The Madden Curse strikes again
Monday, September 21, 2009 2:55 PM
Fans and haters of American football alike may be interested to hear about the latest episode in the saga possibly caused by EA and their long series of NFL games.
The Madden Curse strikes again with devastating effect. But what is this strange phenomenon of which I speak? Well, we'll have to go back to the beginning of the decade to get the historical background on this worrying situation.
Back in 2000, EA decided that John "Captain Obvious" Madden - everyone's favourite colour commentator and a coach who recorded an all-time winning percentage of 76.3 over 142 games (103-32-7) during his tenure with the Oakland Raiders between 1969 and 1978 - did indeed look like a huge, vaguely Vulcan version of Larry Hagman. While it's quite likely that EA's real reasoning was much different, the search was on for player replacements for the front cover of the game series.
Madden NFL 2000 was shipped with future Hall of Famer Barry Sanders on the front cover alongside Madden himself, even though Sanders quit the NFL before the first ball of the season was kicked. Dorsey Levens, a running back with the Green Bay Packers, ended up being pasted onto later releases, though he himself had a dodgy knee for most of the campaign. Ho-hum.
Madden NFL 2001 saw Eddie George, the Tennessee Titans' Super Bowl finalist, gracing the cover. He'd eventually seal his fate with a great season that was undone by a bobbled pass in a playoff match lost to the Baltimore Ravens, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Hot damn.
Madden NFL 2002? Daunte Culpepper, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback, went 4-7 until his knee exploded and the Vikes finished 5-11. Some say he still hasn't recovered, which is probably why he now plays for the Detroit Lions, who became the first team to lose all their games in a season last year.
Madden NFL 2003 saw the epic win of a running back Marshall Faulk of the St Louis Rams, with two Super Bowl rings from the three previous seasons gracing his fingers, effectively writing off his ankle and never quite recovering to his former glory. A damn shame.
Madden NFL 2004 had everyone's favourite master of animal cruelty, Michael Vick, on the front cover. Then a fresh-faced and likeable quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, Vick fractured his fibula one day after Madden hit the shelves. With only five games under his belt, the Falcons drowned with five wins and 11 losses.
Madden NFL 2005's Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens had no interceptions for the first and only time in his career. Fail.
Madden NFL '06, now slightly rebranded, got Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles on the cover. By this point, the Madden Curse was famous. "It might be a trend but I don't believe in the curse at all," he proudly claimed, adding: "I'm happy I'm on the cover."
O rly? Most people saw the sports hernia coming in the first game, or at least something. Eight games later, surgery was the only option for Donovan McNabb, forcing him to miss the last seven games.
Madden NFL '07, then, was a time for learning. At least, one could only hope. After a stellar season that ended at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, Shaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks broke his left foot against the New York Giants. He was later cut from the squad, just two years after breaking the record for most touchdowns in a season (later beaten by San Diego Charger LaDainian Tomlinson).
Madden NFL '08... Vince Young, QB for Tennessee, took the cover instead of LaDainian after fans of the latter made it their duty to save him from the cover, knowing of his probable, if not inevitable fate. Tomlinson cited contractual obligations and Chris Erb told the San Diego Union-Tribune that it was all about Vince anyway, though many people are still quizzical over the issue.
Young finished with 2,459 passing yards alongside 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions - a dismal display, but one which also saw him miss the first game of his career due to injury. Last season he was dropped from the starting position altogether in favour of veteran Kerry Collins, who remains in the position today.
Madden NFL '09 probably knew what the situation was and chose the legendary Brett Favre, replete in Green Bay Packers colours (despite his move that summer to the New York Jets after 292 consecutive starts between 1992 and 2007 with the Packers), knowing that he'd likely get injured. He didn't, but after leading the Jets to 8-3 with five games to go, Favre threw eight interceptions and only two touchdowns to finish 9-7, missing the playoffs. In other words, the man had a shocker.
Madden NFL 10 was clever: it took a pair of Super Bowl finalists to see if variation meant safety. Troy Polamalu, the winner of the title with the Pittsburgh Steelers and a man regarded as the best safety in the NFL at the moment, was placed opposite Larry Fitzgerald, the near-hero wide receiver for the unlucky Arizona Cardinals, who were defeated with mere minutes left of the final.
Troy Polamalu, in his first game for the Steelers - a triumphant 13-10 victory over the Titans - sustained a major MCL sprain on his left knee when blocking a field goal and is expected to be out for the next three-to-six weeks, though it may deteriorate regardless.
And what about Larry? Well, he's fine for now, though if he has any sense, he'll continue running his first route on the field in his next game and continue straight out of the stadium, all the way home and into a padded cell for his own safety.
Not that it'll matter; no-one breaks the Madden Curse. Give him four weeks and he could break his leg, lose his face to a Tesla Cannon blast or simply give birth. Nothing's out of the question when Madden's on the prowl.
Read our PS3 and Xbox 360 review of Madden NFL 10.
Read our Nintendo Wii review of Madden NFL 10.