Lowell Cohn: The parable of two brothers

  • San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith (11) and Colin Kaepernick (7) wait for the start of passing drills prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 24-3.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

<i>And (Esau) said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hath thou not reserved a blessing for me?</i> — Genesis 27:36

It is almost biblical what happens Friday night in Kansas City — Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick. Esau vs. Jacob. Brother vs. brother. The eternal story. Esau and Jacob were twins. Esau came out first but Jacob grabbed his heel, as if he wanted to pull Esau back and be the first born.

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If you are a 49ers fan, you root for Kaepernick, the favorite son, the favorite brother. But you feel for Smith, cheer for Smith, the first child, the good child who tried to please, always. He did his duty and he did it well and he was cast out and lost his birthright and blessing. And now he lives in Missouri.

Years ago, when he was the only son — the chosen one amongst all others — Smith agreed to an interview with me. I went to the media building, a bunker near the practice field in Santa Clara, expecting further directions about where and when to meet Smith. But Smith already was there, waiting. He sat at a desk looking like a schoolboy. On time. Respectful of manners. Dutiful.

He described himself as normal. He used the word "normal." It meant he did not have an athlete's oversized ego. He was a normal man — a good man — who happened to earn millions by throwing a strangely-shaped ball. He understood the paradox of it all.

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