x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

No need to dunk football after NFL touchdown when you can just leap into the stands

I love the Lambeau Leap. I like that players are even doing it in other stadiums now. But why ban the goalpost dunk and not the Lambeau Leap? Is this an anti-baskteball move by the NFL?

When a player scores a dramatic goal in the English Premier League and then rips off his jersey, it will always result in a yellow card for excessive celebration.

The American football professional league in the United States, the NFL, followed suit six months ago when they randomly banned players from dunking the football on the goalposts after a touchdown.

But that has not stopped New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who threw down two goalpost dunks Friday night during a pre-season game. Both celebrations drew penalty flags for unsportsmanlike conduct and the second one led to a shouting match between Graham and coach Sean Payton on the sideline.

But Graham told ESPN.com on Sunday that he “would never do anything to hurt the team” in the regular season (and in essence, was hinting the pre-season is basically meaningless).

“You know, for four years and however many touchdowns, I’ve always dunked it. And I just gotta stop doing that now,” said Graham, though he made it clear that he’s still not on board with the NFL’s new rule to ban his preferred touchdown celebration -- which he said is “not hurting anyone.”

Graham is right. Dunking the football over the goalpost does not hurt a soul.

But what about when Green Bay Packer players plunge into the stands to celebrate after a touchdown? Here we have a 250-pound men, running at full speed and heaving themselves into a group of fans, hoping theses meager spectators will cushion their landing and hold them up along a barrier brick wall.

Sounds pretty safe, eh?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Lambeau Leap. I like that players are even doing it in other stadiums now.

But why ban the goalpost dunk and not the Lambeau Leap? Is this an anti-basketball move by the NFL??

“When the competition committee defined unsportsmanlike celebrations and celebrations, it grandfathered in the Lambeau Leap provided that only one person jumps in the stands,” St. Louis Rams coach and competition committee member Jeff Fisher told USA Today in March when the rule was introduced.

“And it also made it illegal to celebrate using anything as a prop whether it was a pen or a ball or what have you, but that allowed players to in essence use the goalpost as a prop to dunk or shoot, whatever.”

Graham, who played basketball at the University of Maimi from 2005 to 2009, said his dunks last week were more spur of the moment than any planned protest against the NFL, which adopted the new rule in part because Graham himself knocked two goalposts ajar in the past. That’s why it’s been dubbed by many as “The Jimmy Graham rule.”

Following the game, Graham did crack on himself a little bit for the way he’s been so reluctant to stop dunking so far.

“The rule [is] unfortunate because I just love the game. I have a lot of passion for the game. And when I go out there on Sunday, it’s fun for me,” Graham said. “And I feel like a little kid out there. And sometimes I act like it.”

agray@thenational.ae