OK, I'm not a big "gamer." I don't play John Madden's popular NFL games, although a couple of my kids do and so I'm familiar with them and own a copy for the Wii. I haven't paid a whole lot of attention the "Madden Curse" -- the jinx that apparently strikes most NFL players when they are put on the cover the following season.
But I keep getting this question from readers and so will answer it here -- Could Panther QB Cam Newton turn down the Madden cover if he wanted to?
The answer, apparently, is "No."
Newton, currently in the quarterfinals of fan voting and "playing" Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald this week, has already agreed like the rest of the quarterfinalists to have his name and likeness on the cover if he wins, according to a PR person working for EA Sports whom I directed this question to. The players have all "agreed to participate in the competition and, if selected by the fans, will appear on the cover of Madden NFL 13," spokesperson Julie Foster of EA Sports Communications says via email.
The cover winner, incidentally, will be revealed on ESPN's SportsNation at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25th and then immediately "will proceed to a photo shoot" for the cover, according to EA.
A short version of the curse's victims include Michael Vick, Garrison Hearst, Shaun Alexander, Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre and (last year) Peyton Hillis -- all of whom either had a significant injury or a significant downturn in their performance the year after they made the cover. Hillis, in fact, said in December 2011 after his fortunes in Cleveland dropped so precipitously:
"Things didn't work in my favor this year. There's a few things that happened this year that made me believe in curses. Ain't no doubt about it."
As for Newton, I imagine we'll get to see whether the curse is valid or not in 2012. Although I've heard from a number of Panther fans voting against Cam purely for superstitious purposes, his popularity is pretty strong nationwide and he's the No.1 seed among the eight remaining players (the other six are Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson, Ray Rice, Patrick Willis and Victor Cruz). In his first two matchups, Newton received more than 80 percent of the vote.
One note about both the "Madden Curse" and the "Sports Illustrated cover jinx," which has a very similar them: Players who make the cover of either are at the peak of their profession. There is, generally, nowhere to go but down. So a regression makes some sort of sense. Still, it's something fun to talk about in the run-up to the NFL draft.