The Dawgs National Championship produced many commemorative keepsakes for fans.
Even before the 41-year drought without a national title ended, UGA consistently ranked among the top-selling universities in merchandising. But, with the win over Bama in Indianapolis final, Dawgs fans went on a remarkable spending spree.
Fanatics, a leading sports memorabilia seller, reported that in less than 24 hours he sold more title merchandise for Georgia than he did in the 30 days after Alabama’s victory last year, and that the team de Bama was the company’s best-selling former college football champion.
You can stock multiple store shelves with all of the items available to Dawgs fans, ranging from caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts, key chains, pint glasses, magnets, posters, wooden plaques and framed posters, blankets to magazines and newspaper pages, at a higher price. items including a commemorative silver coin, replica helmets and footballs autographed by Smart Kirby and even a Waterford crystal soccer ball emblazoned with the UGA National Championship logo.
Additionally, thanks to various news outlets that have covered the Dawgs’ rise to the top, there are also four image-packed commemorative books capturing the 2021 football season. Fans will enjoy reliving the season through these books, by reading about the quarterback situation, the stifling defense and the rise of young receivers. Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey.
KCI Sports Publishing’s “Top Dawgs” book features articles and photos from The Associated Press. (Olivia King/Junkyard Blawg)
This book is a recap of the season, opening with the national championship game against Alabama in Indianapolis, then going through the rest of the games chronologically, starting with Clemson in the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte and ending with victory of the Orange Bowl against Michigan.
Although you’ll have to look closely to spot the only credit in the book (saying the photos are from the Associated Press), a little checking shows that the text consists of reprints of regular AP game recaps. By reading them, you can follow the main story arc of the season – the quarterback controversy – starting with the story of the UAB game, where the writer notes that Stetson Bennet had started five games the previous season before JT Daniels took over. Called to replace an injured Daniels in the starting job against UAB, the prescient writer noted, “it looks like Bennett hasn’t given up on winning him back.”
There is also an article on the Smart vs. Nick Saban rivalry (written after the Dawgs lost the SEC Championship game), as well as an article about awards won by Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.
However, the main reason you would want this glossy paperback book is for the photos, which usually take up a whole page or two. Many of these shots are very impressive, including a great view of AD Mitchell take a touchdown on Bama Kyree Jacksonand a close-up of Kelee Ringo returning the key interception for a touchdown in the natty. The images are of excellent quality, and it’s fascinating in the close-ups to be able to see the facial expressions of the players.
After a foreword by the longtime UGA historian and broadcaster Loran Smith (complete with a vintage Loran line: “Being college football’s playoff champion is the greatest thing since forming the Notre Dame box”), the book opens with a new introduction from the longtime sports columnist of the AJC Steve Hummer, and a reprint of a column by Mark Bradley about Smart.
This one also highlights coverage of the national championship game, then moves chronologically through the rest of the games, from Clemson to Michigan.
What’s different about this book, however, is that it uses a mix of beat writer Smart towers game summaries and analytical opinion pieces by the newspaper’s columnists, including Michael Cunningham in addition to Hummer and Bradley. The Clemson game, for example, is represented by both Cunningham’s column and a Towers piece on the defender Christopher Smith.
Thrown into the mix is a Hummer feature that topped Georgia defensive greats rating the 2021 unit (as of the week of rest before Florida’s game), a feature on Nolan Smith by DawgNation Connor Riley, a preview of the SEC Championship game by Cunningham, reports on Bennett by Towers and on Davis by Hummer (also from before the game in Atlanta), a report by Towers on Dean winning the Butkus Award, and a Hummer report on the sensation of first year Bowers.
The photos in the book, mostly taken by AJC staff photographers and printed on paper with a matte rather than glossy finish, are also excellent and come in a wider variety of sizes than in the KCI book.
The AJC-Triumph book ends with an epilogue from DawgNation brandon adams who uses the end by Larry Munson using “we” when talking about the Dawgs as a jumping-off point for discussing the UGA fandom, and, in particular, his own father, who first introduced him to Georgian football, and who died last year .
“That’s what I’ll think about when I think about Georgian football in 2021,” Adams writes. “That was the year we finally did it. We won the national championship – all of us, including those who are no longer with us.
It’s a welcome injection of fandom — and emotion — into an otherwise journalistic look at the Dawgs’ big season.
Pediment Publishing’s “Dominant Dawgs” contains articles and photos from the Athens Banner-Herald. (Olivia King/Junkyard Blawg)
This one, also printed on matte paper, features the season’s coverage of the Athens Banner-Herald, as well as photos from the ABH and the USA Today Network (of which the ABH is a member).
The book opens with an affectionate and moving piece by FletcherPage, USA Today Georgia sports group editor, in the form of a letter to his father, Pete, who always predicted the Dawgs would win “all the fucking stuff” before his death in 2017. It ends: “Here are seasons we will always remember and voices we can’t forget.”
After wiping your eyes, you can browse game-by-game coverage of the season, starting with Clemson and ending with the rematch against Bama at Indy. The stories in the game are written by screenwriter ABH’s Dawgs, Mark Weiszer, and are in the “five takeaways from the game” format he regularly uses. For larger games, these recaps are supplemented by Weiszer’s post-game quote reports from Smart and others.
There are also articles on Davis, inside linebackers, an article on whether Georgia could win the game with Bennett at QB (from before the national title game), and an article from the sports editor from ABH. Ryne Dennis to At Vince Dooley’s participation in the January 10 championship game in Indianapolis.
This book obviously had a later due date than the first two, and so it also includes an article by Weiszer, with photos, on the Bulldogs National Champion Parade held on January 15 in Athens.
It’s a very attractively designed book that definitely deserves a place on your coffee table (if, unlike my family, you still have one).
“Delivered” features UGA’s 2021 season, as covered by student newspaper The Red & Black. (Bill King/Junkyard Blawg)
This one is a bit different, in that its glossy pages are laid out like a magazine and it has a few full-page advertisements on the front and back of the book.
“Delivered” opens with several feature stories, including one about UGA fans that also includes photos from the parade held in Athens the weekend after the national championship game.
Next are the chronological recaps of the season’s play (starting with Clemson and ending with the natty). They’re generally shorter game stories and sidebars than in the other books, and while they show talented young journalists at work, I wish they had added more point of view or experience of UGA students to the story of this remarkable season.
All of the books (except the AJC-Triumph volume) include the 2021 Bulldogs roster, and the Banner-Herald tome also lists Smart’s coaching staff.
All in all, each of these books has something to offer. The KCI book presents a simple overview of the season with great photos, the AJC book adds an overview by emphasizing the reviews of the games by its columnists, the Banner-Herald book adds a touch of hometown and a attractive page, and the Red & Black volume gives a taste of the impressive work of UGA’s student journalists.
I appreciate all of these books and will treasure them as memories of a great season. But, after reading all four, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing.
I realize that the publishers of these books wanted to get them out as soon as possible after the championship game, to take advantage of the previously mentioned fan buying frenzy. However, there is still room on my shelf (and I’m sure many more) for a book about the 2021 season that does more than just reprint the news coverage as it appeared on the era.
I wish someone would take the time to dive deeper behind the scenes of Why Georgia’s football program finally broke through this year, after four decades of frustration.
It is a story worth telling.
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