By month’s end, Ray Rice could be the face of one of the most popular video-game franchises in America.
So why are some Ravens fans now willing to root against the very same star they cheer on every fall Sunday?
Three words, far scarier than any onrushing linebacker and oftentimes just as devastating: The Madden Curse.
It’s a worthwhile topic for anyone voting for Rice as he takes on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Madden NFL 13 cover competition. Linebacker Ray Lewis, the 2005 cover boy – a bit of a misnomer, don’t you think? – emerged from his Madden-linked season relatively unscathed, missing only one game, but the game’s history is littered with tales of NFL stars burning out.
Just look at 2012 cover boy Peyton Hillis. While not exactly a star, the Browns running back went from rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 to 587 and three, respectively, last season. He missed games for maladies ranging from a hamstring injury to strep throat. It all seemed a bit too … strange for Hillis.
"Things didn't work in my favor this year," Hillis said in December. "There's a few things that happened this year that made me believe in curses. Ain't no doubt about it."
Rice has to knock off three more NFL behemoths before he can claim the weighty title of Madden cover boy. It’s not a bad perk. Who wouldn’t want a $150,000 bonus, or their likeness front and center of every electronics store from Seattle to Saratoga? Especially when you believe, as Rice does, video-game voodoo doesn’t exist.
“I sometimes get the chills thinking about it,” Rice said in his candidate video. “I don’t believe in the Madden curse or none of the other stuff, but I do believe it would be a great honor for myself and for my family for us to see me on the cover.”
And, hey, if Rice doesn’t last in Baltimore past this season, a Madden cover might be a pretty good way of remembering him.