EA Sports—the biggest developer of sports video games—every year puts different athletes on the covers of its basketball, football, hockey, and golf games. And for years, gamers have referred to those cover athletes getting injured as the “Madden Curse,” named after the Madden football series. But I think It’s time to re-evaluate that label and broaden it to include all of EA Sports’s games.
For over twenty years now, cover athletes appearing on EA Sports titles have either had disappointing seasons, or, worse, catastrophic, season-ending injuries. Some of these incidents not only affected their particular teams, but also went on to cause an uproar for the entire sport. Whether it was an elite quarterback near the end of his career, or a world number one golfer, the Curse reaches all sports. Here are some of the most memorable and painful disasters that prove it.
DANY HEATLEY’S VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER
For the NHL 2004 cover, EA turned its attention to Dany Heatley. Heatley was a former Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year, and he led Canada to gold medals at the the world hockey championship and World Cup of Hockey in 2004. The Atlanta Thrasher was an emerging NHL superstar finishing ninth in overall league scoring.
But his stunning rise to become a superstar came screaming to halt as quickly as it had started when he pleaded guilty to four charges of vehicular homicide later that season. He was also charged with second-degree vehicular homicide, driving too fast for condition, and failure to maintain a lane and speeding. All this lead to the death of teammate and friend Dan Snyder. After the accident, EA went on to release new covers of the game that included hockey star Joe Sakic instead.
BRETT FAVRE’S CHANGE OF HEART
’Madden NFL 2009’
Legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was the cover athlete for Madden NFL 09. He had just announced his retirement from the NFL and was being honored on the cover of the new football sim. While Favre wouldn’t go on to have any severe injury the next season there was significant drama surrounding his cover appearance.
Favre decided to rejoin the league and request a trade to the New York Jets about five days before Madden NFL 09 was officially released. The cover of the game, impossible to change at that late hour, went out featuring Favre in his Green Bay uniform, although the trade had occurred. Instead of reissuing the packaging of the game, EA made available a free alternate cover of Favre in the Jets uniform so players would be satisfied. Favre would go on to have a fine season until the end where suffered a shoulder injury that would plague him for the rest of his career.
MARIO LEMIEUX’S FADING CAREER
EA featured the great hockey star Mario Lemieux on the cover for NHL 2002. Lemieux has recently come of out retirement, joining the Pittsburgh Penguins once again. Although he showed some of the greatness he was known for earlier in his career, after his cover appearance he was never quite the same.
When the 2001-02 season came around, Pittsburgh was way over the salary cap and traded away most of their team. Not only were the Penguins a disappointing team, but Lemieux was suffering the restrictions of his age. He only played in a few games that year because of injuries that would affect him for the next few seasons. The Penguins would suffer a few more years of being irrelevant until they landed the number 1 2005 draft pick, Sidney Crosby.
ADRIAN PETERSON’S DISCIPLINE PROBLEM
’MADDEN NFL 25’
Adrian Peterson has had a career like few of his contemporaries. After tearing his ACL and MCL in 2011, he had an MVP year. While his 2013 season wasn’t as impressive it was still solid and EA decided to make him the cover athlete of Madden NFL 25. But personal issues arose that kept him out of football the entire year after his cover appearance.
On September 12, Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges for the way he disciplined his son. He was deactivated for one game, but then reinstalled three days later. That was short lived as Peterson was then suspended from the commissioners’ office and he would not play another game in the 2014 season. While he has been cleared to play in the 2015 season, it will be interesting to see if he will stay with the Minnesota Vikings or whether the year ofF from football will affect his game.
SHAUN ALEXANDER’S LASTING IMPRESSION
’NCAA FOOTBALL 2001’
University of Alabama running back Shaun Alexander was the cover athlete for NCAA Football 2001. While he went forward to have a fantastic career with the Seattle Seahawks, winning the NFL MVP award in 2005, the University of Alabama football program went to the gutter.
Alabama began their 2000 season ranked as no. 3 in the nation in many polls, but What ended up happening was nothing short of a catastrophe. The Crimson Tide wound up 3-8 the following season and news broke that their coach, Mike DuBose, was having an affair with his secretary. It was years before the Crimson Tide was in championship form once again. That change would come when coach Nick Saban joined the team and led them to glory.
PATRICK KANE’S UNFORTUNATE CAB RIDE
NHL Superstar Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks was selected as the cover athlete for NHL 2010. His career was skyrocketing with a huge new contract and career-high in points. After the cover he scored the overtime winner giving the Chicago Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup Championship in 49 years. But although life was grand on the ice, his life outside the game was a bit of a problem.
In August 2009, Kane and his cousin James were arrested in Buffalo. Kane had been apprehended around 5 am after allegedly punching a cab driver when he claimed to not have proper change for their trip fare. Kane was charged with second-degree robbery, fourth-degree criminal mischief, and theft of services. While it didn’t affect his fantastic 2009-10 season, it remains the lone blip on his all-star career.
RORY MCILROY TOTAL RUPTURE
’Rory McIlroy’S PGA Tour’
This year it was time to rejuvenate EA Sports’s annual golf title. Tiger Woods had been on a downwards slope for years following the public discovery of his infidelity, while Rory McIlroy, on the other hand, has recent championship wins to his name, having won the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and Open Championship in the last five years. So EA Sports decided to change the title of their golf sim to Rory McIlroy’s PGA Tour.
Well, now Rory McIlroy has a new golf game named after him, but he can’t actually compete. Just two weeks before the Open Championship, McIlroy announced that he had suffered a “total rupture of left ATFL and associated joint capsule damage” while playing soccer. The week his new game launched he couldn’t appear in one of the most important tournaments of the year.
With all this evidence, only one question remains: who will fall victim to the EA Sports Cover Curse next?
Max Covill is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in various online publication, including Sound On Sight, Movie Mezzanine, and Filmoria. He specializes in video game and movie reviews. You can follow him at @impsndcnma.
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