Nowadays, being a Madden cover model is like a being a childhood star. It’s all nice and enjoyable at the time but as the years start to fade, your performance starts to falter and your life and career damn near go up in smokes.
Even if you don’t believe in curses, you have to admit it’s something more than a coincidence occurring with the number of guys who have seen their careers flipped upside down once they grace the cover of the John Madden Football videogame.
Almost like a scene out of The Ring, how after you watch the video tape, your phone rings and something extremely bad happens to you in seven days. Well….maybe not that serious, but still, something extremely bad happens to you within several months after you get your picture taken for the cover of Madden.
Brett Favre was the latest victim, seeing his Jets squad fall out the sky from a midseason high mark of 8-3 that not only had them thinking playoffs but dreaming Super Bowl. After Favre’s throwing arm collapsed, the Jets’ season was done, losing four out of their last five games to miss the playoffs and end number four’s Hall of Fame career on a sour note.
2008’s cover featured Vince Young, who is now tip-toeing along the edge of one-hit-wonder status after an inspiring rookie year.
Since his ’07 debut, Young has been benched, booed, hinted at retirement and reportedly mentioned suicide all in the same season.
2007’s victim is still on milk cartons nationwide. Shaun Alexander was the first player to appear on both EA Sports football titles – Madden 2007 and NCAA Football 2001 – the result, two injury plagued seasons following his mega ’05 campaign that saw him rush for 1,880 yards and score 28 touchdowns.
Now the former MVP is currently out of the league and out of sight, out of mind.
In his heyday, Donovan McNabb was one of the most dangerous scramblers in the game. His ability to jog around the field and make plays from the quarterback position was undoubtedly reminiscent of another former Philadelphia duel-threat.
All that changed for the 2006 cover man on November 19, 2006, when he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee against the Tennessee Titans, zapping the Pro Bowler of his lethal agility and urging him to become more of a pocket passer.
That was only the second part of a two-year haze that McNabb would endure after his ’06 illustration hit the stores in 2005.
The first part featured McNabb ducking and dodging verbal bullets from his teammate at the time, Terrell Owens, who opened vocal fire on seemingly everyone associated with the Eagles organization during his tenure in Philadelphia.
After several controversial statements and publicly questioning McNabb’s performance in a disappointing Super Bowl loss earlier that year, Owens would later be suspended for the rest of the season while McNabb would have his year end early after deactivating himself with a sports hernia injury and sore thumb on his throwing hand.
It wasn’t the ’04-’05 season that tackled 2005 cover boy Ray Lewis. The Madden Curse blindsided Lewis the following year with a nagging thigh injury that would cut the campaign short for the walking Hall of Famer.
Lewis still remains a potent run stuffer in the afterlife of a superhuman career, but he hasn’t posted over 100 tackles since the 2004 season, ironically, Lewis’ cover year.
There shouldn’t even be a draw up of what happened to 2004’s Madden Man. Armed with blistering speed and a XXXL arm, Michael Vick exploded onto the scene as America’s secret weapon.
Almost otherworldly, Vick was brought back down to earth when he was brought to the ground in a preseason game against the Ravens.
A fractured right fibula would keep the lefty out until late November of the ’03 season, but even that was minor compared to the fate Vick would later suffer amid federal charges for dog fighting.
Is it a coincidence that all the aforementioned players suffered some type of life-altering, season shifting, career threatening fate? Maybe, maybe not.
With two players posted on the cover for this year, should a similar fate happen to both of the cover men in the future, EA Sports may have to revert back to placing John Madden on the cover by himself.
Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald outline the prototype for their respected positions.
One’s a big-time, highlight reel playmaking safety, the other is a wish-you-could-but-you-can’t stop him wideout who’s on the cusp of greatness.
Fitzgerald’s playoff performance trampled a monster regular season and made the former ball boy look like the best wide receiver ever in history.
When Polamalu wasn’t leaping over piles, he was making game-changing interceptions on the Steelers way to their sixth Super Bowl title.
Both are true superstars at their position, both are equipped with the humbleness and work ethic to continue to dominate the sport for the next few seasons.
Unless of course, the curse gets to them first.
The odds of both phenoms bowing out this season to the wrath of the Madden curse is highly unlikely, but then again, claiming the seasons of the last six cover men was a bet I would’ve gladly wagered seven years ago.
Glad I didn’t.