Colin Kaepernick has had a huge summer. He is no longer a football player but a full-fledge celebrity. He is another name on the list of Bay Area athletes who, through personality and on-field performances, have tapped into the national consciousness. Like Stephen Curry this year, and Tim Lincecum and
Brian Wilson He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named before him, he is a bona-fide star.
There is not a ton of comparison to make between these Bay Area stars beyond how they were kind of unexpected surprises. Curry was a reach at No. 7 in the draft, then led the Warriors on a magical playoff run. Lincecum was a guy that threw weird and was projected as a middle of the rotation guy, and then he won a couple of Cy Young awards and a pair of World Series. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named was a 24th round draft pick coming off Tommy John surgery and he ended up becoming the face (literally) of the Giants. Kap was a guy from a small school who put up massive numbers but had a goofy throwing motion and never really played any tough opponents. He waited behind Alex Smith and when his opportunity came he shined.
Now this summer he’s showing up to the ESPYs wearing sunglasses indoors (I’ll reserve judgment on that style choice), he has the hottest selling jersey in the NFL, and suddenly it matters what kind of hat he wears (it doesn’t, but the off-season does strange things to people). He has proven to be a savvy social media user and self-promoter while searching for every athlete’s real dream of creating a brand. The best part about all of this is he’s not self-destructing like a lot of guys, who somehow find ways to be complete nincompoops in 140 characters or less (it takes me about 153 characters).
Some of you old fuddy-duddies might be inclined to critique Kap for letting his new-found fame go to his head. And perhaps it has gone to his head, but luckily he seems to be the rare breed of athlete that combines raw talent with an insatiable desire to get better. By all accounts he has entered camp stronger, faster, and, while he can still throw 87 mph heaters, he is putting better touch on his throws – a skill that was inconsistent last year.
So Kap’s big summer is slowly coming to a close and at some point there has to be a discussion on expectations. For no other reason than there weren’t any expectations when he took over. I dare any of you to tell me you said "oh yeah, Super Bowl bound for sure" instead of "oh s#@%" when Alex Smith went down with a concussion.
Now he enters camp as the incumbent starter and expectations are high. We, as The Faithful, are shouting "Super Bowl or bust" in his ear and most of the pundits out there are penciling in a date in New York in February (with the exception of the dopes that think Percy Harvin puts the Seabirds over the edge…oh wait, never mind). With pressure mounting, the national spotlight is squarely on Kap’s shoulders.
That’s a lot for a young guy that doesn’t have a significant body of experience under his belt. Yeah sure, the Packers defense surrendered faster than stinky fromage in 100 degree heat, and Kap stared down "Matty Ice" before tearing the Falcons apart. Then he came within five yards of becoming a 49ers legend. So yeah expectations are high. But the best part about all this is the rest he doesn’t have to carry the load. This team is stacked on both sides of the ball.
So let Kaepernick have his big summer. Let him do his thing on social media and lets all enjoy it with giddy anticipation, because I have every belief that the Summer of Kap will turn into the Year of the Kaepernick.