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Top Nine The Madden Curse

By Lou DiPietro

Whether you are an avid video gamer or simply a hardcore sports fan, you likely know of the "Madden Curse" - an affliction that often hinders the performance of whichever NFL superstar is "lucky" enough to grace the cover of that year's installment of the John Madden Football franchise.

This year, fan voting decided the cover athlete for Madden '13, with Carolina's Cam Newton and Detroit's Calvin Johnson the two remaining "finalists" for the award. The winner will be crowned later Wednesday, but unfortunately, "winner" might be somewhat of a misnomer, as the folks at Electronic Arts have unwittingly and inexplicably jinxed most of the men whose images have graced the front of their creation since 1998.

Sorry, Panthers and Lions fans, but it's our duty to remind you of what you and your fellow Americans may have done. Some effects of the curse have been worse than others, but these nine men serve as fair warning that having Newton or Johnson's face on thousands of shelves this summer might prove that sometimes, love truly does hurt.

  • GARRISON HEARST (Madden '99 International)

    Hearst, the curse's first victim, actually had a stellar 1998 season. But in the 49ers' Divisional Playoff game against Atlanta, he suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the playoffs that sidelined him for the entire 1999 and 2000 seasons.

  • BARRY SANDERS (Madden 2000)

    Sanders appeared on the Madden 2000 cover as somewhat of a shadow, with his photo in the background behind Mr. Madden. By the time the game was released, he was an NFL ghost, having abruptly retired prior to training camp in 1999.

  • DAUNTE CULPEPPER (Madden 2002)

    After leading the Vikings to the playoffs in 2000, Culpepper only played 11 games in 2001 because of a knee injury and the Vikings slumped to 5-11.

  • MARSHALL FAULK (Madden 2003)

    Marshall Faulk was coming off five straight 1,000-yard seasons and a trip to the Super Bowl when he appeared on the cover of 2002's game. After that, he never reached four digits again, and the Rams have finished above .500 just once in the last decade.

  • MICHAEL VICK (Madden 2004)

    The most electrifying QB in the game at the time, Vick got the cover in '03. He then broke his leg in the preseason and played just five games - the lowest total of his career - as the Falcons went 5-11.

  • DONOVAN MCNABB (Madden 2006)

    McNabb's 2005 season was a disaster, as he started just nine games thanks to a sports hernia and later a torn ACL. The Eagles finished 6-10, their worst record of the decade under Andy Reid.

  • SHAUN ALEXANDER (Madden 2007)

    In 2005, Alexander led the NFL with 1,880 rushing yards and a then-record 27 total touchdowns. Then he got the Madden cover, hurt his foot in 2006, and didn't even rush for 1,880 over the remainder of his career.

  • TROY POLAMALU (Madden 2010)

    Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald shared cover honors in 2009, and while Fitz made it out alive, Polamalu missed 11 games thanks to a pair of knee injuries. At least his hair was unharmed.

  • PEYTON HILLIS (Madden 2012)

    Our most recent jinx victim, Hillis was a surprising choice last year after a breakout season in 2010. But in 2011, Hillis slumped back to obscurity, missing six games with ailments ranging from strep throat to a crippling case of contract-itis.

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