The Other Madden Curse

Video gamers and sports fans have all heard of the infamous “Madden Curse”. It’s a well broadcasted myth which suggests players chosen to be the face on the cover of the most popular sports-video game ever, John Madden Football, will consequently go on to have an injury plagued season the next year. Well, there’s been another Madden Curse much less publicized, Madden’s curse of the Black Quarterback. What’s the  Madden curse of the Black Quarterback you ask? Well its simple, between the years of 1993 to about 2010, no matter their performance in real football, Madden’s recreated versions of black quarterbacks have passing abilities more comparable to a 3rd string junior college running back than a proven pro quarterback.  They can’t complete easy passes, miss wide open receivers by  like 10 yards,  nor can they maintain methodical drives. Pro bowl receivers even have difficulty catching their passes. If any quarterback was this bad, he wouldn’t have gotten an NFL tryout, heck he couldn’t start for a little league team. Oh, and you can forget having a quality passing attack for one full game of Madden, let alone an entire season with a black quarterback.

I know it sounds ridiculous to profess racism in a video game, but isn’t it even more senseless that a game included society’s stereotypes and bias’. Or worse, that established ignorance can sustain itself for such a long period of time, and is strong enough to transcend the boundaries of video games. Some might believe I’m arguing the concept of running quarterbacks compared to drop-back quarterbacks, than the racial issue I’ve claimed. To an extent, yes, maybe a little but almost all black quarterbacks are running quarterbacks. The terms running quarterback and drop back quarterback, especially between 1993-2010, were almost synonymous with the terms, black quarterback and white quarterback. The NFL, the media, our society, and Madden’s video game, all worked together to ensure the black quarterback/running quarterback notion, was represented as a failure. And I believe it was done with intent to preserve the image of the white quarterback/drop-back quarterback as the face of the sport.

Now to be fair, the game uses each quarterbacks completion percentage from the prior season as its primary determinant for the attribute “passing accuracy”. Completion percentage is probably the most logical choice for determining accuracy for a quarterback on a video game, even though at times the most accurate pro quarterbacks have low completion percentages. My problem is in the translation. Accuracy for quarterbacks is pivotal, but the importance placed on that attribute and how it effects the abilities of the quarterbacks on the game, doesn’t translate or mimic the actual NFL game it was designed to replicate. Accuracy can’t measure play sustainability, toughness, and/or in game awareness, all which are necessary to assist in pass completions. The game does measure a quarterbacks awareness, but it is more focused on position responsibility, as in coverage  recognition.   The common sense decision making or decision making under pressure and in small spaces, the knowledge of personal capabilities and simple athleticism,  we see quarterbacks display on Sunday’s are a few of the other factors necessary in completing passes.

Often on the game, I’ve had to choose “white” rookie quarterbacks or below average journeymen to replace proven veteran black quarterbacks for my team to be offensively productive. The white rookie quarterbacks would be novice level players who’ve never completed a pass in the NFL, but Madden pre-determined them to be quality players on the game as they fit into the stereotypical media quarterback perceptions. However, those same supposed “accurate” quarterbacks, actually couldn’t complete passes or command an NFL offense in real football. I watched on Sunday’s and they didn’t complete lots of passes. Overall they repeatedly failed in the quarterback position, though drafted to play for a team which commonly was built to highlight their abilities. In fact, the media for years has been relatively reluctant to report the high numbers of white quarterbacks who were selected high in the draft (often the first overall pick) but turned out to be busts. Is accuracy one of the more important traits for a quarterback, of course it is especially in the NFL, but any quarterback starting for an NFL franchise has to be reasonably accurate. The Madden video game supported stereotypes of black quarterbacks, implemented them into the game, and upheld them for years.

The games portrayal of black quarterbacks mirrors a popular media perception much more than the actual in-game reality.  For years, the media characterized the black quarterback as merely an athlete, incapable of mastering the quarterback position. However, the truth is black quarterbacks completed passes in spite of the many factors working against them. Team owners didn’t typically see black quarterbacks as the prototypical face to represent an organization, so their teams didn’t add personnel to accentuate their attributes or build systems that fit their skill sets. This definitely wasn’t the case for most white quarterbacks.  Nonetheless, black quarterbacks were still fairly efficient in games. For example, NFL quarterback Vince Young, definitely lacks some of the fundamentals expected from an NFL quarterback. He doesn’t possess the perfect throwing motion and does miss on some of the more difficult passing tree routes, but in game, he could complete 5 yard slants, quick outs, and flair passes to running backs quite often. I’ve seen him lead his team to victory multiple times, with the pass as his weapon of choice. But on Madden, Vince Young was more like an average running back playing the quarterback position. He was incapable of completing the passes I’ve seen him complete fairly often in NFL football games. I mean every other pass was off target. I often thought, man I hope Vince Young doesn’t play this game, cause he’ll probably cry afterwards. Vince was the first name that came to mind, but year after year I’ve been frustrated throwing 5 yard outs into the crowd or quick slants 13 yards off course, with black quarterbacks. I’d eventually cave in every year and choose a white quarterback so my team could be good.

Is there research to prove this new Madden Curse? Yes, of course there is.  Am I gonna go back to research and compare accuracy ratings of one black quarterback to some white quarterback, NO(though I could), its easier than that. I’ve purchased and played the game every year since 1993 on multiple gaming systems, I don’t need anymore proof than that. I do believe this will change on the game as more black quarterbacks are given opportunities to play the position. They’ve already exceeded any and all expectations while disproving the many stereotypes, so the media will have to evaluate them more fairly at some point. Madden will most likely follow the media’s lead again and also begin to present the black quarterback as a viable option for the position. However, this doesn’t change what I’ve witnessed, and had to endure over the years.  The frustration, the anger, the ignorance, the pain caused by this one game. So say what you want, My Madden Curse is real. That other curse, well, I’m still up in the air on that one.