The Dawgs’ latest national title resulted in another flood of special keepsakes.
The commemorative items available to Bulldog Nation range from the usual caps, hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts, key rings, glasses of all sorts, tumblers, mugs, coolies, magnets, posters, plaques, golf balls, clocks, banners, pennants and posters to a framed Sports Illustrated cover, Christmas ornaments, flags (for yard and porch), silver coins, replica helmets and, like last year, a Waterford crystal football emblazoned with UGA’s 2022 national championship logo that goes for $225. (If you bought last year’s crystal football, surely you must get its mate this year!)
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t stocked up on quite as much memorabilia as I did a year ago. I guess part of that is a certain sameness in the offerings.
Plus, it’s only been a year (rather than 41) since the last championship — and, also, I pretty much filled up my display space last year.
Oh, sure, I’ve gotten all the pertinent newspaper special sections and field editions this year, along with a T-shirt, a couple of commemorative Coke bottles (including the first one, which showed very little effort on Coca-Cola’s part, since it only had a narrow commemorative band), a set of magnets for my filing cabinet and a poster (that is still waiting for me to decide where it should be put up).
I bought a cool-looking national championship wooden sign last year, shaped like the state of Georgia, but, in order to put up a new one marking the second title, I’d have to retire the previous one. That’s what my son did with the front porch banner at his home — he retired the old one in favor of the new. I’m just sticking with the old sign.
One thing I don’t think I ever could have enough of is books, so the main thing I’ve tried to stay on top of this year (as I did last year) is the commemorative volumes chronicling the Dawgs once again conquering college football.
I’ve gotten four books (so far) that offer various news organizations’ picture-packed accounts of the 2022-23 championship season. They naturally have some things in common, besides many similar photos: the inspiring Stetson Bennett story, features on various players (especially Jalen Carter) and game-by-game accounts of the season, reprinted as they were published at the time.
However, I noticed that last year’s books tended to be a bit more openly emotional, with a couple of them offering writers relating tear-inducing stories of how their late fathers might have reacted to the Dawgs finally winning another title. This time around, it seems, it’s more business as usual.
All four books have aspects that make them worth recommending, though it’s notable that the two volumes that I found most satisfying collect the work of two daily newspapers that cover the Bulldogs beat — The Athens Banner-Herald and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Glorious: Georgia Secures Its Second Consecutive National Title With a Perfect Season” (160 pages, Pediment Publishing, $39.95) stands out from the pack, because it’s an attractive, hardcover coffee-table book that is presented in a horizontal format, as opposed to the traditional vertical setup used by the other books, which are all paperbacks.
Printed on matte-finish paper, “Glorious” offers coverage of the championship season as published in the Banner-Herald, with most of the work done by veteran beat writer Marc Weiszer.
The book opens with a feature on Kirby Smart at the pre-season SEC Media Days event and then intersperses Weiszer’s game stories with features and sidebars published by the ABH, including an account of Bennett’s trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Also covered are the deaths during the season of UGA legends Charley Trippi and Vince Dooley (with tender tributes from Loran Smith), as well as the post-championship parade in Athens, and a piece by ABH Sports Editor Ryne Dennis making the case for UGA erecting a statue of Bennett and Smart together.
Unlike the other three books, this one sticks to a chronological arrangement and places coverage of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at the end of the season. (The others all open with it.)
Rosters of the team and coaching staff also are included, and former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray wrote the book’s foreword, a full-throated tribute to Bennett that chides the “haters” who criticized the former walk-on’s every move.
The selection of full-color photos in the book is very good, and features a mix of sizes. I think the best shot is a lovely close-up of Bennett hugging his brother after the Peach Bowl. The look on the Mailman’s face says everything about the season.
“Glory Glory: The Georgia Bulldogs Repeat as National Champions” (128 pages, Triumph Books, $16.95) offers coverage from the AJC. Also printed on matte-finish paper, it opens with former player Scott Woerner’s foreword, which compares Smart’s two championship teams to Dooley’s 1980 team. While “miraculous” was a word suitably applied to the ‘80 team, he writes, “dominant” is the word that best suits the latest champion.
This book offers game coverage by beat writer Chip Towers and columns by Mark Bradley and Michael Cunningham, as well as staff sidebars on Bennett, Brock Bowers and others. One of the features covers UGA’s celebration of Dooley’s life. And, included with Bradley’s introduction is a cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winner Mike Luckovich celebrating the Dawgs’ back-to-back national titles
An interesting epilogue by DawgNation’s Brandon Adams draws an analogy between college football and movies. “If last year saw UGA become the heroes in a feel-good story about claiming a national championship for the first time in decades,” he writes, “then this year might be about establishing the Bulldogs as the permanent villain in every other team’s story for having the audacity to come back and win it again. Especially since there’s no obvious reason why Georgia would stop hoarding success anytime soon.”
Strangely, the Triumph book is the only one of the four that doesn’t include a team roster (which also was the situation last year).
If you want to know which of the four books offers the best value for the cost, I’d say that’s “Back 2 Back! The Georgia Bulldogs Repeat as National Champions” (128 pages, KCI Sports Publishing, $15.95), because of its terrific photographs.
Although it only bothers to credit the photos, this book offers coverage of the season by the Associated Press.
The AP’s game-by-game recaps and features on Dawgs players and coaches are fairly generic, as you’d expect of wire-service copy, but the photos are absolutely outstanding — especially the action shots, in many of which you clearly can see the expressions on the players’ faces. Most of the pictures run a full page or larger. Also, the photo reproduction in this book (printed on glossy paper) is by far the best and sharpest of the four titles reviewed here.
Finally, as an alum of The Red & Black, the independent student newspaper at UGA, I’m glad I picked up “Undefeated: How the 2022 Georgia Bulldogs Defied Critics, Played a Perfect Season and Repeated as National Champions” (96 pages, The Red & Black Publishing Co., $14.95).
Although it’s the thinnest of the four volumes, and its photo reproduction is a bit muddy (despite being printed on glossy paper), I like the variety of shots (both sizes and subjects) taken by the student photographers — many featuring Dawgs fans, in addition to the players. I think it’s also a plus that the game-by-game recaps, player profiles and sidebars are written by a variety of the R&B’s budding sportswriters.
I particularly liked how fall quarter Sports Editor Stuart Steele encapsulated QB Bennett: “When the lights were the brightest, he found a way to play his best time and again.”
That’s as good a summation of the 2022-23 Dawgs as you’re going to find.
As I wrote when reviewing last year’s batch of books chronicling the first natty won by a Smart team, I appreciate all of these volumes, and they’ll have a treasured place in my collection, as souvenirs from a special season.
However, while I realize that the publishers were under deadline pressure, wanting to get these volumes out as quickly as possible after the national championship was won, I wish at least one of them had taken a bit more time to step back and look at the big picture.
I’d like to see a book that puts the back-to-back championships in perspective and takes a deeper dive into why Georgia’s football program has ascended to the point where it could win two consecutive national championships (and is expected to be in contention for a third). In other words, I would have liked more than just reprints of news coverage as it appeared at the time.
There’s still an untold story there that’s worth telling, and I’d definitely buy such a book, no matter when it came out.