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For all of you that are stern believers in the now world famous “Madden Curse”, your worst nightmare has come to fruition. Lions Superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson has advanced to the finals of the Madden ’13 Cover Vote, demolishing Packers rival and unanimous 2011 NFL MVP, quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the process. Johnson is now pitted against Carolina Panthers Rookie Sensation, Cam Newton. Newton defeated 49ers Linebacker, Patrick Willis in their semi-finals match up.
There is a lot of mixed emotions surrounding Johnson and the possibility of him gracing the cover of Madden ’13. Fans that do not believe in the “Madden Curse” want to see Johnson as the Madden Cover Athlete for 2013, and rightfully so. With Johnson on the cover, it brings a ton of exposure to the Detroit Lions for the upcoming season, one that is already sure to be the most hyped season in the franchise’s history. The Lions certainly are not accustomed to generating positive national attention, in fact usually it is quite the opposite. The last time the Lions got this much national exposure was in 2008, when they completed the unthinkable and finished the season win-less, becoming the first team in NFL history to not win a game during the regular season. Having Johnson as the Cover Athlete for Madden ’13 could go a long way towards repairing that negative image, which certainly hits home with Johnson to be sure, as he was a rookie on the team that finished the season 0-16.
Fans that do believe in the curse, do not want to see Johnson even put up a fight in the final vote against Newton, and they too make some very strong points.
If you are not familiar with the “Madden Curse” or the hit video game series Madden NFL Football for that matter, allow me to bring you up to speed. EA Sports created John Madden Football in 1988, and later renamed it Madden NFL Football in 1993 after the company was able to secure the rights to use all NFL teams and player’s names in the game. However, it wasn’t until 1999 that EA Sports started selecting players to don the cover of the video game. Previous versions of the game featured John Madden on the cover each year. The start of the “Madden Curse” can actually be traced back to the only Lions player to ever appear on the cover of Madden NFL Football, running back Barry Sanders. Sanders was selected by EA Sports to be the Madden 2000 cover boy (Madden games are released in the year prior to year listed in its title), but mysteriously retired on the eve of training camp in 1999, thus missing the entire season. Should Johnson make the cover and end up being subjected to the curse in any way, Lions fans will have yet another reason to blame Sanders for walking out on the team, even 13 years after the fact.
A common misconception of the curse is that every Cover Athlete has been injured in the year they were selected for the cover. That actually is not totally accurate, as Eddie George (’01), Daunte Culpepper (’02), Brett Favre (’09), Larry Fitzgerald (’10), and Drew Brees (’11) proved during their tenures as the Cover Athlete. All five of these players appeared in all of their team’s regular season games during the season in which they were on the cover. For this reason, the curse gets tweaked a little bit for the aforementioned lucky few that were able to make it through their respective seasons in the spotlight injury-free. For these players, unfortunate strings of bad luck, lack of performance, and their team’s poor performance is considered to be the reason they are included in the curse. Of course it is up to you to decide if the “strings of unfortunate luck” for those players are legitimate or if their poor performance was actually that bad or just slightly under their normal numbers, as is the case for Brees. To paint a better picture for you, when Brett Favre was on the cover in 2009, he provided curse believers with a laundry list of reasons he was cursed that year, poor regular season performance, his team’s poor performance, and was the subject of an off-field sexual harassment scandal just to name a few. Other than the five players to make it through the season injury-free, every other Cover Athlete has missed at least one game, some missing a handful of games, and some losing the entire season due to injury.
New in 2011 for Madden ’12, EA Sports introduced the “Madden Cover Vote” in cooperation with ESPN, which gave fans the ability to vote for the player in which they wanted to see on the cover of the game that year. The eventual winner was Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis was revealed as the winner of the Madden ’12 Cover Vote on ESPN’s hit show, Sports Nation. Up until then, EA Sports executives hand picked who they wanted for each year’s cover. As a player, you have the right to decline the honor of being selected as the Cover Athlete, a right that running back LaDanian Tomlinson who was a member of the San Diego Chargers at the time, chose to exercise.
When you look at the stats Johnson posted last year and all the national attention he garnered with the countless highlight reel catches and then couple it with the fact that he defeated one of the leagues most popular players and one that has a very strong national following himself in Aaron Rodgers during their semi-finals match up, it is safe to say Johnson is the odds on favorite to defeat Newton.
No disrespect to Newton, who took the NFL by storm in his rookie season with the Panthers, and silenced any critics that questioned him being the number one overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft after leading the Auburn Tigers to NCAA Division 1 Football National Championship. But the specimen that we refer to as “Megatron” is an absolute freak of nature and his time to be in the national spotlight has finally come. I have personally regarded Johnson as the best wide receiver in the NFL the year prior to his breakout 2011 campaign. If you are a Lions fan, you have seen what Johnson’s game is all about for the past four years and you also know that the 8 year, $132 million contract he recently signed was an absolute steal. As much of a steal as $132 million can possibly be, of course. Johnson’s role in the development of franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford is integral, and in the NFL you can’t put a price on that. There are only a handful of wide receivers in NFL history that you can make the case that he makes his whole team better, but Calvin Johnson is a rare talent. Because of Johnson’s superior talent, defenses have to play him completely different than they would normally play any other receiver. I picked Johnson to win the cover from the get go because I am not the type of person to believe in curses or jinxes. At this point, to me at least, it is a foregone conclusion that Calvin Johnson will be your Madden ’13 Cover Athlete. Like it or not, Lions fans actually have a very little impact on the vote because Johnson’s national popularity has exploded over the course of the last year or so.
Whether you choose to ignore the curse and embrace your Lions fanhood by voting for Johnson or try to help Johnson and the Lions avoid having to suffer through the wrath of the dreaded “Madden Curse” by voting for Newton, the choice is entirely yours!
Fans are encouraged to log onto http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/feature/madden2013cover and vote! The winner of the Madden ’13 Cover Vote will be announced on April 25th at 5PM on ESPN2.