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Do you believe in (Madden) curses?

A “curse,” defined simply is “evil or misfortune brought upon someone or something.” Growing up as a New York Yankees fan, I heard all about the “Curse of the Bambino.” I heard all about the story of the Boston Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to my beloved Yankees for $125,000 in 1919, and their inability to win the World Series for 86 years.


For a long while, I didn’t believe in curses. I was much more inclined to believe the Red Sox stunk for all that time than to believe a player sale caused them all this evil and misfortune. It seemed ridiculous to me that people could actually believe the reason the Red Sox hadn’t won the Fall Classic since 1918 was because one man put a curse on them. And everyone knows by now the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, putting an unofficial end to this “curse” that the media couldn’t seem to get enough of. Certainly I was glad for the Red Sox when they won, although I wish they had done it under different circumstances (and by that I mean not having them win four straight games against the Yankees to win the American League Championship Series.)


Curses in the sports field seem to be a lazy way to try to explain something without actually finding the truth. Curses, to me, seemed like myths or legends that simply offered explanation.


“Why couldn’t the Red Sox win?”

“They’re cursed.”


“Why can’t the Cubs win?”

“They’re cursed.”


Stupid. But I did discover one curse that seems to be the most believable of all: The Madden Curse. This curse comes from the uber-popular Madden NFL video game. The game is named after Hall of Fame head coach and broadcaster John Madden. You know Madden. “Boom! Tough Actin’ Tinactin’!” He’s the one who has a little too much fun with the “magic pen” in the broadcast booth as he circles everything on your television screen. I’ve played Madden. I’d bet you’ve played Madden.


NFL players began appearing on the cover of the game in 1999, and since then several of those who have appeared on the cover have suffered either a significant drop in performance or serious injuries that have kept them from regaining their form (and/or those numbers that put them on the cover in the first place).


This curse seemingly started in 2001 with the-then Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George. The year prior, he set several personal career highs. The year he graced the video game box, his numbers dropped significantly. He fumbled eight times during the following season, and bobbled a pass in the playoffs that Ray Lewis intercepted and returned for a touchdown. That touchdown proved to be the game winner. George was never the same.


The next season, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper took the stage. He had thrown for 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns. After he was on the cover, he had 13 interceptions and 14 touchdowns before being injured late in the season. Culpepper was never the same.


Next up was Marshall Faulk, as he was featured on Madden 2003. The St. Louis Rams were back-to-back NFC champions and Faulk was a main point of their offense. He had four straight 1,300-plus yard seasons. The season after, his numbers dropped significantly and the Rams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.


Michael Vick appeared on Madden 2004, and everybody knows his legal problems since then. But in the ensuing season, he suffered a fractured right fibula in a preseason game and missed much of the regular season.


Ray Lewis was next, and although only his interception numbers dropped (from six to zero), his Baltimore Ravens also missed the playoffs. He also suffered an injury, a broken arm which caused him to miss the last two regular season games.


In 2006 it was Donovan McNabb, and the injury plagues continued. A year after leading his Philadelphia Eagles to 13-3 record and a Super Bowl berth, he suffered a sports hernia, a medical diagnosis I cannot discuss. He had season-ending surgery.


Reigning MVP Shaun Alexander stepped up in 2007, and his numbers dropped unbelievably. He had 1,880 yards the year prior and 28 total touchdowns, a then-record. After being on the cover, he fractured a bone in his foot and missed six starts, failing to reach 1,000 yards. He has since been released from the Seattle Seahawks.


Vince Young appeared on last year’s cover, and maybe he took the first step in breaking said curse. He led the Titans to the playoffs and most of his numbers improved.


Now, in conclusion, I have only one thing to say: Enjoy retirement, Mr. Favre. It’s possible you are cursed.

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