by Matt Soltysiak
Many experts are ranking Arizona Cardinal wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald as the top player at his position this season. It makes sense if you look at his statistics from last season (96 catches, 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns), but buyer (or drafter) beware! There’s something that’s being overlooked. He’s on the cover of the new EA Sports Madden football game and history doesn’t bode well for players who hold that honor. Here’s a little history lesson.
Originally John Madden would appear on the cover of the game, but in 2001 players started appearing and then the so called “curse” was born. If someone appeared on the cover their season was doomed. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Well here are just some examples of players who were spectacular one year, but struggled to live up to the cover’s hype the next.
In 2000 Daunte Culpepper lead the Minnesota Vikings with 33 touchdown passes, but in 2001 when he appeared on the cover of Madden (’02 version) he threw only 13 touchdowns, missed 4 games due to injury and the team had its worst finish since 1984. Culpepper hasn’t been the same since.
Let’s look at Michael Vick. He appeared on the cover of Madden (’04) before the start of the 2003 season. Well that very preseason Michael broke his leg in a preseason game and missed the first 11 games of the season. Life hasn’t been great for Vick since….
We move to Donovan McNabb, his 2005 season was cut short in week 9 when he suffered a hernia… yes that’s the year he appeared on Madden’s ’06 cover.
The following year was Shaun Alexander, reigning MVP. Alexander suffered a foot injury and missed 6 games that season, didn’t even get a 1,000 yards rushing and is currently trying to find a job to stay in the league (this was just three years ago!).
Two years ago Vince Young threw nearly twice as many interceptions as he did touchdowns…
Last year the folks at Madden thought they had done it. They finally outwitted everyone and everything. Any demons associated with any so called “curse” would surely be exercised by their very smart move of putting a retired hall of fame quarterback on the cover. Brett Favre was put on the cover of Madden ’09, someone who surely wouldn’t play, which means no worry of any sort of curse. The player on the cover, the franchise first ballot hall of fame quarterback not only came out of retirement, his team traded him. He then suffered through injuries the latter part of last year (continuing the curse).
Of course there is an example of one player who didn’t have a horrible season while being on the cover, and that’s Eddie George. He had a great season, but did bobble a ball that led to an interception return for a touchdown in their playoff loss.
This year those folks at Madden are trying to shake things up again, by putting Pittsburgh Steelers defender Troy Polamalu on the cover along with Larry Fitzgerald. Maybe this will help balance any negative energy that surrounds the curse, but if Fitzgerald’s play slips even a bit, people will point to the video game and say “the Maddening Curse continues.”
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