EA Sports has sold over 85,000,000 copies of their popular Madden Football game so you would think most athletes would be honored to accept gracing the cover; unless you’re a Pro Bowl player that believes in curses.
Here’s a detailed look at the effect being the “chosen one” has brought to players throughout the years. In the years prior to 1999, the video game’s namesake John Madden was featured on the cover.
1999: 49ers RB Garrison Hearst: After being featured on the cover Hearst broke his ankle on the first play from scrimmage in 1999 and missed two full seasons; his career smoldered out. Now if that ain’t a curse!
2000: Lions RB back Barry Sanders: On the cover of Madden Football? Screw that, I’m retiring! Sanders unpacked his locker and walked away from the NFL and the NFL rushing career record before training camp; The move imploded the competitive Lions and dropped them into a record-setting tailspin.
2001: Titans RB Eddie George: Yeah George rushed for 939 yards rushing with five touchdowns but he also turned the ball over on a weird play when it mattered most in the Divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. He juggled an easy catch that was picked off by Ray Lewis for a TD to seal the Titans’ fate.
2002: Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper: After a career year, Culpepper threw 23 interceptions and set the NFL record for most fumbles in a season. Definite curse . . . not to mention him being donning a Lions uni after the team was 0-16 rubbed salt into the curse wound.
2003: Rams RB Marshall Faulk: Faulk, a common 1,000 yard per year rusher, never hit the mark after making the cover of Madden 2003. Knee injuries limited him to 21 of the next 32 games.
2004: Falcons QB Michael Vick: The highest paid player in the NFL with a $100 million contract, Vick broke his leg in a preseason game and after missing time, the bird flip incident, dogfighting, mugshots and jail time followed.
2005: Ravens Ray Lewis: Lewis injured his wrist in Week 15 and didn’t intercept a pass for the first time in his career.
2006: Eagles QB Donovan McNabb: McNabb suffered a hernia in Week 1 of the season and later ripped his ACL in Week 11. Bad Karma! And cursed.
2007: Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander: The NFL MVP the year earlier, Alexander injured his foot during camp and missed six games.
2008: Titans QB Vince Young: Young missed a game and although he didn’t sway from his usual stats, his brain cells may have mysteriously disappeared. Several incidents over time led to him being shipped out of Tennessee.
2009: Packers QB Brett Favre: Favre was granted “cover boy” then came out of retirement to play on the Jets. That stint was cursed by a poor performance and a hot chick on the sidelines that lead to sexting that led to . . . . you know the rest of the story.
2010: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu: While Fitzgerald finished the season with 97 receptions, 3rd most in his career, and a career-high 13 TDs, Polamalu sprained his knee in the season opener and battled injuries the rest of the way. The curse picked Troy out of the two proving the curse Gods prefer to not be overwhelmed.
2011: Saints QB Drew Brees: Brees threw twice as many interceptions as the season before and his quarterback rating dropped nearly 20 points; his team were ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
2012: Browns RB Peyton Hillis: Being drafted by the Browns is a curse in itself but after a breakout season in 2011, Hillis made the cover of Madden
2012 and his career hit a wall. He battled a hamstring injury and started looking like a one-hit wonder. In an interview with ESPN, Hillis said,
“There’s a few things that happened this year that made me believe in curses. Ain’t no doubt about it.”
We’re with you on that one Peyton.
Used with permission of the author.
Jay Donetelli is a Tampa-based freelance sportswriter and contributor to Sports Climax. With an opinion sharper than an Ovechkin skate blade with the sting of an Ali jab, Donetelli has a loyal cult of readers who have found a way to love him.
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