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Madden 10 :: The Cover Curse, Times Two?

When EA sports announced the cover for its incredibly popular Madden football video game two sets of fans shuddered in fear of the cover jinx.

This year will mark the first time two players – Arizona’s otherworldly receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh’s All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu – will both grace the cover of the game. Their fans hope they can elude the Madden cover curse that has affected so many previous cover subjects.

Before 1999, every version of the Madden video game primarily featured John Madden on the cover. But for the ‘99 version the video game manufacturer decided to add a player to the cover. The first player to appear on the cover, Garrison Hearst, saw an almost immediate decline in his performance and similar failings have hit cover choices giving birth to the theory that being on the cover was the beginning of trouble for any player chosen.

For example, Michael Vick, the embattled and incarcerated former Atlanta Falcon quarterback, appeared on the cover of Madden 2004. Shortly after the game’s release, Vick suffered a near-season ending leg injury that forced him into what was his worst season as a pro, up to that point.

Similarly, in 2007 EA chose Seattle Seahawk running back Shaun Alexander for its cover. Alexander was coming off an MVP season and had just broken the NFL record for touchdowns in a season. Almost immediately, Alexander got hurt and missed close to half the season, and ended up with his worst season as a pro. It was a sign of things to come; and Alexander would be cut by Seattle and out of the league altogether within two years. To his credit, Alexander was philosophical about the curse. Claiming he probably would have been hurt anyway, Alexander asked, “Do you want to be hurt and on the cover, or just hurt?”

The next year EA featured Tennessee Titan quarterback Vince Young. Once again the cover subject was beset by injuries and troubled play. And though the Titians amassed one of the best records in football last year, they did it with Vince Young as their backup quarterback. Though it has been two years, you could argue that Young has still not gotten over the Madden curse.

After their titanic 2008 seasons, and their epic Super Bowl showdown, Fitzgerald and Polamalu are logical choices as faces of the most popular video games in the world. But fans in Arizona and Pittsburgh might just be hoping for a last minute reprieve and wondering: hey, can’t we put someone, anyone else on the cover? We need those guys!

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