The Madden Curse is real!
Nearly 20 years into the iconic franchise’s history, there’s no escaping the “Madden Curse.” Since Garrison Hearst broke his ankle in 1998, shortly after starring on the cover of Madden NFL 99, most of the players who “starred” on the game’s cover have suffered an injury the following season. Of the 20 players who have been selected to grace the cover Madden games through this season, 17 have had troubling or abruptly shortened seasons following their cover debut — including several who suffered season-ending injuries shortly after their game hit shelves. The legend has grown from a simple joke to the sort of superstition that has fans aggressively campaigning to keep their teams’ stars off the game’s cover.
This season, the curse set its sights on New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, whose Madden NFL 18 cover selection came hot off of his fifth Super Bowl win in 2017. Thanks to Brady, the Patriots are the first NFL team to have two players selected for the cover back-to-back: Brady’s teammate, tight end Ron Gronkowski, fell victim to the curse, suffer multiple injuries last season after his appearance on the cover of Madden 17.
The spectre of the Madden Curse has become so widely recognized, in fact, that the gambling world posts odds each year regarding the likelihood that the most recent Madden NFL cover athlete will be injured during the season. Back in 2010, Madden NFL developer EA Tiburon even confirmed plans to develop a movie based on the notion of the Madden Curse. (Years later, it seems that athletes aren’t the only ones who can fall victim to it.)
EA Sports continues to dismiss any serious talk of a “curse” hovering over its wildly successful franchise, and attributed the rash of injuries and other negative, post-cover issues to an athlete’s natural regression after a season of peak performance. And they’re probably right. (Probably.)
Still, the long history of ill-fated athletes that have adorned each edition of the game certainly offers an intriguing string of coincidences to ponder.