Perhaps one of the spookiest myths to grace the gaming world, this week we’ll be taking a shot at debunking the popular Madden curse.
For those that are unaware of what it is, the curse initially started as a joke. The curse claims that anybody that graces the cover of a Madden game will either have an astoundingly bad year or be severely injured during the year.
Before we look at some of the injuries (and some of the retorts used against the curse causing these), it should be noted that football is an extremely physically taxing sport, particularly if you are coming off a career high season. If you are, which many of those who grace the covers are indeed, there is a far greater chance of injury.
People who believe in it state that the curse began with Garrison Heart. He graced the cover of the PAL version of Madden 1999. Garrison Hearst lead the 49ers into the playoffs, then suffered an injury so bad that he was benched for two years. He did, however, get named to both the NFC Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.
Next up people point to Barry Sanders and Dorsey Levens. In North America, Sanders is seen on the cover of Madden 2000 ehind John Madden himself. Sanders proceeded to retire from the game, seemingly out of the blue, though he stated later that he had been considering it before appearing on the game’s cover. Dorsey Levens, the Greenbay Packers runner, starred on the cover after Sanders left (the later versions of the game starred Levens). Levens injured his knee, causing the Packers to miss the playoffs. He proceeded to never start again. Before hurting his knee, however, he had a great year, reaching career heights in both rushing and passes.
Eddie George appeared on the Madden 2001 cover. Though many believers in the curse point to his injury the following year, it can’t be considered a factor based on the wording, “Will either have an astoundingly bad year or be severely injured during the year”. He did fumble what many consider to be an easy pass, costing the Titans a trip to the Super Bowl, however his overall season was not bad. Indeed, George had perhaps the best year of his career, shattering his personal bests.
Dante Culpepper graced the cover of Madden 2002, and had thrown for nearly 4,000 yards the previous season. The year he appeared on the cover, however, he received a back injury that forced him to sit out the rest of the season (before the injury, the Vikings had only gone 4-7). This was the year that the Madden curse joke began.
Next up is Madden 2003 cover star, Marshall Faulk. Having run for more than 1,300 yards the previous season, he appeared to be an upcoming MVP. After starring on the cover, curse advocates point out that Faulk received an ankle injury that forced him to under 1,00o yards in the season. It should be noted, however, that the team’s Quarterback and two of the key linemen were injured, and this could easily affect a Running Back’s output.
Madden 2004 starred Michael Vick, who appeared to be an up-and-coming football star. One week after starring on the cover, however, he broke his leg during a preseason game. His career had never been the same since, and, in fact, got worse. Some advocates want to point to Vick’s prison sentence for dog fighting as part of the curse as well, but that does not fall into the wording at all, and thus cannot be truly blamed, even if you believe in the curse. This year, the so-called Madden curse had started to gain urban legend status.
Ray Lewis was the cover star of Madden 2005. After appearing on the cover, Lewis failed, for the first time in his entire career, to catch a single interception the whole season. He also suffered a torn hamstring, ending the season sitting on the bench. It should be noted that, aside from these two facts, he had an exceptional season, and was named to the AFC Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.
Madden 2006 saw Donovan McNabb on the cover. Having led the team to five straight playoffs, fans were shocked when he suffered a sports hernia. He played several more games, but eventually called it quits to have surgery. He did, however, manage to pull out 2,507 passing yards in the season.
When Madden 2007 was released, whispers regarding the curse had become so popular it was pratically front-page news. Shaun Alexander, who had, in the previous season, led his team to their best season, as well as their first Super Bowl, broke his foot, missing six games of the season. Fans also point out that Alexander was never the same.
Vince Young was the cover star of Madden 2008 and suffered an injury to his quadriceps. This was the very first time in his life that Young had to miss a game due to injury. It should be noted, however, that despite this injury, Young led the Titans to the Playoffs for the first time since 2003. As an aside note, the curse’s effect on fans can be seen when we look at the first player approached to be the cover star. LaDanian Thomlinson was asked by EA to appear on the cover, and immediately upon receiving this news, fans started websites and petitions begging the player not to do so.
Madden 2009 starred Bret Favre, who had just retired. He decided to return, however, and suffered a torn bicep. He did, however, manage to throw for 3,400 yards before suffering the injury.
Madden 2010 saw dual stars in Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu. Polamalu sprained his MCL during the season’s start, forcing him to miss several games. He returned, but soon tore his posterior cruciate ligament, forcing him to sit out for the rest of the season. Fitzgerald, meanwhile, suffered a rib injury which forced him out of the post-season and Pro Bowl. It should be noted that before the injury, Fitzgerald had successfully caught 97 passes for 1,092 yards, earning him a spot on the All-Pro team for the second year in a row.
Madden 2011 went back to starring only one player on the cover, and chose Drew Brees as the star. During the playoffs, the Saints lost to Seattle. Many claim that this was part of the curse, however Brees hardly had “An astoundingly bad season”, successfully throwing a career high 4,620 yards.
Madden 2012 starred Peyton Hills on the cover. Hills, who had an astounding season the last year, had a horrible one this year. Not only did he fail to negotiate his contract, he suffered several injuries, and had the worst year of his career. One of his teammates, who wished to remain anonymous, stated, “I’ve never seen anything like it. Last year, Peyton was such a positive, inspirational force on our team — but now he’s like a different guy. It’s like he’s in a funk that he can’t get out of.”
So is the so-called Madden curse real? If it were, then it certainly wouldn’t pass by any players, yet we see at least one instance in Brees where the cover star is neither injured nor suffers an “Astoundingly bad season”. Many of the players who were injured even had good seasons, but believers in the curse will likely not change their mind. Others, however, after understanding the rate of injury (particularly coming off of a fantastic season) in the game, as well as the fact that a curse, if it existed, would not pass by anybody who graced the cover of the game, would likely admit that there is not one.
As always, I hope you enjoyed reading. If you have any suggestions for myths for me to research and attempt to debunk, please, let me know.
What are your thoughts? Does this curse truly exist? If so, why did it seemingly not affect Brees? Or is it just a bit of superstition? And are al of these injuries some huge coincidence, partly caused by the high chances of injury when your body is so physically taxed?