The Big Game: When "Madden" Takes Over an Innocent Life

Andrew KennedyContributor IJanuary 23, 2009

Most sports fans are ready to see the Steelers and Cardinals play for the Super Bowl next week.

Koby Garick is ready for the Chiefs and Falcons Super Bowl matchup. He is also living in a world where the year is 2016.

Garick is one of the many gamers consumed by Madden, the popular football video game that has been around, in several incarnations, since 1989.

While most college students spend their free time going out drinking or getting bigger at the gym—or studying, on occasion—Garick took on a different challenge during his junior and senior years at UCF. He wanted to build the Miami Dolphins into Super Bowl champions.

Names like Ugo Marshall, Tiny Sitrin, and J.J. Hastings don’t mean much of anything to the average person, and they shouldn’t. But for Garick, they are some of his best friends and he talks about them as if they were real people.

“I mean Ugo, we found him from Richmond, the Spiders,” Garick said. “Sitrin’s a jokester and isn’t very tiny indeed. J.J.’s the traitor; he went to the Bills. He wanted to take my quarterback spot. He got too good and the fans began chanting ‘put in Hastings.’ So I traded him for Joe Powell, and we all know how that turned out.”

Garick, who created a character for himself to start at quarterback for the Dolphins, had his job threatened by the fruitful young talent that is J.J. Hastings.

A business turned biology turned education major, Garick has been playing franchise mode on Madden for more than seven years. As mentioned, he is one of the many addicted to the game; the community has become so large that there is now a television series on ESPN documenting daily travels for gamers as they compete for a grand prize of usually up around $100,000.

Garick said there are two kinds of gamer breeds when it comes to Madden.

“I’m a franchise guy,” Garick said. “I never did have the money to go online. We franchise guys don’t look too highly among the online gamers. They’re fake and like to live in a fantasy world. I don’t have time for that.”

The time Garick has been putting into his franchise is becoming somewhat distracting to his already-lacking social life. His workout partner, Chris Slaby, has had it with the time Garick is contributing to his “masterpiece” of a franchise.

“Koby said to me ‘all this working out is cutting into my Madden time,’” Slaby said. “I just don’t get it.”

Girls have not been an obstacle for Garick’s dream, either.

“How could they play football,” Garick said. “I don’t understand. I can’t even create a girl. What would be the purpose?”

In 10 seasons' worth of playing with the Dolphins and with a created self-image calling the signals from under center, he has still yet to hoist the Lombardi trophy over his digital head.

“Street cred’ is a big thing when it comes to a Madden franchise,” Garick said. “You don’t want to win too much too soon or my fans will lose interest. Also, you won’t be getting any respect from the Madden community because they’ll think you’re playing on too easy a difficulty.”

Garick has suffered heartbreak after heartbreak in his career. After missing the playoffs in his first two campaigns, making the playoffs has now become somewhat of a formality for the fantasy Dolphins. But bringing home the real hardware has been tougher than anyone expected.

Only twice has Garick led his Dolphins to a Super Bowl appearance, but both were losses, the most recent on a last-second Hail Mary toss.

In his most recent season to date, 2016, Garick suffered the hardest of hardships a video gamer can. During an overtime divisional playoff game with the computer-controlled Pittsburgh Steelers seemingly on the verge of punting, Garick was duped into a fake punt that resulted in a game-winning touchdown, sending Garick to the showers, literally and figuratively.

“I cried,” Garick said. “It was a long offseason, I’ll tell you that much. Some of my best players retired. Everyone’s getting older. I don’t know how much longer I got in me.”

The road to a Super Bowl will continue for Garick, with winning a championship at the top of his to-do list, ahead of making good grades, exercising, and getting a girlfriend.

“You got to prioritize,” Garick said. “Girls come and go. A Super Bowl ring lasts forever.”