Monday, October 24, 2011

Heaps vs. Nelson

All those who have been following BYU’s football season this year have felt a sense of failure and frustration and a need for a change at the quarterback position as the season has played out through the first five games. Sophomore Jake Heaps entered the season with the hopes and dreams of thousands of BYU football fans placed squarely on his shoulders.  Expectations were high, and people felt that a BCS bowl invitation was a realistic goal. After all, virtually the entire receiving corps and a strong and experience group of running backs returned from last year; it seemed the year to do it, to emphatically declare BYUs independence and to seek the national championship.  
Riley Nelson
But now we have a record of 3-2 with one of the worst offenses in the game, so what happened? Most who have been closely following the team would agree that much of the blame should fall to Heaps, the so called “General of the Team”, especially after backup Riley Nelson replaced Heaps midway through the third quarter of the Utah State game and engineered two touchdown drives to secure a last-second comeback victory. Nelson’s play clearly energized the team, which seemed to play harder and began to make the kinds of plays that had been expected when the season began.
Jake Heaps
After the game most fans and analysts were quick to anoint Nelson as the new starter, relegating Heaps to second string. However Gordon Monson, a blogger for the Salt Lake Tribune, in his blog post “Monson: Jake Heaps still the best option at QB for BYU”, argues that Heaps should be left in the commander’s position and by using clever phrasing with mainly diction, logical proof and an analogy to explain this to all BYU fans and those others who are involved in the quarterback debate.
When I first read this blog I thought Monson was illogical and just playing the devil’s advocate, trying to “stir the pot” a little, because anyone who was watching or following BYU football knew that the team needed a change at the quarterback position. Many already feel that the season is a bust after BYU lost two games and scraped out a couple of wins against teams who are… well, not the strongest teams, to put it nicely. But after reading the blog again I found his arguments interesting and effective, with his subtle rhetoric connecting with his audience as he lays out logical points while controlling the emotions of the reader.
            The first thing that Monson uses diction, is in what he is saying to establish his credibility and to begin to change the reader’s thinking. Using diction with a little imagery Monson does a good job of appealing to the emotions and controlling the negative emotions of the readers. Monson understands that football fans are passionate, and that this is a highly emotional issue, and uses this to his advantage to connect with his audience. In this passage he is quick to acknowledge that there is a problem so that his readers know that he “gets it” …
“For whatever reasons, Heaps right now is lost in a fog. He has the better arm, the better upside, the better form. But he has backed up in his progression. Nearly everyone, myself included, mistakenly thought this season was his time to step into the role of a confident passer, to take control of an offense that seemed perfectly suited for him.”
Here Monson uses the subtle imagery of Heaps being in a fog and so a little lost. This is an appeal to have the readers feel a little bad for Heaps and how bad he is doing. This puts the readers in a new position as they aren’t now looking at Heaps as the perpetrator but more as the victim, trying to make the reader feel a little bad for Heaps. Here Monson puts himself in the story, he knows that Heaps is not doing well, which everyone already knows, and he makes no effort to to argue otherwise.  Yet even as he admits the obvious he plants seeds for his real argument by subtly reminding people of the potential, “better upside”, Heaps has and that Heaps’ performance has not always been bad, “better arm”, – every serious fan knows that Heaps’ arm salvaged the season last year and that there was good reason for the high expectations which he faced this year.  So Monson gains credibility in the eyes of the readers by stating the popular emotional argument, and then subtly moves on to the logical arguments that he will use to show that the emotional argument is wrong.
After gaining this trust Monson uses clever diction (word choice) and proof to appeal to the logic of the reader: 
 “Point is, the team has not rallied, does not rally around Heaps. For weeks, players in the program have whispered complaints about the sophomore’s immaturity.
When Nelson entered, the blocking was better, the effort was better, the results were better. Does that make him a better quarterback?
That’s the irony. He is not.”
This is great word choice, or diction, for Monson’s argument. He logically shows through this word choice that the losses and the failing was a team problem as well as a quarterback problem. Monson shows how Heaps seemed to be alone on the team and the difference in the team as Nelson stepped in. This is an appeal to the reader’s emotions, making the reader feel bad for Heaps, who has not been given the full support of the team nor their best efforts. The logical, unwritten question that then comes into the mind of each reader is whether Heaps would have succeeded if the team had played the same way with Heaps as they played with Nelson? This then sets up Monson’s main point – that Nelson is not the better quarterback – and that Heaps should remain as BYU’s starting quarterback.
At this point, readers are revisiting the opinion that they had before they read the article, so Monson uses more diction and quotes to help the reader come to his same conclusion:
“Nelson thrived in chaos against Utah State. Give good teams a chance to prepare for him and the Cougar offense would continue to struggle. Fortunately for BYU, there aren’t many good teams left on its schedule.”
Here Monson appeals to the logic of the reader by pointing out that Utah State had prepared to face Jake Heaps and were not prepared for Nelson’s specific skills, so a large part of Nelson’s success was that he was able to use this element of surprise to his great benefit.  Yet future good opponents with the time to prepare will be ready to stop Nelson and then Heaps’ skills will be needed and provide the greater chance of success.  Reader’s will remember that it was Nelson who struggled last year and that it was Heaps who was the shining beam of hope. Overall the logical part of this argument is strong and effective in moving the reader from the emotion of the thrilling Nelson-orchestrated comeback to a logical consideration of which quarterback has the most potential for long-term success. By this point, I suspect that many readers are being persuaded to join the side of the author.
            The last use of rhetoric that the author uses is an analogy of a General leading an army (and in football the quarterback is the General):
“Those who say the quarterback position should be the same as any other — whoever plays the best, in this case, whoever moves the offense in any given moment or any series of moments, should be the starter.
That’s what you do at linebacker or right tackle or left defensive end. It’s not what you do at quarterback. You replace sergeants and lieutenants, as though they were spark plugs and oil filters, but you don’t sack your general, you don’t switch out supreme commanders like you rotate your Michelins, depending on momentary results.”
Here Monson uses the analogy of not changing “commanders” to argue that Heaps should still stay the “General” of team even after a couple of lost “battles”. This has a positive effect on the readers causing them to think of past wars and how - even when the war didn’t start out too well - it would have been much worse to have switched the generals in the middle of the war. Most readers will understand this analogy, knowing that most wars consist of many battles, and that some battles may be lost yet the war is ultimately won. It is an effective argument and will move some undecided readers to agree with Monson’s argument.
In the final paragraphs of Monson’s topic he revisits his key points and offers a solution of how to save the season, appealing one last time with diction to logically persuade his readers of his argument. Monson specifically reminds the readers of the similar issue from last season as he appeals to both emotion and logic…
“It’s not an easy decision for Mendenhall, but not deciding is the worst plan he could follow, just like it was a year ago…
Still, the worst thing Mendenhall can do is waffle. He must show leadership and be decisive and make a decision that makes real sense. On Monday, he said a starter would not yet be named. That might work for confusing San Jose State, but if he confuses his players, as well, that’s trouble. He also said he would prefer to avoid a repeat of last year’s mistake.
Based on talent, Heaps should be the guy, and Nelson a situational Plan B, but only in very limited doses. Mendenhall somehow has to channel Dr. Freud and rearrange the mess in Heaps’ head. That’s the best solution; it’s the only lasting solution, to an offense in huge need of repair.”
This in the end, this is the last appeal to both the logic and to the emotion of the audience who will remember last season and who will not want to have history repeat itself; but at the same time reminding the reader of the saving grace of the quarterback last year who salvaged the season and led us to a bowl game - and that quarterback was named Heaps and not Nelson.
            Overall Monson does a good job of appealing to both the logic and emotion of an emotional and passionate target audience, and of building his reputation as a calm, dispassionate voice of reason for this subject. Through diction, an analogy and logical examples, Monson sways the opinions of the readers and puts forth a strong argument that allows him to accomplish his purpose, which is to get the reader to reconsider the popular opinion and reach the same conclusion as Monson.  That conclusion is that Heaps – despite a couple of lost battles - should be our “general” to lead us through this “Holy War”.

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