Madden NFL's most cursed cover athletes

Jay Asser 13/05/2017
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Madden legend: Michael Vick. Picture: Getty Images.

Black cats, breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas indoors… All child’s play compared to the ‘Madden Curse’.

Landing on the cover of one of the most popular video game titles sounds cool, right? Not if that game is Madden NFL.

The popular franchise has claimed many victims during it’s brief run. After originally being released as ‘John Madden Football’ in 1988, it featured its namesake on the cover every year until 2001. Players were also shown alongside the former broadcaster and Hall of Fame coach in some of the editions, but 2001 was the first year the game had a cover athlete, with Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George blazing the trail.

Ever since, a weird thing has happened. Several cover athletes have suffered injuries or fallen well short of their previous season output that earned them a spot on the cover in the first place. Prior to Madden 17, however, it looked as if the curse was dying off, with the previous four cover athletes – Odell Beckham Jr, Richard Sherman, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson – all faring just fine. But then, Madden 17’s Rob Gronkowski missed half the regular season and all of the playoffs with a back injury to revive the voodoo.

Now, Tom Brady of all people will take on the curse by appearing on Madden 18 and attempting to be one of the lucky ones to get through the upcoming season unscathed. If anyone can beat a mythical curse, it’s Touchdown Tom, who at the age of 39 defied Father Time to lift the Lombardi Trophy for the fifth time in his legendary career. What’s a silly curse to Brady?

The New England Patriots quarterback laughs in the face of danger, but if he’s not careful, he could join the following players on one list he wants no part of.

Here are the five most cursed Madden cover athletes:

5. Peyton Hillis Madden 12

at M&T Bank Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Of all the Madden athletes, the Cleveland Brown running back stands out as the one with the least star power. That’s what you get though when you let the fans vote for who should be on the cover. Almost no one expected Hillis to match his 2010 campaign, in which he captured lightning in a bottle by rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns, while reeling in 61 receptions for 477 yards, but his decline was sharp. In 2011, he managed 717 yards and three touchdowns in total, playing just 10 games due to hamstring injuries. At least he got his 15 minutes…

4. Donovan McNabb, Madden 06

GettyImages-82903402

On paper, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback didn’t fare too badly in the games he played in 2005, notching 2,507 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The problem was he only played in nine games as a groin injury cut his campaign short, one year after he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl and nearly captured what would have been his only ring.

3. Shaun Alexander, Madden 07

GettyImages-116609845

One of the issues with being named to the Madden cover is it often comes after you’ve had a career season, so it’s incredibly difficult to replicate that. For Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, he was never going to be able to match his bonkers 2005, when he rushed for 1,880 yards and an NFL record 27 touchdowns. Alexander likely would have still had a strong 2006 if he didn’t suffer a broken foot in Week 3 that limited him to 10 games, in which he managed 896 yards and seven touchdowns.

2. Rob Gronkowski, Madden 17

GettyImages-619294762

It’s probably not fair to give the Madden Curse credit for this one. At least not full credit. The New England Patriots tight end has been injury prone during his seven-year career and last year was no different. After taking his time to recover from a hamstring injury that kept him out the first two weeks, Gronkowski came back and did his thing in eight games (540 yards, three touchdowns) before a back injury put him on the shelf again. He did end up getting a ring out of it though, so again, was he really cursed?

1. Michael Vick, Madden 2004

No player has experienced Madden’s give and take quite like the former electric Atlanta Falcons quarterback. As far as dominant athletes in video games go, Vick is right near the top thanks to how ridiculously unstoppable he was in Madden 2004. His speed and elusiveness in the game practically made him a cheat code and helped grow the legend of the highlight-reel star. But it wasn’t all good. Before the 2003 season even started, Vick broke his leg in the preseason and missed the first 11 weeks. He eventually got back on the field and had 585 passing yards, 255 rushing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, but the Madden Curse had done its damage and established itself as a real threat.

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The most successful playoff runs in NBA history

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No team in NBA history has been able to stay perfect during a playoff run to a championship however, some teams have come close.

The 2017 playoffs have two teams capable of running the table to the NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors both halfway there with an 8-0 record in the playoffs in their respective conferences so far.

The Cavaliers will have a much easier opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals, whether it is the Boston Celtics or the Washington Wizards, as both squads lack the experience and talent to overcome the Cavs and LeBron James, who is performing at an all-time level in these playoffs.

The Warriors will face sterner resistance from either the San Antonio Spurs or the Houston Rockets.

Both teams have a chance to enter the Finals with (12-0) record and solidify their excellence in playoff history, here is a look at five teams who achieved the best records in the postseason:

5) 1986-87 LOS ANGELES LAKERS

PLAYOFF FORMAT: 5-7-7-7

OVERALL RECORD: 15-3

Led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the Lakers ran through the 1987 Western Conference, sweeping the Denver Nuggets in the first round, then defeating the Golden State Warriors in five games in the second round. Their success continued by sweeping the Seattle Supersonics in the conference finals to set the stage for a clash with Larry Bird and his Boston Celtics in the Finals. The Lakers defeated their bitter rivals 4-2 and completed one of the most dominant runs in playoff history.

4) 1988-89 DETROIT PISTONS 

PLAYOFF FORMAT: 5-7-7-7

OVERALL RECORD: 15-2

The year of the Bad Boys, Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars led the rough and intimidating Pistons to one of the best streaks in American sports. They only lost two games in the Eastern Conference Finals to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, Detroit dismantled all their other opponents in four games including the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.

3) 1990-91 CHICAGO BULLS

PLAYOFF FORMAT: 5-7-7-7

OVERALL RECORD: 15-2

The first of six championships for the Bulls, Michael Jordan was a man possessed during the 91′ playoffs and was determined to lead the franchise to its first title. The Bulls swept the New York Knicks in the first round, handled the Philadelphia 76ers in five games then swept the Pistons in the conference finals. Chicago met the Lakers and Magic in the Finals and easily dispatched the older team in five games to claim their first championship in franchise history.

2) 1982-83 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

PLAYOFF FORMAT: 3-7-7-7

OVERALL RECORD: 12-1

The opening round of NBA playoffs during the 1980’s was a best of three series. The 76ers were a juggernaut first seed in the East and earned a first-round bye at the time. Julius (Dr.J) Erving and Moses Malone led their team to a sweep of the Knicks in the semifinals, afterward defeating the Milwaukee Bucks (4-1) in the conference finals. The 83′ showdown it was called, Philadelphia obliterated the Lakers in four games and avenged their two previous losses to Los Angeles in the championship round.

1) 2000-01 LOS ANGELES LAKERS

PLAYOFF FORMAT: 5-7-7-7

OVERALL RECORD: 15-1

Considered the best one-two punch in league history at the time, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were in their prime and ready to wreak havoc on the rest of the NBA. The Laker swept all their Western Conference opponents to reach the Finals with an (11-0) record.

The 76ers and Allen Iverson were standing in the way of a perfect post-season for the Lakers, Shaq and Kobe took over the series but could not end on a perfect note, Los Angeles lost the opening game at home (107-101) in overtime off a 48-point performance from Allen Iverson. The Lakers won every game after that to win back-to-back titles.

If the Cavaliers and Warriors meet in the finals, there is zero chance that either team could sweep the other. The story line could shape up into two super teams meeting in the NBA Finals for a trilogy with perfect (12-0) records coming out of their conferences.

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Sox-O’s feud brought out the worst in Boston

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Boston is a brilliant sporting city. Fenway Park, the wonderfully archaic home of the Red Sox, has baseball history seeping through its pores. The grand old place is perhaps not as beautiful as Lord’s cricket ground yet is equally breathtaking in its significance and importance for the game.

A welcome throwback in a modern world, though the events of last week saw Beantown dragged back into the dark ages. We are still in the infancy of the baseball season, yet the seething anger and hatred on show between the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles had all the intensity of a World Series cruncher. Some of it was great to see.

The longevity of the 162-game season ensures all the pumped up craziness is usually reserved to the business end of the campaign. The horrible racist abuse and fallout, however, has left a very bad taste in the mouth.

Ever since Manny Machado launched his studs perilously near to Dustin Pedroia’s recently restructured knee on April 21, bad blood has flowed. Two nights later Matt Barnes launched the ball at his head and was promptly banned for four games. The flames had been seriously fanned and last week saw more fireworks.

With Machado established as public enemy No1 in Boston, the home pitchers went for the kill again, this time Chris Sale throwing behind his legs. The Orioles star went nuts but some Red Sox fans, clearly drunk on the seething hatred, went too far the previous night.

Adam Jones, Baltimore’s five-time All-Star, said he was subjected to racial abuse from supporters. He claimed he was called a derogatory name before having peanuts thrown at him. The following night a man hurled a racist term at a Kenyan woman who’d just sung the national anthem.

He has since been banned for life. Boston does have unfortunate priors. The Red Sox didn’t add their first black player until 1959 – they were the final team to integrate after Jackie Robinson (pictured) opened the gate for African Americans – while accusations of bigotry followed the city around for years.

The greatest-ever home run hitter, Barry Bonds, refused to step out at Fenway, once telling the local newspaper: “It’s too racist for me and it ain’t changing.” To their credit, the Red Sox front office and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred acted quickly in condemning the distasteful events.

“It was frustrating for me,” said Jones. “I’m a grown man with a family to raise, so I’m not just going to let nobody just sit there and berate me. I’m a grown man.”

Jones received an emotional standing ovation from the Boston fans on Tuesday, the majority clearly embarrassed and appalled from what transpired 24 hours previously. Pitcher Sale even held back to allow Jones a moment to soak everything in.


“I appreciate what the fans did,” he said. “I have never on the road gotten any ovations or anything like that, so it just caught me off guard a little bit.” The niceties didn’t last. You’d have thought Jones may get the benefit of doubt on Wednesday night when arguing with the umpire about some questionable calls while at bat.

Think again. He was ejected following a furious row. It was like a welcome throwback to baseball’s glory years. Fighting, fury, feuds, drama. Machedo dropped an astonishing tally of F-bombs post game on Tuesday, insisting he’d lost all respect for the Red Sox before threatening to ‘crush’ anyone who tries to hurt him again.

The abuse suffered by Jones, however, was horrible but isn’t simply a baseball problem. It’s representative of the multitude of ills which have infected modern American society. One stat though, makes intriguing reading. On opening day this year, there were only 62 African American players on roster.

Food for thought indeed.

NBA

The laughable arrogance of LaVar Ball unfortunately shows no signs of letting up. His son Lonzo may be gearing up for life as an NBA rookie, but after his debut shoe was priced at an astonishing $495, question marks surrounding his mad father remain.

To put that into context, over the last two years the most expensive Air Jordan’s have come in at $400. Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all opted out of a deal following LaVar’s insistence of incorporating a licensing contract for his Big Baller Brand into what would have been a standard endorsement agreement.

“Ultimately, LaVar has put an insane amount of pressure on his son to perform in the NBA,” said Ken Wisnefski, CEO and founder of digital marketing leader WebiMax. “If he flops, his family’s brand falls apart.”

The ZO2 shoe has a ‘microfiber python texture’ in matte black and has a wonderful sounding ‘Delorean finish.’ No, I have no no idea what they’re talking about either. “Prada and Gucci is selling theirs for what they want,” Ball said. “Ours is better than that. It feels better.” Of course it does.

MLS

David Villa continues to buck the trend in MLS. The 35-year-old former Barcelona ace was NYCFC’s first ever signing in 2014 and three years on, he’s still there loving life. In fact, the Spaniard is so enamored with America he’s just signed on for another 12 months with his current deal expiring at the end of this season.

Yes, Villa is on $5 million a year and doesn’t want for anything in one of the most exciting cities on Earth. But, unlike some stars who are perceived to be only interested in chasing the MLS dollar, Villa has embraced it all.

He has scored five goals in seven matches this season and remains boss Patrick Vieira’s main man. Happiness on and off the pitch has been key.

“I’m so happy here in this city and at this club, I am fit and I can do things on the pitch – I’m not ready to go to the sidelines,“ said the World Cup winning forward. “That’s why continuing here and signing this contract was a really easy decision for me.”

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