This 2013 offseason is quickly coming to an end, with rookies reporting on Friday, and veterans following up next Wednesday. With only a couple days left, it seems like the fanbase is getting through all its boredom with some reckless abandon.
The last two weeks have been nothing short of crazy. On the 4th of July, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was spotted at a party wearing a Dolphins hat. That led to all sorts of back and forth about the appropriateness of wearing the hat. Kap responded to it saying it wasn't a big deal, and that just sparked further debate.
Things seemed to be quieting down, and then Kap had the temerity to wear sunglasses inside at the ESPYs, along with an outfit that some fashionistas might question. Last night's ESPYs thread turned into an extensive discussion about Kap's fashion sense, and whether or not he was changing as a person because of some of his offseason activities.
In the quiet of the offseason, this has turned into a fairly divisive issue among fans. Some people (me included) do not care about it, and think it is overblown. Others are concerned this could be a sign that Kap is letting the fame going to his head, and they have concern about what it means heading into 2013. And then there are those who assume it already has changed Kap. These are the ones that feel it necessary to proclaim Kap a douche, among other things. This group would also include the clown who tweeted me saying the 49ers should have traded Kap instead of Alex Smith. That tweet pretty much summed up the absurdity of it all.
Whether I like it or not, I've had a chance to think about this topic for much of the last two weeks. I think there are two basic ways to break down the criticisms. This does not include everybody critiquing things, but it includes a lot of them. The first group would be people who are worried about the fame going to Kap's head. The second group would be people who are judging Kap as having already changed and becoming a bad person because of it.
In thinking it over, I do understand why there is some concern about the potential for Kap changing. It has been a whirlwind for him since he replaced Alex Smith last year. He helped guide the 49ers to the Super Bowl, and has become a household name. I think it is reasonable to at least wonder about the possibility of fame going to his head.
That being said, given the support network around Kap, I am not overly concerned at the moment. I had a chance to meet Shawn Smith, Kap's PR and marketing person at XAM Sports. I'm fairly certain that if Kap was getting a big head, Shawn would slap him upside the head. She's no-nonsense and won't put up with that.
Additionally, a guy like Joe Staley would seem ready to bust his balls if he was getting too big for his britches. Last night, Al Netter tweeted out a picture of Kap and Ricardo Lockette sitting in the front row of the ESPYs with sunglasses. Staley was quick to tweet Kap to take off his sunglasses because it wasn't sunny. Last week, Donte Whitner made a comment about how Kap might get some flak in the locker room for his decision to appear in the ESPN the Magazine Body Issue. I have a hunch Staley and others will be giving Kap plenty of grief about the last two weeks as soon as they arrive at camp.
If people want to critique Kap's wardrobe simply because they don't think it is fashionable, so be it. Saying he doesn't dress well, is not the end of the world. The problem I have is the people who go beyond this and decide this is a sign that Kap has changed as a person. People decide they know Kap from afar, and his behavior is an obvious sign there are issues.
As I said above, I am fine with the idea of being concerned that he might change because of the rise in game. That's just human nature to be concerned. But to judge that he has in fact changed just doesn't work for me. If you know Kap on a personal level, and interact with him on a daily basis, that's one thing. But fans who only know Kap from his Twitter/Instagram accounts, and what they see on TV, are not in a position to judge the man.
To do so shows ignorance and/or fear of something that is different. We see it when people throw out the comments about how "Joe and Steve would NEVER do any of this." That's right in the wheelhouse of, "Back in my day...." Kap is young and experiencing something that few of us will ever even come close to experiencing. There will be learning experiences along the way.
I think Tim Kawakami's article about the Instagram stuff hit the nail on the head. Kap is the 49ers first true cross-over superstar of the modern social media era. The 49ers have some great players that have become stars (Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore), but none have quite crossed over to the mainstream like Kap. You could even argue he is the Bay Area's first true cross-over star of the social media era.
Some will remain concerned he will change. Fine. But let's avoiding laying down judgment about what we think HAS happened without having a true understanding of the situation. Kap was back at work a week after the Super Bowl, getting ready for the 2013 season. He continues to do work with the charity that is close to his family's heart. Maybe Kap has changed, maybe he hasn't changed. But to assume he has changed, or to base concerns off of wardrobe issues strikes me as taking things a little too far. Or I suppose people are just really bored in July. It very well could be mostly the latter.
All we need to know is this: