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The Madden Curse Is Officially Broken

The story of the Madden Curse is one of the most enduring urban legends in the history of video games. And while there are plenty of video game myths and rumors that are clearly not true — guys, Polybius really never existed — the Madden Curse is one that almost seems like it could really have some weight to it. 


The short version is this: Most athletes who are deemed worthy of appearing on the cover of the Madden series of games will suffer horrible consequences. Those affected by the so-called curse have not only had their teams do poorly that year, but they've also been the victims of career-altering injuries, health issues, or even legal battles that have otherwise impacted their livelihoods.

However, there may be a ray of hope for any players who are asked to grace the cover of Madden in the future. As of yesterday's Super Bowl, it appears that the curse may have been lifted at last.

How was the curse broken?

Last night was Super Bowl LIV, which pitted the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs. Also, J. Lo might have battled Shakira for dominance over the dance floor. It was a wild night, y'all.


The most important thing to note about last night, however, is that the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl. This is an especially big deal, considering the Chief's star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, was the cover star of Madden NFL 20. Mahomes both lead his team to victory and was named MVP of the game. With this win, Mahomes (who is 24 years old) became the youngest player ever to capture an NFL MVP award — which he did last season – and a Super Bowl title.

In other words, this is a pretty major victory. But it's an even bigger deal when consider that it may have finally broken the streak of misfortune that has followed Madden cover stars since the late '90s.

Mahomes makes history

As Polygon points out, Patrick Mahomes is technically the first player to participate in a Super Bowl, win, and be named the game's MVP in the same year that he was the cover star. Previously, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made it to the Super Bowl, but an injury kept him on the sidelines during the game. In other words, Gronkowski seemed to just be slapped with a miniature version of the infamous curse.


What's even wilder about all of this is that EA Sports' annual Super Bowl simulation even called this victory. While the points didn't match up with the real-life game, EA Sports accurately predicted that the Chiefs would take the game and that Mahomes would be named MVP. This could have been seen as wishful thinking on EA's part, but it turned out its faith in its cover star wasn't misplaced, after all.

How did the Madden curse begin?

So where exactly did the Madden Curse come from? As with any urban legend or conspiracy theory, it's easy to get bogged down in the "he said, she said" nature of retelling the story. Urban legends are tricky that way, like a spooky game of telephone.


The first several installments of the series featured coach and series namesake John Madden on the cover, and everything was fine. The curse seemingly started with the very first player to appear on the cover of the series, Garrison Hearst, who had his leg broken during a game. The resulting degenerative bone disease kept him out of the game for two full seasons. 

Other athletes who have seemingly been affected by the curse include Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. Vick suffered a fractured fibula in the season following his cover appearance. He was also embroiled in numerous legal battles, including charges stemming from running a dog-fighting ring. McNabb, on the other hand, sustained a groin injury that put him out of commission for a while. These are just two of the many athletes who have found themselves on the receiving end of the curse.


Is the curse gone for good?

Well, that depends on who you ask. It would seem that the streak has at least been broken, and in a major way. However, there are many who think the Madden Curse is nothing but an overreaction to run-of-the-mill bad luck. Among those nonbelievers? John Madden himself.


In a 2012 interview, Madden jokingly pointed out that he had never suffered any major injuries, despite being featured on the cover multiple times. As he told the Detroit Free Press, "It's a violent sport. Injuries are going to happen."

And maybe there is something to that. Still, the number of injuries and misfortunes that have befallen the series' cover stars seem so beyond coincidental. It's the kind of thing that legends are made from. Whether or not you believe in the curse, it's nice to see that it seems to have skipped a year.