Thursday, December 8, 2011

Heaps of Problems

Let’s dive right in to the controversy, shall we?
Jake Heaps. The name seems to be almost synonymous with “Satan” around Provo this week. Bronco Mendenhall announced on Monday that Heaps is transferring from BYU. He is no longer on the team, effective immediately. No bowl game. No eulogy. Just gone. Some are happy to see him go, others are sad that he's leaving-- but there seems to be a general consensus of anger that he deceived us all, making us believe that he was the "next Jimmer" (thus a godlike figure who could do no wrong); true blue, through and through. So much for that idea.

My initial reaction was pure shock. What in the world is he thinking?!? Yeah, he hasn't had the greatest year, but I think he’s capable of much more. If he somehow manages to transfer to a BCS school, he'll never get playing time. If he transfers somewhere that needs a starter, it will likely be an off-the-radar school, so he won't get any attention. If he's so concerned about not being the star, why doesn't he just redshirt instead? He won't get to play for a year either way, and BYU is a lot more likely to give him the starting job in 2013 (since Nelson and Lark will both graduate next year) than any other school with reasonable clout. Staying with BYU is his best shot, but he's blowing it.

My favorite analogy that I’ve heard over the last few days came from my friend Courtenay via Facebook: “He's like that little boy down the street who storms off in a huff, saying, ‘I'm taking my ball and I'm playing somewhere else!’ when you tell him that he can't have his way.”

From what I hear, Heaps has been born and bred for the NFL. His family and the rest of Team Heaps (including a professional PR agency) have invested inordinate amounts of time and money to try to make him the 2015 Superbowl MVP. But guess what, people? Sometimes life doesn’t go the way you plan it. In fact, in my experience, life NEVER goes the way you plan it.

So why is Heaps transferring? 

Obviously I don’t know the inner workings of his mind or the discussions he had with his family. Nor is it any of my business. But if I had to guess, I think he just feels like he doesn’t fit in at the Y anymore. Is that a good enough reason to transfer? Maybe, maybe not. 

An interesting post on Jared Lloyd of the Daily Herald’s blog says “Jimmer-mania could be to blame”:
“BYU - and much of the country - experienced a once-in-a-decade phenomenon with the spectacular individual success of Jimmer Fredette. Cougar fans got caught up the mania of having regular superstar performances from the basketball celebrity.
When the NCAA basketball tournament run ended and Jimmer moved on to the NBA, BYU supporters went looking for the Next Big Thing - and settled on Heaps.
He was the big-name recruit, the talented sophomore who would only get better, the leader and the face of a Cougar football team that was independent and on ESPN and shooting for national championships.
I remember going to the Cougar Kickoff in August and seeing the line of people waiting to get autographs from Heaps winding all the way across the soccer field, while the rest of the team was getting much more moderate attention.
Even though the sophomore said all the right things, it's not hard to believe that some of the star treatment went to his head.
But, as is often the case, the more meteoric the rise, the quicker the fall.
He never enjoyed the stellar performances BYU fans had expected, instead being decent to mediocre in the season's first five games.
Then Nelson took the field against Utah State and capitalized on his skill set, personality, leadership and experience to take over the team.
Two months later, it seems clear that Heaps lost the full confidence of the players around him - many of whom are much older and may have consciously or subconsciously resented Heaps's preseason rock-star status.
Having lost that trust, it can be nearly impossible to get it back.”

I was in that line at the Cougar Kickoff in August. In fact, I spent two hours in that line, only to be cut off and sent home just an arms-reach away from Heaps, as he climbed on his chariot (a golf cart) and escaped into the sunset… I was upset for days that I missed out on meeting him. Maybe I was just one of those fans suffering from Jimmer withdrawal and looking for something equally great in Heaps that was never there.

Lloyd, who attended some of the BYU practices, also observed, “While most of the team is engaged in banter or laughing with their teammates as they finish practice, Heaps has usually been walking off the field by himself.”

I can’t help but think back to when O’Neill Chambers was kicked off the team in October 2010. Caveat: I have no idea whether this story is true, but it’s the rumor I heard—After one of the bad losses BYU took last year with Jake at the helm, Chambers cleared out Heaps’ locker and left a note inside that said something to the effect of: “You don’t deserve to be a Cougar anymore.”

If that story is true, maybe that’s when it started. True, Chambers is the one who (rightfully) got a kick through the open door, but maybe that general feeling has been stirring ever since among the team members. Or maybe it was just in Jake's head. Either way, not good. And Riley’s triumph in the Utah State game this year opened the can of worms and let it flow. 

While Jake may be cocky, I do feel bad for him. No one deserves that kind of disrespect. I still don’t think transferring is the best solution, though. Even if he has lost the respect of some of his fellow players and fans, there would be a whole new batch of supporters waiting for him in 2012 or 2013. Riley may be just what the Cougars needed this year, but that doesn’t mean Jake is worthless and couldn’t make a comeback. Have a little faith! In fact, with the way Riley plays—taking hard hits and leaping into imminent danger on nearly every down-- he’s almost bound to get injured at some point during the 2012 season, which would likely propel Heaps back to the starting lineup. Or Jake could redshirt and maintain an extra year of eligibility in the post-Nelson era. Quitting is not the way to win people over. Do we really want someone who gives up as soon as things get tough to be on our team? I think not.

After all is said and done, I hope it does work out for him. While overrated at the start of this season, he is talented and has potential. I don't think it's a wise choice, but I hope he will be successful wherever he goes. Unless he transfers to the U of U… then I hope he breaks his leg.

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