The Madden NFL Franchise Curse
Perhaps the most highly anticipated video game every year is the Madden NFL series from EA Sports. This renowned franchise has been a phenomenon for the past 21 years. It’s right there for the annual NFL Draft, creating shots of players on their new teams almost instantly. Television programs pitting some of the most talented Madden NFL players in tournaments are shown around the world. And people are known to come up with every excuse in the book in order to get out of work on the very day the game releases – making it as close to a national holiday as the video game industry is likely to get.
For all the good that comes with the hype and hysteria of Madden NFL, there is a downfall to the game’s yearly release. Since Madden gave up the game’s cover appearance starting with the 1999 installment for a different annual cover athlete, that player has suffered from poor play or injury, leading to the belief that there is a Madden NFL curse.
Already, the curse of the Madden NFL series has reared its ugly head this season. For the first time in the series’ history, two players grace the cover of Madden NFL 10. Defending Super Bowl Champion safety of the Pittsburgh Steelers Troy Polamalu goes head-to-head with one of the men he covered in the big game last February, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. In the Steelers’ first game of the season against the Tennessee Titans, Polamalu suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain while blocking a field goal. He is expected to miss three-to-six weeks’ worth of action and the Cardinals should cautiously play Fitzgerald in a bubble every game.
One would imagine teams and players would have learned their lesson by now. When EA Sports comes calling, it’s probably in everybody’s best interest to decline the offer regardless of how prestigious and financially rewarding the opportunity might be. As history has shown, going on the Madden NFL cover is almost guaranteed to affect a player, and probably his team, negatively.
Notable instances of the Madden NFL curse:
2002: Second-year quarterback Daunte Culpepper graced the cover for 2002, but was only able to follow-up an NFC Championship appearance the previous year by missing the final five games of the 2001 season with a knee injury as the Vikings missed the playoffs with a 5-11 record.
2003: As the 2003 cover athlete, St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk had an ankle injury all season and failed to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the first time since 1996, while the Rams team went 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
2004: Atlanta Falcons quarterback and franchise cornerstone Michael Vick was selected for the 2004 installment of Madden NFL, but missed the entire season after suffering a fractured right fibula in a preseason game and watched his team finish with a 5-11 record.
2006: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was coming off a Super Bowl appearance, in which his team lost to the New England Patriots. But as the Madden NFL 06 cover athlete, his 2005 was destined for disaster and he suffered a sports hernia in the first game and ended up shutting down for the last seven games of the season.