Usually April is a time that only has one passionate topic for NFL fans: the draft. Nearly every fan who follows their team year round has a strong opinion about the players to be drafted and the positions to be filled. And most casual fans arouse from their off-season hibernation to see who which rookies will be playing for their favorite team next year. But ESPN and EA Sports might have hit on a new topic to engage fans during the spring: who should be on the cover of the annual edition of the Madden video game.
One player was selected from every team in an NCAA tournament style bracket to decide the winner in a fan vote. Some of the choices were surprising, but there were clearly some favorites including Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. He was given a No. 1 seed right after being named Super Bowl MVP. He did not disappoint as he rode a wave of fan voting into the Final Four. After battling on the road, usually as the underdog, because the Packers were the lowest seed in the actual NFC playoffs, it was an ironic reversal of fortune for their star player.
But a funny thing happened on his way to another award: he lost in the semifinals. Which unstoppable NFL star upset the top-seeded Super Bowl MVP? Browns running back Peyton Hillis. It’s been quite a rise for him over the last year. After he was seemingly thrown in as an afterthought by the Broncos when they traded for QB Brady Quinn, Hillis became the team’s starting running back early in the season, and quickly became a fan favorite for his punishing style. He’s certainly viewed as the offensive cornerstone for them to build around in the future.
But how many fans actually watched a Browns game in 2010? Could a nation wide poll of NFL fans garner a majority who could name which team he plays for? Didn’t everyone watch Rodgers shine in the Super Bowl?
Or have ESPN and EA Sports created a group of passionate fans to vote against their favorite player all in the name of avoiding the Madden curse? Ever since EA Sports started featuring players on the cover of the annual game, bad things have seem to have befallen whoever appears on it. Kevin Seifert of ESPN’s NFC North blog was even contacted by Packer fans who were happy to see their Rodgers lose this vote.
Over at the Browns fan site, Dawgs By Nature, some commentors were quite aware of the curse and didn’t want to see their favorite player become inflicted. But most seemed to be quite proud that the Browns may receive some rare national attention.
As for Rodgers himself, he commented via Twitter that he hates to lose, and laughs off the entire concept of the curse.
While this will never become the biggest NFL event in April, it’s certainly drawn out a variety of opinions, and it looks like this will become a staple of the off-season in years to come.