One of the bigger narratives in sports dialogue in general, and Football in particular, surrounds an examination of looker room culture, which has always struck me as quite nebulous. What exactly constitutes a locker room culture and how does it arrive? Well, having been part of a Football locker room in High School, I'm not actually sure I can define it. Nor can I define it from my experience of watching professional Football. The big problem is that there are no boundaries to this culture; it isn't contained by the walls of the locker room itself, but instead expands to wherever a player on the team may be.
That said, there are certain things that function as signs of a locker room culture. You just know it when you see it (/pornography & Supreme Court joke all in one). One of the reasons why this offseason has been a bit discouraging to me has been this nagging feeling that because bad things have been happening all at once, they must have a common source. And this source, I feared, must be in the team; it must be part of the locker room culture.
Of course this is totally irrational: just because isolated men get caught in compromising situations (Aldon Smith and Chris Culliver) or are around something potentially shady but not apparently illegal (Colin Kaepernick - and this description might actually be casting more blame on him than he deserves) doesn't mean that the whole team is polluted by dubious ethics that the coaches can't dispel. Nor does it mean, for that matter, that coaches are immune from committing ethically dubious acts.
No, I think that sometimes grown men get into trouble, and the team has less control over them than we might think. But, I'm nonetheless encouraged to read that certain "big star" are in attendance for the start of the 49ers' voluntary workouts. First off, both Culliver and Smith are in attendance, according to Bill Williamson at ESPN and Matt Maiocco at CSN Bay Area. Even though both players are facing legal trouble, I think it's a good thing that they feel comfortable enough with the team to be in attendance. This, in my mind, speaks more to the team's culture than their actions during the offseason.
Additionally, some team leaders are there. Kaepernick is there, working out, which comes as no surprise since he was probably lifting dumbbells or something in Ricardo Lockette's apartment during that whole "suspicious incident" thing.
But, what I find really encouraging is NaVorro Bowman's attendance. Maybe it's just because I really like Bowman, but his presence speaks volumes for the team, I think. It makes probably more sense that he is there, since he has been rehabbing all offseason and these voluntary workouts are basically rehab sessions (in addition to weight lifting). But, he has quickly solidified his position as a team leader in the last couple of years, and I think his work ethic can been a big example for other players. Plus, it's always awesome to read that he is lifting weights with Patrick Willis.
So, what do you all think? Is it even possible to define locker room culture? And, if so, has this season been super discouraging? Does the start of voluntary workouts, replete with Bowmans and Kaepernicks, cheer you up?