There's individuality, and there's me-first anarchy -- and there's a big difference between the two. Jimmy Graham veered into the anarchist's cookbook on Friday night when he scored a touchdown and celebrated by dunking over the goal posts. And then scored another touchdown and celebrated by dunking again over the goal posts.
That wasn't merely against the rules, but against a rule known as "The Jimmy Graham rule." Because it was Graham, you might recall, whose goal post dunk last season at Atlanta brought the damn goal post down, delaying the game for 20 minutes. The NFL responded in the only way it could, by hastily adding a rule that made it illegal to dunk on the goal posts. Celebration and spontaneity is fun, but delaying the game for 20 minutes? Not so much.
That's where the story would have ended, if Jimmy Graham were an adult. But he's not. He's another a-word, and no, not that one. He's an anarchist, thumbing his nose at the NFL for its rule, breaking it on purpose to send a message -- this is what I think of your rule -- and then doing it a second time to second message:
This is what I think of me. I'm Jimmy. And I think it's all about Jimmy.
At the least this is unattractive, a bad look for Graham that reflects poorly on his coach and team, even if his coach and team don't agree with what he did and even if there are fans -- and there are -- who think what Jimmy Graham did on Friday night is the coolest thing, like, evar! The NFL told him he can't dunk and he dunked anyway. What a guy! Har!
If that's all this was, an ugly look for Jimmy Graham, everyone could move on. Players -- people, me included -- make fools of themselves daily. It's the human condition to take what you have and spoil it out of immaturity, stupidity, whatever. See my hand in the air? Been there. Done it. Will do it again.
But this is more than an ugly look for Jimmy Graham. This is a threat to Sean Payton and to the NFL at large, though it's a bigger threat to Payton. What Jimmy Graham did on Friday night wasn't the act of a rebel. It was the act of a petulant child.
Graham has been here before, you know. His inner child is petulant, as was the case at the playoffs last season at Seattle. Two hours before kickoff, the Saints were warming up in their side of the field -- and the Seahawks on theirs -- when Graham crossed the line in every possible way. He walked onto the Seattle half, started talking and gyrating to get their attention, and wouldn't leave once he had it. Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin told Graham to leave. Graham wouldn't, then pulled the knit cap off Irvin's head.
"He's saying stuff like, 'I'm Jimmy,'" Irvin said after the game.
"I'm like, 'You're what?'"
Big picture, it's harmless. Just an idiot being an idiot, which happens all the time. But small stuff provides a window into a person's character, kind of like Friday night was wall-sized glimpse into what makes Graham tick. And what makes him tick?
He's all about himself in a way that enraged Payton, as it should. Graham wasn't just putting down the NFL by dunking the ball over the goal posts. He was elevating himself, putting himself above the league and even his teammates, by doing what he knew would draw a 15-yard penalty -- twice. Granted, it's an exhibition game. Doesn't count, all that. But there's a difference between not counting and not mattering. The game on Friday night mattered, all exhibitions do for myriad reasons, and Graham treated it like it mattered most of all to him and his version of anarchy.
If you're Payton, you're a little nervous. You're wondering if other players on the team will decide that the most talented guy on roster, Jimmy Graham, is onto something. Maybe this whole team game isn't about the team but the player. Where's mine? Jimmy got his. What about me? That's the message Graham sent to his teammates, though some of their comments afterward to the media in New Orleans indicated that they weren't in any hurry to follow Graham into anarchy.
Payton was so mad after the first dunk -- and the 15-yard penalty it drew -- that he wouldn't even look at Graham as he ran off the field. He was so mad after the second one that he chased Graham down the sideline, screamed at him, and was yelled at in return. How could Graham possibly think, after drawing his second 15-yard penalty of the game, that he had any business yelling at his coach?
Because he's Jimmy, fool. He's Jimmy. And this is all about Jimmy, and apparently will stay all about Jimmy -- until someone in authority reminds this petulant child that he's wrong.