we find ourselves at a sporting event—or watching on TV—there’s always some sort of device there to tell us who’s winning.

Even if we might be better off figuring it out for ourselves.

We’re not complaining—the U.S. Open would be pretty rough if we were counting up sets in real time—but there’s a certain kind of fandom that only comes with tracking the ebb and flow of the game in real-time, and marking it down as it happens. It’s the difference between really watching the game and just spectating.

Baseball’s full of this kind of aficionado. They’ve even got their own scorecards. (You can spot them as the only people sharpening pencils during the game.) In return for all that scribbling, they get a sense of the possibility of the game, the all-important minutae that makes it what it is.

For the sheer necessity of manual scorekeeping, we’d point you to bowling, a sport where it’s all but disappeared. It’s also a sport where the surge of points can be unpredictable. So much depends on momentum, and marking down spares and strikes can help you get the feel for the building scores like nothing else. Farming it out to a central processor just cuts you off.

So if you feel like bringing a transparency and a grease pencil to your next night at the lanes, we’ll be with you in spirit.