Nov 9, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) celebrates after a first down against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The definition of “Team” from Businessdictionary.com reads like this:
"Team members (1) operate with a high degree of interdependence, (2) share authority and responsibility for self-management, (3) are accountable for the collective performance, and (4) work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s). A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members."
Growing up in a small town in Jackson Parish, Louisiana, was almost like being separated from the big world outside. There was one red light, two gas stations, and a population of around 900. You literally knew everyone in town. If you needed to go shopping or pick up anything you had to go “to town” as we always called it, which was Monroe, Louisiana.
I spent my summers growing up playing baseball and fishing in the ponds at my Grandmother’s house and the local creeks. Looking back now, it truly was the best time in my life. Life was slow! Nobody ever seemed to stress about much or get in any kind of hurry or rush to get anything done. It truly was the “good ole days.”
It was in those years that I learned the meaning of “team.” I couldn’t wait for the spring time to roll around so we could all convene at the local high school baseball field and begin practicing. Our coach for most of those years was one of the local deputies for the Jackson Parish Police Department. He was a co-worker of my dad and good friend of the family and I absolutely loved being around this man and he thoroughly enjoyed teaching us the game.
Every year we barely had enough kids to field a team, and had to travel “up the road” to Jonesboro, Louisiana to play our games. Everyone got plenty of playing time because of this. We didn’t win a lot of games with the talent (or lack of) that we fielded, but Mr. Rickey always taught us to show up to practice and show up on gameday and give our best for the “team.” We were kids. We just wanted to play. For years it was the same group of young boys that came together, even though we wouldn’t win a lot, and gave 100 percent. There truly was team spirit!
Well, those days have long since past and now I live “in town“, leaving behind the slow easy life and opting for the fast pace of life in West Monroe, Louisiana. I guess to draw a comparison, that would be like moving from Boise, Idaho to New York City.
Oct 30, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
As we get down the nitty-gritty of the 2014 NFL regular season, I sense that the team spirit that used to exist in New Orleans is all but gone.
The Saints 40 Million Dollar man, Jimmy Graham, seems to be one of the men losing that “team attitude” the most. He doesn’t seem to be playing with that same fire that we use to see in his eyes. His 695 yards and 9 touchdowns through thirteen games is no slouch, but we need Jimmy Graham to step up and be the veteran leader he should now be. For Jimmy Graham to be rewarded with such a huge contract, the Saints and the fans should, and do expect more than just numbers from the tight end.
Here are a few quotes from Jimmy Graham’s chat with the media on Saturday when he was asked about how last weeks shake-up within the team has affected him.
"“I put my head down and come to work everyday”“I have a hard enough time paying attention to what I need to do around here”“I’m just focusing on myself”"
I, I, I. Should this be how a veteran of Graham’s status and paycheck speak of such major changes in the locker room? Seems he should be more than just focused on himself. Football is a “team” sport is it not? He just seems to have such a smug attitude right now. He got paid and now has risen above the “team” attitude. I hope and pray this is not the case as I am one of Graham’s biggest fans and want to see him succeed.
When arguably one of the units (I won’t use team – because the unit is not playing as one right now) biggest weapons and playmakers is exhibiting this type of attitude, surely it will affect the younger guys who may be looking up to him as some sort of role model. Surely, it will trickle down and become some sort of disease in the locker room.
I think every one of the New Orleans Saints needs to go back to that hometown where they grew up, where they played football and baseball with their childhood friends. Where they ate Grandma’s home cooking on Sunday after church and watched football or NASCAR with Grandpas and Uncles and remember what it truly is to love the game. Remember that sense of family. Maybe then our beloved Saints will be able to get back to their winning ways.
When We, Us, and Team start to replace the I, Me, and My – we can start to expect the turnaround. Until then, expect nothing more than the less than mediocre we are getting now.