Cursing John Madden

By Majesh Abraham

It wasn’t that suprising that the Bears absolutely spanked the Seahawks 37-6 in front of a national audience on Sunday night, considering the Seahawks were missing reigning MVP Shaun Alexander.

Alexander is a huge part of Seattle’s offense, because if Alexander doesn’t play, defenses can sit in pass protection for the whole game. Which brings us to the key question: why isn’t he playing?

Technically, it’s because of a broken bone in his foot, but we all know the real reason – the Madden Curse has struck again.

For each new release of the popular EA Sports Madden NFL franchise, there is a new football player picked for the cover. Fans of the star-crossed player cringe at the sight of their guy on the cover, because they all know a disastrous season is about to unfold for their player/team, or that his career will never be the same.

For those who are uninformed, let’s take a look back at the curse. In 1999, the cover featured a John Madden photo on the front, and a background picture of legendary Running back Barry Sanders. Maybe Sanders knew his fate already, because he shockingly announced his retirement that year, and would never play a down in the NFL again, even with the NFL career rushing record in his sight.

EA Sports outdid itself, by replacing Sanders with Green Bay running back Dorsey Levens on later shipments of the game. Levens had been the leading rusher for a Packer team that had gone to three straight NFC Championship games. The Packers finished a disappointing 8-8 that year, as Levens was bothered by a bad knee the entire year, and after a couple more unproductive seasons, was released by the team after the 2001 season.

In 2000, the Madden cover featured running back Eddie George, who had led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl the previous year and was entering the prime of his career. George went down fighting, holding off the curse for one year, as he set career highs in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2000. He couldn’t stop the inevitable, as the next year he set a career low in yards per carry. George was never the same again and was out of the league at the end of the 2004 season.

In 2001, fantasy team killer Daunte Culpepper graced the cover of the game. After taking the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC championship game the year before, Culpepper struggled on the way to a 4-7 start, before he suffered a knee injury and missed the rest of the season. Now, only a year removed from a knee injury where he tore all three ligaments, Culpepper is single-handedly killing the Miami Dolphins and should be out of the league soon.

In 2002, it was superstar running back Marshall Faulk, who had been unstoppable ever since he put on a Rams uniform in 1999. But the curse’s power has no limits, as Faulk, bothered by an injured ankle all season, finished with less than a 1000 yards rushing. The Rams finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs. Faulk was never the same, and retired after last season.

In 2003, dynamic quarterback Michael Vick graced the cover after leading the Falcons to the playoffs. The curse was extremely fast this year, as Vick broke his right fibula in a pre-season game only a day after the game’s release. Vick was out for the year and the Falcons finished 5-11. Vick has struggled passing the ball ever since.

In 2004, linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens appeared on the cover. Lewis, whose Ravens made the playoffs the year before, had been the best middle linebacker in the NFL for the last five years. Lewis finished the ’04 season with no interceptions for the first time in his career and the Ravens missed the playoffs. The next year, Lewis tore his hamstring in the sixth game of the season, missed the rest of the season and the Ravens finished a dismal 6-10.

Last year, running back Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles was on the cover, and the curse didn’t disappoint. Not only did McNabb and the Eagles have to endure the entire T.O. saga, McNabb suffered a sports hernia in the first game of the season. After playing through eight more painful games, he opted for surgery, missing the rest of the season, and the Eagles finished with a 6-10 record.

Which brings us to Alexander this year; there is still hope of him salvaging his season, as he is only out for a couple games, but in all honesty, his career will never be the same. The Madden Curse in terms of legend hasn’t quite reached the level of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, the Curse of the Bambino or the Curse of the Billy Goat. Curses are terrible for the players and fun for the fans not affected, as I can’t wait to see who the Madden curse will bring down next year. Well, as long as its not a Chicago Bear.

Majesh Abraham is a junior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]