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Will the Madden Curse
Claim Odell Beckham Jr.?

It’s that magical time of year again. Forget Christmas, it’s football season—when it’s perfectly acceptable to spend all your Sundays day drinking and screaming in public. Also, your Monday and Thursday nights. Plus Saturdays, if you’re into college games. And if that somehow isn’t enough football for you, you can always pick up the latest installment of Madden NFL. Each year since 1999, the massively popular video game has featured one of the NFL’s top players on its cover. It’s a huge honor to appear on Madden. Unfortunately, it’s also a curse. Nearly every player featured on Madden has seen either a significant drop in performance or gotten seriously injured. The Madden Curse started out as a joke, but it has since grown into a genuine superstition—to the point where fans actively campaign against their favorite players appearing on the box! Electronic Arts, the game’s publisher, doesn’t like to talk about the Curse, and players have claimed either that they don’t care or that they’ll be the ones to beat it. Have any of them succeeded? The only way to find out is to check the catalog. Madden NFL 1999 Madden99John Madden took center stage on the U.S. edition, but European fans of American football (they exist) got San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst on the cover. The Curse didn’t take effect immediately. Hearst had a great regular season, picking up the third most rushing yards in the NFL. The 49ers made it all the way to the divisional playoffs, but in the first play of the game Hearst’s foot got caught in the turf and he suffered a severe ankle break. He sat out the next two seasons. Madden NFL 2000 Madden2000Madden himself again appeared on the U.S. cover, but Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders was visible in the background. Sanders unexpectedly retired before the next season even began. Madden NFL 2001 Madden01When Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George became a Madden cover boy and the Titans subsequently dominated the regular season, it looked like the two-year-old Curse was just a fluke. But during the divisional playoff match against the Baltimore Ravens, a pass bounced off George’s hands and was intercepted by Ray Lewis, who ran it in for a touchdown. Just like that, the Titans were out. Madden NFL 2002 Madden02After his Madden appearance, Daunte Culpepper—called one of the most talented quarterbacks to wear a Minnesota Vikings jersey—threw 23 interceptions and tied the NFL record for most fumbles in a single season. He also suffered a season-ending knee injury shortly after the cover was announced. Madden NFL 2003 Madden03St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk used to be a beast. For multiple seasons, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and, if you include receptions, he picked up more than 2,000 yards four years straight. After Madden NFL 2003, his performance steadily declined until 2005—the year he got knee surgery. Madden NFL 2004 Madden04When Michael Vick appeared on Madden, we knew him as the quarterback who beat the favored Green Bay Packers 27-7 and led the underdog Atlanta Falcons to the NFC divisional playoff game. After his Madden cover, Vick broke his right fibula and sat out 11 games. Three years later, we learned all about his dogfighting ring. Madden NFL 2005 Madden05After appearing on the cover of Madden 2005, Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis got off relatively light. He saw his first season without a single interception (although he did miss a game due to a broken wrist). The next year, however, was measurably worse: An injured hamstring ended Lewis’s season only six weeks in. Madden NFL 06 Madden06After a blowout victory over the Green Bay Packers during the 2004 regular season, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb showed up on Madden 06. The following November, a groin injury put McNabb on the injured reserve list for the season. Almost exactly a year later McNabb tore his ACL and was out for the rest of that season too. Madden NFL 07 Madden07Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander racked up a record 28 touchdowns in the 2005 season on the way to the Seahawks’ first-ever Super Bowl appearance. No wonder he was named MVP. The season after Madden 07, however, Alexander broke his left foot in the third week. He returned to the field in November, but never again was he the same record-breaking phenom. Madden NFL 08 Madden08Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young announced his 08 cover on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, dismissing all concerns about the Madden Curse. And it looked like he was right. He missed only one game the next season, due to an injured quad. After reinjuring it, however, backup quarterback Kerry Collins took over and led the Titans to victory. Young injured his knee in the first game of the following season and the Titans made Collins the starting quarterback. Madden NFL 09 Madden09When Brett Favre appeared on the cover of Madden 09, he was a legendary quarterback for the Green Bay Packers—and he’d just retired. No way the Madden Curse could strike, right? Well, Favre came out of retirement and was traded to the New York Jets, where he had the worst season of his career. It started out well enough, with Favre throwing a personal-best six touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals in a single game. The Jets built an impressive 8-3 record, but then lost four of the next five games, during which Favre threw eight interceptions and only two touchdowns. An MRI revealed he’d been playing through a torn biceps tendon. Madden NFL 10 Madden10Derailing one football career per year apparently wasn’t enough, so two athletes were featured on the cover of Madden 10: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Fitzgerald got through the season nearly unscathed, but Polamalu wasn’t so lucky. In the season opener, he sprained his MCL and was out for four games. Three weeks after his return, he injured himself again, missed more games and kept the Steelers out of the playoffs. Madden NFL 11 Madden11Hot off his 2009 Super Bowl win, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was the perfect choice for the cover of Madden 11. The following season, he fell into a huge slump, throwing twice as many interceptions as he did the previous year. The accursed Saints made it to the playoffs, but the Seattle Seahawks bested them in the wild card round. Madden NFL 12 Madden12Before Madden 12 came out, Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis racked up 1,177 rushing yards and was the first Brown to be named AFC Offensive Player of the Week since 1992. His next season included a hamstring injury, strep throat, six missed games and contentious contract negotiations. Hillis later said the season made him “believe in curses.” Madden NFL 13 Madden13Calvin Johnson might be the only player immune to the Madden Curse. The Detroit Lions wide receiver had a phenomenal year after appearing on Madden 13’s cover, breaking Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a single season. But Megatron later revealed that he’d played through the season despite three broken fingers. Madden NFL 25 Boxshot Wizard file used for creating global boxshots EA decided to celebrate the franchise’s 25th anniversary with Madden 25. (We’ll just have to wait until 2025 to see how they handle that year’s installment.) To celebrate, they again chose Barry Sanders, the first player to appear on the cover in the U.S. Long since retired, Sanders couldn’t possibly be affected by the Curse. But the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions featured Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Despite having been the MVP the previous season, Peterson played only 14 games due to a foot injury. The year after that, Peterson was indicted on charges of child abuse and was suspended for nearly the entire 2014 season. Madden NFL 15 Madden15After a game-winning interception in the NFC championship against the 49ers, followed by an absolute drubbing of Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl, who else could take the cover of Madden 15 but Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman followed up his cover appearance with a strong regular season, but injured his elbow late in the NFC championship game against the Packers. (Additionally, the four members of Seattle’s Legion of Boom, who were featured on the game’s menu screens, were hampered by injuries throughout the post-season.) If that weren’t enough, the Seahawks went on to lose the Super Bowl in the final seconds because of what might be the dumbest play call in recent history. As a Seahawks fan, the Curse felt especially cruel last year. Now, it’s OBJ’s turn to adorn the cover—and some Giants fans are nervous. Will he succumb to the Curse? I want to say no. Beckham’s a young player and it’s clear that his best years are ahead. Nobody can predict injury, though. And as much as a cursed video game series sounds ridiculous, there’s definitely a pattern here. Still, OBJ making the cover is major, and I can’t wait to watch him make more impossible three-finger catches this season. Just be careful out there, OBJ. Feature photo courtesy of Everett Madden_connects_bottom    

by Nick Mangione

Aug 28, 2015

Meet the McWhopper: The Burger of Frankenstein

After Burger King proposed a mash-up of its Whopper and the McDonald’s Big Mac into one artery-clogging abomination, I just had to try it. When McDonald’s passed on the idea, meaning the monstrosity would never come to fruition, I decided to make my own. Presenting: the DIY McWhopper. I followed the official recipe as laid out by Burger King in a video proposal. You take the upper six ingredients from a Big Mac (everything from the middle bun on up) and the lower six ingredients from a Whopper (everything except the lettuce, mayo and top bun) and basically slap them together. MakingMcWhopper   See? Easy! From this angle, it doesn’t look half bad. McWhopperTest               Let’s get a nice cross section of this thing. You’ll notice the two Big Mac buns are significantly smaller than the Whopper bun. That is a problem. McWhopperCut               There’s the money shot. Doesn’t that look delicious? No? McWhopperHalf   Well, we’ve come this far. I can’t put it off any longer. Let’s see what this thing tastes like. Just gonna put it in my mouth.… Okay, on three: one…two…two and a half.… McWhopperNEW   The burger brains behind this concept were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. This definitely isn’t the worst fast food I’ve ever had (Taco Bell’s breakfast still holds that title), but I can see why McDonald’s didn’t go for it. There’s just too much going on. The Big Mac special sauce combines with the Whopper’s ketchup and tomato to create an overwhelmingly sweet tomatoey smack. You can’t really taste much of either patty. It’s a whole lot of filler and not much meat—and McMeat doesn’t have that much flavor to begin with. At least the fries are still good. Watch my McWhopper assembly and reaction below. And maybe don’t try this at home.... Photos by Stephanie Adams

by Nick Mangione

Aug 27, 2015

“Get Your Voice Out There While You’re Still Not a Corpse!

I’m familiar with Felicia Day from her recurring role as Charlie Bradbury on the CW’s paranormal drama Supernatural, but the introduction to Day’s new memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), reveals several other identities for which Day is decidedly more famous. You could say she’s a pioneer in scripted web series; from 2007 to 2012 she wrote and starred in a popular YouTube series about gaming, ​​The Guild, ​which her own web production company, Geek and​ ​Sundry, created. She’s also a self-proclaimed social media addict—with 2.5 million Twitter followers—and has been dubbed Queen of the​ Geeks, a title she accepts but doesn’t personally agree with. In You’re Never Weird, Day frames her story as one of a fish out of water who made good, as in superstar-at-Comic-Con good. She grew up being uncomfortable around other people and spent most of her childhood in the company of her brother, with whom she didn’t have the best relationship. Their hippie parents, who were skeptical of the educational values in the deep South, where the family lived, homeschooled their children. Day describes breakthrough moments when the burgeoning internet helped her connect with others, but she was definitely unabashed about pursuing her various hobbies (mathematics, playing the violin and acting). As Day writes, “The heart of my story is that the world opened up for me once I decided to embrace who I am—unapologetically.” From the title alone, I was prepared to love this book. One of the great things about the internet—despite the privacy issues, the endless distractions and the compare-and-despair culture of Facebook and other social networks—is that people who think they’re alone, different or weird in some way can find others who share and will encourage their interests. A ready listening ear (or screen) is waiting for the outsider whose own community offers no options for interaction. With all this in mind, I was shocked to find Day’s initial chapters underwhelming. She seems to breeze through all the obstacles in her life—and in the cutest narrative voice ever! Day may have been homeschooled and awkward, but her book reveals that she earned perfect SAT scores, was admitted to the University of Texas at Austin at the age of 16, was a violin prodigy and held a first-chair spot in her college violin program while double majoring in mathematics and music. And her GPA was a 4.0 all four years. If she wasn’t a social star, she certainly wasn’t an outcast. It seems her core self was intact, and she had always been embraced by her family. So what did she overcome? Where was the angst? You're Never Weird mediumDespite the sinking feeling in my gut, I persevered in reading Day’s story and learned she did indeed do something both spectacular and inspirational and surmounted many barriers to her success. Her book perfectly demonstrates how easy it is to judge someone else as having it all together; we look at people’s achievements and can see only how their past and their credentials must have predicated their future victories. Day subverts this with powerful honesty in her tales of trying to make it as an adult and how her confidence, quirkiness and stellar educational background initially failed her. In her humorous, uniquely breezy style (the title of this post is a quote from her book), Day tells painful stories about breaking into Hollywood and the toll it took on her; as a coping mechanism, she spiraled into an obsession with World of Warcraft, for example. She also relates her first attempts at script writing and discusses her decision to produce her own show after being hit with several rejections. Day’s chipper tone and comic delivery belie the challenges of trying to change yourself to fit the mold of others, plus the doubt that accompanies that process despite your own wonderful accomplishments. But the eventual realization is that you can triumph on your own terms. In watching Day navigate that path, I found that You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) quickly changed from a quirky memoir to a heartwarming, inspirational reminder to unapologetically be who you are. Photo courtesy of Christina Gandolfo

by Nicole Bonia

Aug 27, 2015

Naples in Fact and Fiction

Okay, maybe it’s just sour grapes, but books about enjoying the good life in foreign lands can really annoy me. You know them. A single woman/recently widowed man/tired-of-the-rat-race couple buys a farmhouse/villa/ruin in Italy/France/Greece. They encounter all sorts of quirky characters, befriend some warmhearted locals who help them overcome setbacks and settle happily into the sun-drenched landscape. Not that there’s anything wrong with this genre. We all enjoy coming upon words that reinforce our attraction to a place, or, likewise, letting a place enhance what we read about it. For me, though, it comes down to tone. I like a bit of grit mixed in with the saccharine. So I was delighted to discover The Gallery, a 1947 novel set in wartime Naples. This meandering, now almost-forgotten work was written by John Horne Burns, who drank himself to death at the age of 36. The Gallery, his critically acclaimed youthful masterpiece, is a series of darkly engaging vignettes. Each of the rambling narratives at some point touches down on the Galleria Umberto I, a 19th-century arcade topped with a delicate dome and glass arches that rise just off the seafront at the edge of the old city. Gallery_largeBurns was his own greatest fan, claiming his book was “so good I can’t believe I’m writing it” and calling it “800 printed pages of gorgeous marble” and “like nothing since King Lear.” Critics and other readers did not entirely disagree. Life featured Burns in a cover story of literary stars, and the Saturday Review named him best novelist of the year. For its part, the cynical, war-weary public wasn’t fazed by Burns’s portrayals of prostitutes, child pimps, black marketeers and greedy, self-serving Americans: An inept officer rises through the ranks by surrounding himself with sycophants; a Red Cross worker has decided that “GIs were just a little vulgar” so she shirks her duties to sip vermouth and pop sedatives. Even back in the 1940s, readers were receptive to the subtext of homosexuality that includes an especially warm and entertaining episode set in a gay bar. In two other vignettes, an enlisted man dons a flowered kimono (and gives his commanding officer a nightly massage) and a clerk in a syphilis ward propositions a handsome patient. As for the namesake Galleria, for all its onetime grandeur, there’s still something just a little off about the place—actually, it’s a perfect centerpiece for a city as mysterious, dirty and vibrant as Naples. Dust gathers in the sun-dappled corners, and espresso-sipping patrons of cafés seem oblivious to the street kids darting between their tables. Many of the habitués lurking in the shadows look like they could have stepped out of Burns’s pages. He writes,

by Stephen Brewer

Aug 26, 2015




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