Here is a link to my Thursday column. The full text runs below:
Colin Kaepernick: Never has an athlete been so arrogant after accomplishing so little.
He’s not as arrogant as he used to be. That’s when he was totally insufferable. But he’s still off the scale — the Scale of Arrogance. Take what happened after Sunday’s third consecutive loss.
He came to the auditorium for his postgame interview dressed like … I want to say a movie star, but it was more like a fashion model. He wore soft fancy booties. And some kind of dark shirt that sloped down his chest revealing lots of tattoo. He wore his cap backwards and at an angle. And, of course, he had the obligatory earphones around his neck. The Kaepernick Look.
Jerry Rice — a pretty good ballplayer — made himself look perfect in the locker room before games. Bill Walsh used to watch Rice getting dressed. The socks just so. The pants. And that towel in his belt folded perfectly. Rice needed to feel perfect to play perfectly.
But Rice did all this before the game. Did this for the game. Kaepernick does his preening AFTER the game. He could be the best-looking postgame player in NFL history.
Give him that.
He’s allowed to look anyway he wants. It’s just that on Sunday he lost the game for the 49ers just as he lost it the week before. His passer rating was 55.4. He threw grounders to open receivers. He threw over the heads of open receivers. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith could not hide their frustration. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown in two games.
But none of that mattered. Because Kaepernick was looking good after the game. Just fine. Slick. He looked like a model getting ready to walk down a runway at some pageant. Or one of those clothes-model guys with blank faces in sophisticated ads in The New Yorker or Vanity Fair.
Fashion model Kaepernick mostly answered questions in complete sentences on Sunday. This was an improvement. He used to answer in a verbal code. Was stingy with his words as if each word cost a thousand bucks. He used to sneer. The act of talking to media he found repulsive.
There were times he would show up for his Wednesday media session and pretend to stand in a certain place to answer questions, and then he would walk away, walk to another place and pretend to be ready to answer and walk away again. A game. A demeaning game. Rude. Forget rude. How about disgusting? Treating people like dogs learning a trick.
I covered two quarterbacks named Montana and Young and they never acted like that.
Joe Montana was shy and he could be impatient. But he always would answer a fair question. I remember late one weekday in that tiny locker room at the tiny Redwood City training facility. John Frank asked if I had read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson, and we talked about the book. Montana and Ronnie Lott came over and listened. Just because they were interested and they were friendly.
And after that, because Montana was in no hurry, he told me about a bar near Notre Dame where everyone went. It got so crowded he had to stand sideways just to fit in. Right next door, was a perfectly good bar no one went to. He still couldn’t understand that. He recalled the two bars and laughed. Montana always was decent to the core and he still is. A lovely man.
Steve Young enjoyed verbal give-and-take. Understood he represented the 49ers. Worked hard to be the supreme representative. Sometimes, he forgot to comb his hair and came to postgame news conferences looking like a wild man. He was no fashion model. He was a football player.
What’s with Colin Kaepernick?
I’ve read Jim Harbaugh is responsible for Kaepernick’s approach to the media — if you actually could call it an approach. Blame it on Harbaugh.
When Harbaugh started out in San Francisco he was crummy with the media. There was conflict. But Harbaugh evolved. And the media evolved with him. When he had confidence in you, he answered questions forthrightly. Went into detail. He is smart and demanded a reporter use words precisely. If you asked a verbally-sloppy question he responded in kind. Be precise and he would be precise. He was a challenge and an experience. And a delight. Kaepernick should have learned from Harbaugh. But he didn’t.
And Harbaugh dressed like a footballer. Baggy khakis, some old sweatshirt and a baseball cap — worn the standard way. Anything else was off the point, didn’t win games. He was an anti-celebrity, although he was a mondo celebrity. His whole ethos — yes, he had an ethos — was the 49ers were blue-collar workers. Not celebrities. Just regular workers. Being a celebrity gets in the way.
Kaepernick is all about fame and stardom and appearance and hype. At this point in his career, he is an illusion. If he doesn’t get his act together, his career will be an illusion.
This season presents him an important opportunity, a good opportunity if he is mature enough and deep enough and substantial enough to grab it. He has a chance to learn perspective and proportion. To learn what matters and what does not matter. He can learn humility, learn humility like the rest of us. Humility will make him a better person. Maybe even a better quarterback.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.