Despite winning record, many fans still fear “Madden curse”
The Madden NFL video game franchise successfully predicted its seventh Super Bowl in the last nine years as the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots by a score of 21-17.
Since the end of the 2003-2004 season, EA games’ flagship sports franchise has only been proven wrong twice in its simulations run the week prior to Super Bowl Sunday.
Last year the Pittsburgh Steelers — predicted by the game to win with 24 points — were defeated by the Green Bay Packers with a final real score of 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV. The game also called it wrong the last time the Giants and Patriots squared off in 2008 in Super Bowl XLII. That year the Giants, widely considered underdogs, pulled off an unlikely victory over the as yet undefeated Patriots to win the game 17-14. Madden had predicted a 38-30 victory for the Patriots that year.
The roles this year were much the same as in 2008, with the Giants, who finished the regular season at 9-7, considered three-point underdogs to the Patriots, who ended the regular season at 13-3. This year, however, the game seemed to learn from its mistake, predicting a 27-24 Giants victory.
Madden has historically struggled to predict the scores of Super Bowls featuring at least one wildcard team. Green Bay entered the playoffs riddled with injuries as a sixth seed wildcard prior to their win over the Steelers in 2011, and the Giants were also fought their way up from the wildcards at the beginning of the playoffs in the 2007-2008 season, much as they did this season.
Super Bowl predictions are only part of the culture of fanaticism that surrounds the Madden video game franchise. Voting is already underway amongst fans to see which player will be featured on the Madden NFL 13 cover, an honor long considered a curse by fans — and some players — since 1999, the last year EA released a cover featuring Madden himself.
Just this past season, Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis, who graced the cover of Madden NFL 12, took a cue from countless gamers worldwide to explain his lackluster 2011-2012 performance: He blamed it on the game.
“There’s a few things that happened this year that made me believe in curses. Ain’t no doubt about it,” Hillis told ESPN reporters in December.
The curse has also been cited as the downfall of other such stars as Vince Young, Shaun Alexander, Brett Favre and Michael Vick, who was injured in a preseason game after featuring on the Madden NFL 2004 cover, only to fall lower with the discovery of his role running a dog-fighting ring the next year for which he was suspended from the league and arrested.
Legions of superstitious San Diego fans rallied behind then-San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson, creating websites and garnering widespread media coverage to block EA Sports’ decision to name Tomlinson as the Madden NFL 2008 cover player. Tomlinson later declined the “honor” but denied any consideration of the curse when questioned, citing “contract” implications, instead.
This year more than 30 players were presented to fans to vote for who would feature on the next cover, but with just as many fans likely to vote against their favorite players as there are voting for them, it’s hard to say who will win next year’s dubious honor.
Green Bay Packers fans may have the most to fear from the curse this year as quarterback Aaron Rodgers, fresh off a 15-1 regular season, won the league MVP award at a gala Feb. 4. Rodgers himself commented on the curse following the Packers’ Super Bowl win in February 2011 in a tweet posted March 22, 2011:
“Rough last 24 hours, food poisoning is not fun at all, feel like myself this morning now. Lots of interesting madden curse tweets #isitreal?”
Real or not, many Packers fans may well choose to vote against their record-setting QB this year.