In the interest of assisting our dear readers in selecting just the right present for their favorite sports fan (and mostly because it's a darned easy column to write before two weeks of vacation), today we offer the second annual "Media Watch Holiday Gift Book, Video and CD-ROM Guide."
On the bookshelf
One of the recent publishing trends is the "coffeetable" book, the oversized, sometimes overpriced, tome filled with lush pictures and just a few words to set the scene.
Two of the most notable additions to this trend come from two larger-than-life figures, Cal Ripken and Joe Montana, whose books stand as pseudo-autobiographies.
Ripken's, called "Ripken: Cal on Cal," (Summit, 112 pages, $39.95), includes heart-tugging photos of his family at his Reisterstown home and behind-the-scenes shots of the shortstop at work and play at Camden Yards, as well as an extended section on the events surrounding his supplanting Lou Gehrig as the most durable player in baseball history.
If you can be satisfied with just the pictures, great, for Ripken, as is his way, is not terribly expansive about his thoughts on any subject beyond his father.
"Montana" (Turner, 144 pages, $25 in soft cover), co-written by Dick Schaap, opens more of a window to the soul of the former quarterback, as he talks briefly about such subjects as his relationship with Steve Young and the end of his career with San Francisco.
But, beyond the beautiful pictures of his family and his gorgeous California home, there's not much more of Montana that you didn't already know.
"The Olympic Spirit: 100 Years of the Games," (Collins, 180 pages, $25) is an obvious primer to next summer's games in Atlanta, and contains over 350 photos of the Olympics, stretching back to the first modern games in 1896.
But author Susan Wels' text is a little dry, and the fact that a chapter on the ancient games -- nearly all droning words -- draws almost as much space as the Winter Olympics leaves the reader a little cold.
The best of these text-photo hybrids is the wonderful "Diamond Dreams" (Little, Brown; 160 pages, $40), a collection of 30 years of baseball photographs from Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss.
Punctuated with Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell's
prose, which is tributary, but hardly ever mawkish, "Diamond Dreams" is a beautiful throwback to the game many of us remember and miss fondly.
The best of the biographies is Jack Newfield's uncompromising "Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King" (Morrow; 352 pages; $23), which torches the boxing impresario. If that New York jury had had this book during its sequestration last month, King would be behind bars.
From the off-the-wall but inexpensive section, try "Traveling: Three Months on the NBA Road," (Macmillan, 292 pages; $14.95) John E. Mordahl's chronicle of his three-month tour of NBA arenas. Mordahl selects USAir Arena as the league's worst, so he must know something.
The electronics desk
For the most part, this area is where you separate the sports-minded from the sports geek. The sports-minded recipient will accept your gift with a warm smile and hearty thanks, then use it with a sense of balance. The sports geek will grin demonically and scurry off to a room, never to be seen again. Govern your gift accordingly.
The college football fan will go nuts over new CD-ROMs from ABC and NBC. In conjunction with Stella Interactive, ABC has produced CD-ROMs for Southern California, Penn State, Florida State, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan, featuring sound and film clips, interspersed with still pictures and statistics, with narration by Keith Jackson, the official voice of college football. Each goes for $59.95.
The NBC effort, co-sponsored by Luminair Multimedia, is a mammoth tribute to Notre Dame, called "The Fighting Irish: The History of Notre Dame Football," and it has everything Irish. Want to hear how Heisman Trophy receiver Tim Brown felt when he first saw the Golden Dome? Want to see Montana lead the Irish to a comeback win in the 1979 Cotton Bowl? That's in there, too, along with stats, photos and a biography of every player ever to don the blue and gold.
Finally, for the fan who simply can't wait for "SportsCenter," there's ESPNET To Go, a wireless, pager-sized receiver that cranks out updated scores, injury reports and other information every five minutes. The receiver, which is good in 250 North American cities, goes for $199 for the receiver, activation fee and first four months of programming, with each additional month going for $11.99.
, Have a happy holiday season!