Keeping Score

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AJ Neuharth-Keusch

Every year before the start of the football season, EA Sports releases a new and updated version of their video game series; Madden NFL.
Since the first edition was introduced in 1994, Madden has been widely popular and annually atop of the video game sales charts.
1999 was the first year that a player appeared on the cover of the game (retired head coach and commentator John Madden was on all previous covers). The cover player was 49ers running back Garrison Hearst. Unfortunately, the transition from commentator to player could have been the worst mistake EA Sports has ever made.
In the 1999 playoffs, Hearst obtained a career-impeding injury when his cleat stuck into the AstroTurf in the Georgia Dome, causing him to break his ankle. On that day, the ‘Madden Curse’ was established.
Every year since 1999, the player on the cover of Madden has either acquired an injury, was cut from his team, or began a steady statistical decline.
Listed below are the most significant examples of the curse.
Madden NFL ‘00- Former Lions running back, Barry Sanders, arguably the best in NFL history, retired from the league before the start of the next season after he was on the cover.
Madden NFL ‘04- During the same week of the game release, Falcons quarterback Michael Vick suffered a leg injury during a preseason game. He missed 11 games that season and has dealt with injuries and the law ever since.
Madden NFL ‘07- Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander took his team to the Super Bowl and won the MVP award the year before. After becoming the Madden cover player, Alexander injured his foot, which began the quick decline of his career.
Madden NFL ‘09- Jets quarterback Brett Favre started off the season 8-3 with his new team before he received an arm injury that bothered him for the rest of the season. The Jets finished the remaining games with a 1-4 record, failing to make the playoffs. Since then, Favre has announced his retirement three times and waffled in and out of the league, which caused him to never be the same star he once was.
Madden NFL ‘10- Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu both appeared on the cover. Although the odds of both players becoming victims of the Madden curse were slim, it happened. Fitzgerald dealt with injuries and one of the worst seasons of his career, while Polamalu injured his MCL, causing him to miss the majority of the season.
Madden NFL ‘12- Browns running back Peyton Hillis stated that he didn’t believe in the Madden curse after being selected for the cover. However, he rushed for only 587 yards the following season after he racked up 1177 yards the year before. It’s safe to say that he now, more than likely, believes in the curse.
Madden NFL ‘13 features Lions superstar receiver Calvin Johnson Jr., who is currently having one of the best seasons that a receiver has ever had.
If the trend continues, expect to see Johnson decline from the ranks of the elite receivers. But, for “Megatron” (Johnson’s nickname), nothing is impossible and there is no obstacle too large.
Arguments will continue to be made for and against the curse. For the past 15 years, its diminished skeptics and made believers continue to believe. Will this be the last year it continues? Will “Megatron” prevail? Will he prove the curse was just a hoax after all? We’ll just have to wait and see.