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Last-minute gift guides



My wife and I like to establish ourselves right off the bat as book-givers. You know those relatives. This keeps the expectations pretty low among our ever-growing cadre of young nieces, nephews and cousins. (The adults stopped exchanging gifts as soon as we had an excuse.) It also keeps things within a reasonable dollar amount. After all, this column barely pays the mortgage on my extensive estate.

Anyway, you're wondering what this has to do with you. Well, just because I bought three separate copies of Carol Emshwiller's "The Mount" this Christmas doesn't mean I'm no good at picking out gifts I would buy for loved ones were I less cheap — er, thoughtful. And if you have a sports fan in your life, I might just be the man to write your prescription.

First (what else), books:

n "Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend," by Larry Tye. There is no man behind the myth — only a life so mythic in character that you never stop shaking your head. His on-field exploits extended into his 50s, when his feats of athleticism only grew more unearthly. You can only imagine his impact had he played in the MLB in his prime. There is no bigger what-if in sports history.

n "Forty Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson," by Rus Bradburd. My glowing review from earlier this year still stands. It may not be pleasant to read in excruciating detail of the skeletons Bradburd pulls out of our closet, but it's much more necessary for Hog fans than any amount of the hagiographic material so often trotted out as Razorback history.

n "Free Darko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Basketball History," by Bethelehem Shoals, et al. Some lighter roundball reading, this collection of essays from the web's best basketball writers provides some much-needed context for the wild world of the modern NBA by surveying the league's history through a hip new prism.

How about DVDs?

n "The Official World Series DVD Collection." Holy moly, would this make my... I mean, would it make your beloved sports fan's decade. Footage from every single Fall Classic.

n "We Came to Win — The 2010 Arkansas Razorbacks." Available for pre-order through arkansasrazorbacks.com, this set contains highlights from each game along the way, as well as the entire LSU game.

There are mere days before Christmas. Why are you still shopping? Lucky for you, slacker, the Internet truly giveth. Here are some digital options that get you off the physical-world hook. The best part? No wrapping.

n NBA League Pass. Of all the pro league streaming video plans, the NBA League Pass leaves the most to be desired. Blackouts rob you of local games, the video quality is so-so, and there's still no option for streaming through game systems like the PS3. BUT: the NBA is fricking awesome. Every team has some electric player worth seeing. And like baseball, there are an awful lot of games to see in one season.

n "Football Outsiders." The web offers a ton of subscription services for the rabid stat-hound, but few promise the level of detail and the quality of analysis available to Football Outsiders subscribers.

n Baseball Prospectus. The closest I ever get to again feeling like I once did on Christmas mornings is the day I receive that year's Baseball Prospectus in the mail. The grandaddy of all sports analysis tomes brought sabermetrics to the masses, and a gift subscription to baseballprospectus.com gives daily insight year-round.

Of course, there's no better way to atone for putting off gift-buying until Christmas Eve than using that money to make a cash donation to worthy charities.

n The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. You do realize that somebody pays to bring those cute kids in thick-rimmed glasses to every Hog game, right? Why not lend a hand? The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation doesn't just give kids an opportunity to see games. Through camps, memorial scholarships, and now child eye-care initiatives, the foundation is making a difference right here at home. Head over to brandonburlsworth.org to make a donation in your loved one's name.

n The V Foundation. When Mississippi State's Nick Bell succumbed to cancer earlier this season, fans were reminded that cancer strikes quickly and indiscriminately. There's a sports-related charity that's been doing good work in cancer research for years. Count the number of times you've welled up listening to Jimmy Valvano's stirring speech given at the 1993 Espy's, just two months before he died. Make this last-minute gift count.

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