Mondays, Mysticism, and Madden: Madden ’07 and Beyond

Madden ’07 was released today and I’m sure game sites everywhere will be running reviews of the game, telling you how great the graphics are and how deep the franchise mode is, and debating whether or not Sean Taylor should be rate a 94 overall. Everyone knows the game will be amazing, and running a full review of the game would just be telling you what you already know. Here’s my review of the game: it rocks. It has taken me several hours to write this much because I can’t put down my controller and it’s really hard to type with one hand.

So instead of stating the obvious and praising the holy grail of sports games, I decided to do something a little different. I am looking towards the future and wondering about Madden 08, or even Madden 09. Endless questions pop into my head, questions about mini camps, vision cones, play books, and franchise modes. However, one question has vexed me. It is an issue that I have toiled with for many sleepless nights in the past but it haunts me yet again. A conundrum equitable to trying to determine the meaning of life or pondering the origins of the universe, something the human mind can not fathom. Allow me to explain.

No name has been as synonymous with a sporting game as John Madden. Sure there has been Joe Montana’s Sportstalk Football and Lee Trevino’s Putting Challenge and some other memorable titles, but no ones name has replaced the actual sport they are associated with aside from Madden. Nobody says they are playing NFL Football 07. Its Madden. Just Madden. Ask any guy from the ages of 12 to 26 why John Madden is famous, and most will say he’s the guy from the video game. Never mind his obscenely large ring he owns for winning the Super Bowl, or his ten seasons as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, or his 23 years in the broadcast booth, he’s the video game guy.

But will the video game guy always have his name on the cover of EA’s enormously successful football franchise? What happens after Madden?

EA Sports acquired the rights to have ESPN featured in their games. ESPN is the new home of Monday night football and is part of the ABC empire. John Madden works for rival network NBC and for the first time in as long as I can remember, is not part of the NFL’s biggest show. Can this be the first step of the phasing out of John Madden? Anyone who watches football can tell you that he isn’t quite as sharp as he used to be.

Let’s assume that Madden will slowly be pushed out of the broadcast booth by the networks and the NFL. Does his name still appear on the game if John Madden is no longer in the spotlight? What happens when the hall of famer goes to the great gridiron in the sky to draw his x’s and o’s with his old partner Pat Summerall? Will the Madden moniker be kept, replaced, or will a name be dropped altogether?

There is something just wrong about having the NFL simulation be called anything else besides Madden. Attaching someone else’s name probably won’t happen. Although I love his writing and tv show, Kornheiser 08 does not exactly scream football. Neither does Mike Tirico Action Football. Dropping the name altogether doesn’t seem to work either. The name Madden is too much of an icon to simply toss away. Imagine Triad dropping Zelda from the title of their games. The Legend of Generic Disaster Prone Princess doesn’t have quite the same ring.

So what does EA do? Even if they keep Madden’s name on the game after he leaves the booth, it may not be a good idea to keep the Madden label once he leaves the field for the last time.

In my humble opinion, the best possible thing for EA to do is to let the consumer decide the new name for the NFL game. I’m sure there are plenty of legal reasons and contractual issues with the NFL to keep EA Sports from doing this, but it would take a potentially awkward decision safely out of the hands of EA and would give them a nice little marketing gimmick.

I say we don’t wait for EA or for the great John Madden to hand in his whistle and clipboard to the head coach of the heavens ( I’m starting to run out of football related euphemisms). In my debut column, I am going out on a limb and asking fellow Madden players to come up with a new name for the NFL video game. Talk amongst yourselves, post a reply, or better yet email me at richardsondbk@gmail.com. If I get enough suggestions, I’ll put the most popular and most creative, or the ones that make me laugh, in my next entry. Now go play your spanking new game and enjoy Madden while we can still call it that.

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