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The Madden Effect

I typically don’t like to do things like this after people die. Honestly, I find it very pandering and shallow to eulogize a celebrity after they die. Now I know for a fact I’ve done it before so those who don’t like me will bring those times up and laugh at me. That’s fine.

This time is different because I am not going to go through this person’s life and worship all of their accomplishments.

Last night, former NFL coach, color analyst and name sake of the wild;y popular football game, John Madden died at the age of 85. Madden’s death comes right on the heels of Fox Sports debuting a documentary all about his life on Christmas Day. As terrible as it sounds, but Fox’s numbers for that documentary are now going to skyrocket due to his death. I know I am now going to watch it.

Most of Madden’s accomplishments in the NFL were way before my time. I only remember him as an announcer. Even more than that, I remember him from the Madden video games. I also remember laughing at comedians and even Family Guy mocking him for his worship of Brett Favre. If you want a good laugh, check it out here:

But all of his accomplishments aside, the thing he did that had the biggest impact on society was the Madden football games. I know personally, I had about 15 versions of the game myself. The one I have the earliest memories of was Madden NFL 2003 with Marshall Faulk on the cover. I know a lot of people my age had at least one version of this game in their life. In high school and college, I spent a disturbing amount of time playing Madden.

The first Madden game came out in 1988 and it continues to be released to this day. Electronic Arts (EA) produces the game and has almost yearly since its original release. The amount of money this game has made is incredible. As of 2013, the series has made over $4 billion. And that’s 8 years ago. Imagine what that would be now.

Other than the money, the Madden video games had an even bigger effect on football itself.

In the 80s, 90s and 2000s, video games were a growing industry. Sports on the other hand, had been a huge draw for years to that point. Nobody back then could have predicted how popular the video game industry would become. Most thought it was just egg heads in their mom’s basement playing them instead of playing real sports or going on dates. You have to give EA some credit, they saw how sports and video games could be partnered together to bring the two together, using the popularity of sports and the technology of video games. Now, I know they were just trying to make money and sell video games, but what they ended up doing was exposing a whole new generation of kids to football.

Think about it for a minute. How many people actually have a chance to play football in their lives? At one time, half the country was out because it was frowned upon to have girls play. That just leaves boys. Of the boys, those with physical issues or disabilities were out. Like it or not, football is not a forgiving sport. That just leaves able-bodied boys and even some of them were out. So needless to say, it was a small number of people.

Then comes Madden video games. Now virtually anyone can play football. Albeit virtually, but they still get to experience it. Not only did it give kids a chance to see football, it motivated some to go and try the game itself after playing Madden for a while. You can put me in this category. I was discouraged from football for a while due to being legally blind. My mom unknowingly supplied my drive to play the game by repeatedly buying me Madden for a variety of systems. That love for football was supported even more because when others would be outside playing in the dark, I was forced to stay in and most of that time was spent playing Madden. I ended up convincing my parents to let me play football in high school and I like to think that Madden kept that drive alive.

Madden didn’t just expose people to the game itself, it also helped those already interested in football learn more about it. The game always included every player on every team, a variety of plays for each team and even had some historic teams that were playable. At one point, I could name almost every player from every team simply from going through the rosters on Madden. I’d argue that Michael Vick became as popular as he was because of his character in Madden 2004 being so unstoppable.

Not only did people learn the players and pick favorites based on who was good in the game. They also learned what certain things meant. I know I had no idea what Cover 2, Cover 3, 2 Man Under or Engage Eight meant until I played Madden. I’m sure most men my age can imagine what I mean when I say “Four Verticals.” I used terms like this when I coached freshman football. All the kids knew exactly what I meant when I said them.

All of this helped contribute to the overall popularity of football in America. It made kids and adults alike excited for football and kept them engaged even during the offseason. The other sports couldn’t compete with the success EA has had with Madden. Some have tried but to no avail.

Football is the dominant sport in America in part due to the success of the Madden football games. It has transcended generations and continues to adapt with the game itself. Football and Madden will stay hand in hand for years to come. To that I say, BOOM!

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