I still believe the best scoreboard in the world is the 77-year-old, hand-operated one atop the center-field bleachers at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.


A close runner-up might be the manual scoreboard at Boston’s Fenway Park. It loses points in my book partly because it’s not the original (the Red Sox quietly replaced it during the All-Star break about a decade ago) and, OK, mainly because I grew up watching the Detroit Tigers lose too many games when some Red Sox player slapped a hit off that damn wall.

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I love that Augusta National still has old-school leaderboards dotting the course for the Masters. And I was disappointed when Wimbledon replaced its famous Centre Court scoreboards — green background, dot matrix numerals — with something called “Barco OLite 612 LED displays.”

I am a scoreboard curmudgeon. I admit it. And not just because, as my daughter reminds me, I’m getting old. I always have liked simple, classic, no-frills venues.

So, yes, I wanted to hate the “upgrades” to EverBank Field, wanted to write off The World’s Largest Scoreboards as 362-foot symbols of our addiction to electronics; wanted to point to them as the latest example of the NFL’s long tradition of embracing — even celebrating — gaudy overkill.

After seeing the scoreboards in action, I have to say they are indeed all of those things and more.

I also have to say I like them.

This isn’t just because the scoreboards definitely have a “wow” factor, especially for someone who still has an old picture-tube TV in the family room. It’s also because I think this is good for the city.

If you don’t believe that an NFL team adds value to a city — economic, emotional or otherwise — then you’ll probably have a hard time buying that this was $43 million well spent. But if you believe the city is better because of the Jaguars, and with them in the future, this was a relatively cheap way to upgrade their home field — paid for mostly by visitors. (An important detail, which the city didn’t initially make clear. Unless you’ve been spending a lot of time in our local hotels, you aren’t paying for this. This isn’t coming from property tax, sales tax or gas tax.)

Consider that in 1987, Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie built a stadium for his team with $115 million of his own money. Those days are long gone. New stadiums now routinely top $1 billion. And NFL owners don’t reach into their own wallets to pay for them.

Jacksonville can’t, shouldn’t and won’t build a $1 billion stadium to keep up with the Jerry Joneses. But for $63 million — $20 million from owner Shad Khan — EverBank was given a jolt of character. Yes, it’s a loud, garish character. This is the NFL, a loud, garish league that has made a product that’s perfect for living rooms and big-screen TVs.

If you step back and look at the big picture, is there something out of whack about sports? About a world where an NFL player can make more in a year than what your best teacher or firefighter makes in his or her lifetime?

Of course. But Toby Keith makes more in a year ($65 million last year) than any NFL player ever has. And yet when he comes to town and plays in an arena built with taxpayer dollars — a place designed partly in hopes of enticing some of the world’s wealthiest entertainers to come make some money here — there is nary a where-are-our-priorities peep.

This money couldn’t be used for libraries or schools. I’m OK with it being used for the scoreboards. But, yes, in the future I would like to see more of our tourism dollars pumped back into what should be the future of our tourism — outdoors.

People already come here for our beaches, our rivers, our parks. We should make it even more of a priority to preserve, maintain and improve them. And it wouldn’t hurt to be able to tout them with one symbolic piece, something that might be a bit of a gimmick but also might be pretty cool.

Build a recreational equivalent of the World’s Largest Scoreboards. Maybe the World’s Longest Riverwalk. Or perhaps the Best Downtown Waterfront Park in America. That’s something I would be excited to see. For now, I’ll admit to coming around on the changes to the stadium.

If you haven’t seen them yet, the Jacksonville Scoreboards, uh, Jaguars make their preseason debut Friday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When I saw the date for this game — Aug. 8 — it reminded me that it will be the anniversary of the first night game at Wrigley.

I remember this not because I have a good memory, but because it was a memorable date (8/8/88) and because I was there. The game got rained out. Some who believed Wrigley shouldn’t have lights believed it was karma.

As much as I loved day baseball at Wrigley, I ended up embracing the lights. I’m convinced that if they hadn’t gone up, Wrigley would have gone down. Maybe the Cubs wouldn’t have left Chicago. But eventually they would have moved to some shiny new stadium in the suburbs. The lights saved Wrigley and the old scoreboard, making it possible for the Cubs to keep losing in the same place for 100 years and counting.

Which brings us to the question I kept hearing at the scoreboard unveiling.

Will the Jaguars create some highlights for the new boards?