April 23, 2010
Posted: 12:12 PM ET
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New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees will be featured on the cover of "Madden 11" (EA Sports) – an honor that should make him feel proud and scared at the same time.
Brees, who lead the Saints to a Super Bowl victory last year, was selected by fans to grace the cover of the premier football video game. Football players have been on the games's box art since the 1999-2000 season, but this was the first time that fans could determine who would be featured.
This, however, may have been an attempt to sabotage Brees by fans of other teams. You see, many players who have appeared on the cover have been beset by injury, extremely poor play, or decided to retire - giving birth to the so-called "Madden Curse."
The first cover to feature a player was for "Madden 2000." Detroit Lions star running back Barry Sanders was to appear with John Madden on the box, but Sanders abruptly retired before the beginning of the season.
Electronic Arts rushed out a new box with a new player, Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levins, who was bothered by a bad knee all season and then demoted to a reserve role.
In 2002, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Dante Culpepper struggled throughout the season before injuring his knee and missing the last 5 games of the year.
St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk was honored in 2003, but a bad ankle held him under 1,000 yards for the first time in his career and the Rams missed the playoffs.
Michael Vick, quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons in 2004, was struck quickly by the "curse." One day after the game hit the shelves, Vick broke his leg in a pre-season game and only played 5 games that year.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb openly taunted the curse after his selection for the "Madden 2006" cover. It was perhaps not a wise choice - McNabb suffered a sports hernia during the first game of the year, struggled through the pain, then ended up tearing ligaments in his knee and missing the last seven games of the year.
Three weeks into the 2006-2007 season, 2007 cover boy Shaun Alexander, running back for the Seattle Seahawks, broke his foot and missed 6 games.
For the "Madden 2009" cover, EA chose Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. However, the Curse hit twice – once when Favre left the Packers before the season started and signed with the New York Jets, and then later when Favre suffered a torn biceps injury during the season.
Two athletes were featured on the "Madden 2010" cover and "The Curse" hit each in due time.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu sprained knee ligaments in the first game of the season, rested, returned and sprained different knee ligaments which forced more missed regular season games.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was able to play all the games in the regular season, but missed out on the playoffs after injuring his ribs.
Some, of course, say the physical nature of football takes its toll on all players and there is no curse. Others take the curse very seriously.
San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson was reportedly to be selected for the 2008 cover, but Chargers fans pleaded with EA to change their mind.
Tomlinson did not appear on the cover, but it was reported that he turned down the honor due to contract negotiations and not the curse.
It may boil down to a battle between the Madden Curse and bayou voodoo to keep Brees healthy and successful for New Orleans this season. For his part, Brees seems unconcerned, saying on Twitter, "Destiny is more powerful than a curse."
Which sounds vaguely like a dark-helmeted figure from geek lore. And we all know how that turned out.
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