Dear Tom Brady,
As a die-hard New England Patriots fan, I implore you to reconsider your decision to appear on the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 18. Please know, I’m thinking broadly about this request. I only want what’s best for you, your family, the Patriots and the millions of men and women in the Boston area who forget they are fully grown adult human beings most Sundays between the first kickoff in September and the final seconds in December.
I understand it must be a one-of-a-kind honor to grace the cover of one of America’s favorite video games, particularly when the makers dubbed the coming season’s installment its “G.O.A.T. Edition.” Sure, Mark Wahlberg called you the “best evah” after you and the Pats beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, but somehow this just feels a little more official.
I’m not sure why. It just does.
There are a lot of practical reasons too. Like a magazine cover, a video game cover (and its attendant media appearances) is a good way to reinforce your own personal brand. It enhances your cachet. That’s a smart way to keep your eye on the future. Someday you won’t be playing football, though I hope that day is a long, long time from now.
I’m guessing you like the idea of following your teammate Rob Gronkowski, who was on the cover last year. You guys seem close. Sure, Gronk’s a tough act to follow, but if anyone can do it, you can.
Still, doesn’t Gronk’s experience give you pause? He was on the cover, then he got injured and missed a bunch of the season. He didn’t even play in the Patriots spectacular comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl.
He’s not the only one. Previous cover stars — Michael Vick (injured before the season started) and Donovan McNabb (out at the midway mark), just to name two — have stumbled after being named.
It’s called the Madden Curse.
“I’m not one to believe in curses, so I’m ready to take the challenge head-on like always!” you said in EA’s press release, “It doesn’t stand a chance!!!”
I like the triple exclamation marks. They speak to your intensity. But your phrasing worries me. It almost acknowledges the Curse’s existence.
Correlation isn’t causation. Sometimes, like when Troy Polamalu was on the cover and then played only five games, it’s just coincidence. Sure, Vegas might take bets on the Curse, but Vegas is opportunistic, not scientific.
You know who’s scientific? The 21 professors who submitted a court brief saying cold weather in Foxboro, Massachusetts, was the cause of deflated footballs when you beat the Indianapolis Colts in January 2015. (Locals spell it F-O-X-B-O-R-O. Get over it.)
Still, I can’t help but think about players who suffered the Curse after getting their shot at the cover. Marshall Faulk couldn’t break 1,000 yards, which he had in each of the previous five seasons; Peyton Hillis didn’t crack 600 yards.
As I sit here wearing a Pats T-shirt and a Pats hat and typing in front of a Pats pennant, I’ve suddenly gotten superstitious. I want to see the New England win another Super Bowl. I’d like another Lombardi Trophy flown to Boston. I want to see you and the team on the Duck Boats in winter.
So please, Tom Brady, give up the cover.
Maybe Eli Manning will take it.
First published May 13, 5 a.m. PT
Update, 12:45 p.m.: Adds detail.
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