The best action at Reno casinos these days should be a tribute to the city's collegiately adopted son, Colin Kaepernick. Forget laying odds on whether he will break the record for rushing by a quarterback this season or if this second-round pick will outplay draft aristocrats Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton.
Let's bet on what really matters. Which part of his personal style will send folks into a spectacular froth next? We don't have to speculate on whether there will be a next time. There will be. Allergic to conventionality, Kaepernick has already been taken to the front line of the tattoo culture wars -- less than a month into his career as the 49ers' starters. In these final barren days before training camp, he has generated a viral tantrum by wearing a Miami Dolphins cap to a Fourth of July party.
Kaepernick followed that up by talking back (and talking sense) to his critics via social media, posting a pic of himself with the cap, a dismissive frown and a tagline that called the controversy ridiculous . Like the tattoos, his choice of accessory and his backtalk drew a distinctly old-school response, loaded with references to the ways of Joe Montana and Steve Young.
So what's the next target? His new Jaguar endorsement? It's fraught with possibilities, especially for true throwbacks. They'll remember Jaguar as notoriously unreliable. They might even recall it as the source of some of TV's darkest humor , when "Mad Men'' showed poor Lane Pryce failing in an initial suicide attempt because his new Jag wouldn't start.
Surely, there's fodder for a frenzy there. Kaepernick has aligned himself with a high-performance product that, a couple generations before his birth, was known for breaking down. What can he be thinking? He loves to work outside the pocket, or without one ever forming. He's practically put a curse on himself with this sponsorship.
Posing for the Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine could bring him some grief. One of his teammates, safety Donte Whitner, has already told the "Bull and Fox" radio show, via CBSSports.com: "I don't know about all the naked pictures and the lower body. I'm a little bit against that, but to each his own … He's the man right now, and that's what he chose to do. But he's going to receive some flak in the locker room."
It will help that 49ers tight end Vernon Davis also posed for the magazine and, above all, that athletes will develop amnesia about off-field activities the minute they see a teammate turn a playoff opponent's secondary into mulch. And in the end, you can bet that a quarterback stripping down will drive less scandal than his wearing another team's cap.
Most old-schoolers may side with Whitner, but the nude poses lack pornographic detail, and they carry an ESPN imprint. The elders have had a big Disney-backed company conditioning them to the idea of athletes' chiseled buttocks as art. They have no corporate entity to guide them through this generation's fashion sense. They don't understand that sports caps have become fashion accessories, often worn for appearances more than allegiances.
Likewise, Kaepernick has no idea how wearing the cap could be interpreted as an act of treason. He didn't wear it on the job. He certainly isn't a Dolphins fan. He grew up in Wisconsin and Northern California, rooting for the Packers and 49ers. A letter he wrote as fourth-grader, saying he wanted to play for one of those two teams, became part of the Kaepernick folklore last year.
He wore the Dolphins cap because he liked the way it looked. This is a quarterback who has something approaching a shoe fetish. A couple of his teammates mentioned this last year, but until Kaepernick posted photos of his sneaker stash via Instagram , it wasn't clear that he had become more than a collector. He's a curator.
Old-timers, and most middle-agers, can't begin to understand. Well, maybe Jim Brown could. He posed nude for Playgirl in the '70s. But he's Jim Brown, the ultimate outlier.
That could be Kaepernick's template, except for the retiring-at-29 part of the Brown bio. The quarterback routinely says that he strives to be different. He said it again in a video accompanying the release of the Body Issue. It's strange, though, to hear Kaepernick describe this as a conscious goal. Being different seems to come naturally to him.
He has started just 10 NFL games, including a Super Bowl, and in that time, he became the first known NFL quarterback whose biological mother sought a reunion through a national sports column; the innovator of Kaepernicking, a biceps-smooching celebration that he would trademark and later perform with First Lady Michelle Obama ; and the owner of the No. 4-selling jersey in the NFL , behind Griffin, Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis, none of whom began the season on the bench. And, of course, he's the only NFL quarterback ever to run for 181 yards in a game.
Nothing he does should be surprising now. Kaepernick has set a pattern, and he broke it in just one small way during the Miami cap tribulations. He sort of backed down. He posted a picture of himself in a 49ers cap, with the message: "It's just swag it ain't never hurt anybody .''
His body language suggests he is doing something obligatory. Backing down, even an inch, is not his style. All in all, 49ers fans should love that.