You're in trouble. You need a high-tech gift for a multimedia-minded sports fan. The sports part is no problem, but unfortunately you don't know high tech from Georgia Tech. To you, going digital means wearing a watch with glowing red numbers, and the closest you ever came to getting wired was when you plugged in your air-hockey table sometime in 1970s.
Here to help you is a guide to the best in multimedia sports products, from reference CD-ROMs to engrossing video games. Even if you think the new expansion ball club in your city should be named the Luddites, when you give these gifts, you will seem like a techno-savvy new-media mogul.
Complete Baseball '95 and Complete NBA Basketball Guide '95-'96 (Microsoft, CD-ROM for PC, $34.95 each). Sure, everyone jokes about Bill Gates's wanting to rule the world, but if Microsoft continues to put out products of this quality, the time may come for people to bow down and concede it to him. These are two of the best CD-ROMs around, sports-related or otherwise. Both discs use a clean, smart design and offer a cornucopia of information on their respective sports: stats and profiles of every player and team in history; audio clips of interviews with important figures; video highlights of famous plays; and detailed articles that offer valuable insights into the games.
The two discs do have their differences. Baseball has a ritualistic quality to it, while Basketball is jazzy and edgy. As one would expect, Baseball is deeper statistically: The program has an on-line component that lets you download the latest stats every day. For its part, Basketball has sharper, flashier video. But the fact is, if you own a computer and you are a sports fan, you must have both of these discs.
ABC Sports Presents: The College Sports Series (Stella Interactive, CD-ROM for PC and Macintosh, $59.95 each). Next to baseball, college football lends itself most easily to nostalgia. Remember that cold, gray Saturday afternoon when ol' Bucky (the Hoss) Buckstein led our boys back from three scores down? Exploiting that nostalgic sensibility is this series of six CD-ROMs, each highlighting the history and great moments of a top college football program. The teams featured are Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida State, USC, Penn State and Ohio State. ABC announcer Keith Jackson hosts each disc, jauntily guiding you through video highlights, player and coach profiles, statistics and records, school fight songs and team pictures. The only thing missing is crisp autumn air and a mug of hot cider.
NFL's Greatest Plays (Turner Interactive, CD-ROM for PC and Macintosh, $29.95). A compilation of the 75 top plays in NFL history as selected by a panel of coaches and NFL Films staff members, this CD-ROM is more than a simple string of video clips. It offers you the chance to dissect these plays and pore over the video clips with the kind of attention that was given to the Zapruder film. For example, you can study Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception frame by frame from two different camera angles and view a computer-animated breakdown of the play.
Golf Digest ScoreCard (Parsons Technology, CD-ROM for PC, $49). No snappy graphics or eye candy here, just a sleek and powerful scorecard analyzer that could do more for your golf game than that $300 bubble-shaft driver you bought last Christmas. Simply enter the statistical details of your game after each round (number of putts, penalty strokes, clubs used, etc.) and then let the program crunch the data to produce a profile of your game. ScoreCard will compute your handicap, analyze your club-choice tendencies and, in general, give you a clear picture of why you should leave that Burner Bubble in the bag and go with your trusty old three-wood.
Madden NFL 96 (Electronic Arts, CD-ROM for Sony PlayStation, $59.95). It may take you several minutes after you fire up this eye-popping football simulation to realize that this is not a videotape of a Sunday broadcast. You'll hear the familiar Fox theme music, see John Madden and Pat Summerall analyze teams, watch Lesley Visser report from the sidelines and check in with James Brown at the Fox studio for score updates. Then you'll play a game in which you control football players whose lifelike motions were created through a cutting-edge motion-capture process that digitized the movements of actual NFL players. Throw in all 30 NFL teams and stadiums, complete 1995 rosters with real stats, and more than 240 defensive and offensive plays, and you've got a football experience that redefines the sports-video-game genre.