May 13, 2016
The fact that Rob Gronkowski is this year’s Madden cover athlete is … wait for it … maddening.
Now that we have gotten this tailor-made pun out of the way, I can now rant and rave against the idiocy of such a decision. And not because Gronk is undeserving – I happen to think he is one of the most deserving people in all of football for this “honor.” Nay, my fear is that of the Madden curse, that legendary spell that is a harbinger of doom to any who dares grace the cover of EA Sports’ venerable football franchise.
For the uninformed, the Madden curse, otherwise known as the Madden Cover Jinx according to Wikipedia, is a phenomenon by which the athlete selected to appear on the cover of the Madden video game suffers some calamity shortly thereafter. Prior to 1998, the football game’s box art featured legendary coach John Madden’s corpulent visage – starting with Madden 1999, the franchise began to feature popular NFL stars on its cover. Almost all of them immediately began to wane.
It began with Garrison Hearst, who was featured on about 50 percent of Madden 1999 covers – on the first play of a divisional playoff game, he suffered a bad ankle break and would not return to NFL action until 2001. Barry Sanders went on the cover in 2000 and retired. Eddie George was on the cover in 2001 – he had a tremendously costly fumble in a 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game and rushed for just three yards a carry after his appearance. Daunte Culpepper was on the cover in 2002 – he suffered a season-ending back injury in the 11th game of the following season and managed only 13 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. Michael Vick appeared on the cover in 2004 – he suffered a preseason injury and managed to survive only five regular season games. A few seasons later, he was arrested as part of a dogfighting ring.
Donovan McNabb, Shaun Alexander, Vince Young, Brett Favre, Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Brees, Peyton Hillis, Adrian Peterson… to enumerate the various ways in which these players regressed in the season following their appearance on the Madden cover would provide enough fodder to fuel a small paperback. Suffice to say, if you’ve followed the NFL at all, all of these players had bad seasons after the Madden curse took hold.
Which brings me to Gronk, one of the most fun-loving and party-animalistic creatures ever to play a down in the NFL. Gronk has already been injured numerous times in his career – the time he broke his forearm while blocking for an extra point, the time he got suplexed against the Broncos and missed several games, the time “Bernard Pollard, Patriot Killer” rolled up his ankle – the fact that Gronk is the evolutionary Mark Bavarro and never goes down to a tackle until he is forced down doesn’t help matters one bit.
Add to all of these factors the Madden curse, and every superstitious fiber in my body is tingling. Gronk could douse himself in petroleum, set himself on fire, cover himself in fish and walk out to bear country in the middle of mating season and still be healthier, given the catastrophic effects of the Madden curse. I am frightened.
Gronk himself was unconcerned when asked about the curse, claiming that recent cover boys Odell Beckham Jr. and Richard Sherman had transcended any ill effects of the jinx. But that is the danger of the curse – you think you’ve beaten it, and it bites you in the buttocks. In a season in which my beloved Patriots will probably not have the services of quarterback/American hero Tom Brady for four weeks, the thought of losing Gronk is too much to bear.
EA Sports, heed my warning and my plea – please take Gronk off the cover. Put a key AFC rival’s best player on the cover instead.
Give Vignesh Venkataraman suggestions for who could replace Gronk on the Madden cover at viggy ‘at’ stanford.edu.