Blog

Rafael Nadal and Colin Kaepernick: Running to daylight

  Colin Kaepernick at Lambeau Field to meet the Green Bay Packers in 2012, when the world was just opening up to him. Photograph by Mike Morebeck.

Colin Kaepernick at Lambeau Field to meet the Green Bay Packers in 2012, when the world was just opening up to him. Photograph by Mike Morebeck.

When things are going bad, you look for any sign of hope. Rafael Nadal lost the China Open Sunday to Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-2, while the Colin-Kaepernick-led San Francisco 49ers lost to the New York Giants 30-27.

Rafa is having one of his worst years, and the Niners are off to a terrible start (1-4). And while there are plenty of naysayers for both, I prefer to accentuate the positive, as the song says.

Yes, Rafa got drubbed by Nole, although Nole said it was closer than the score looked. And yes, Rafanole is a long way from the taut marathon clash of the titans it used to be. But put it this way, Rafa made the final and, in so doing, beat Fabio Fognini, whom he lost to early on at the US Open. So there’s that.

Meanwhile, Colin played very well in a losing effort that could’ve gone the other way, the game was that kind of absorbing, seesaw contest. So there’s that.

Rafa and Colin are on opposite trajectories. Rafa is a legend, one of the greatest ever, on a mysterious, precipitous decline. Colin is a still fledgling star whose potential hasn’t yet been realized and may even have been halted. Rafa, who’s coached by the famous Uncle Toni, could possibly benefit from some new, additional coaching blood, much as Nole  brought in Boris Becker. Colin, however, has worked on his pocket presence in the off-season with NFL and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner.

If anything, William C. Rhoden writes in a brilliant column in the Oct. 12 edition of The New York Times, Colin needs to remember the talent that got him there in the first place, that of a dynamic quarterback rather than a traditional stand-and-deliver pocket passer – just like the quarterback-hero of “The Penalty for Holding,” the forthcoming novel in my series “The Games Men Play.”

Conversations about the effectiveness of Kaepernick’s style are an extension of a decades-old debate — in fact, I’d call it a feud — between the old-school pocket-presence America and a movement to be permanently liberated from the pocket,” Rhoden wrote. “Truth is, the American pocket is collapsing…. (Tom) Brady and the Mannings, Peyton and the Giants’ Eli, are about all that is left of the pure pocket passers we once embraced.”

Indeed, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers – having a dream season so far with the team 5-0 – may be the happy medium when it comes to mobile QBs. Rhoden’s advice to Colin is advice that would serve any of us well, so we’ll let him have the last word: “Hone your skills but hang on dearly to the gifts that so many of your critics would die for….

Run wisely. Run to daylight.”