Michael Sauter
October 15, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Three new sports tapes turn the spotlight on highlights The competition among sports-highlights videos has gotten so stiff that a tape has to be championship caliber just to get noticed. Unfortunately, three new releases might never get out of the box: They’re cursed with titles and packaging so uniformly generic that fans may perceive them as bush-league rip- offs. But that proves only that you can’t judge a video by its cover.

Championship Moments (1993, Columbia TriStar, $14.95) is especially solid, providing insightful profiles of five individuals (and their teams) who shone brightest when it counted most. Magic Johnson in his first NBA final and World Series MVP Ray Knight and his 1986 Mets are just about perfect examples. Rounding out the roster are UCLA basketball legend Bill Walton, auto racing’s Richard Petty, and Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams. Recollections of key participants combine with dynamic highlight footage (such as the infamous ground ball that rolled between Bill Buckner’s legs in the ’86 World Series) to capture all the right plays. If you already remember these moments, you probably remember them just like this.

The same can be said for Greatest Moments in American Sports (1993, Columbia TriStar, $14.95), although this presentation makes a grandiose show of equating the athletic achievements with the star-spangled spirit that made America great. Such pomp and circumstance are hardly needed to convey the thrills of Yankees pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning ”Shot Heard Round the World” for the New York Giants in 1951, or even the U.S. hockey team’s gold-medal upset victory in the 1980 Winter Olympics. These accomplishments speak for themselves through vintage footage as well as through the anecdotes of old-timers with very good memories. Rarely have talking heads painted such colorful pictures.

Sports Greatest Rivalries (1993, Columbia TriStar, $14.95) isn’t in the same league. The tape does include all the great rivalries—from Dodgers vs. Giants, to Celtics vs. Lakers, to Ali vs. Frazier, to Evert vs. Navratilova—but it commits the cardinal sports-tape sin: lousy highlights. While former players recall the 1949 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, footage of the season finale never gets out of the infield. And as boxing promoter Bob Arum discusses the epic Ali-Frazier battles, the tape shows us just a single round from only one of the fights. The producers also play fast and loose with their concept, suggesting that Hank Aaron had a rivalry with Babe Ruth while chasing his home-run record and that U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz was a rival of Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut while each was winning medals at the 1972 Olympics. Maybe the producers had to go off on these tangents to pad the program’s running time. But no matter how you cut it, this highlights tape doesn’t… cut it. Championship Moments: B+ Greatest Moments: B Greatest Rivalries: C-

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