UPDATE: Cam Newton made it to the finals to be on the cover of Madden 15, but lost to Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman.
You may recall that Cam Newton really wanted to be on the cover of Madden 13, the NFL video game. He wanted to so badly that two years ago he concocted a seven-minute homemade video calling out Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- his rival in the finals -- and saying he was the best choice because he was the better "Madden" player.
Nevertheless, Johnson won anyway. The results were announced in New York City's Times Square -- if you can believe this, The Observer had me cover it (although to be fair, I was already in New York for something else) -- and Newton was obviously disappointed.
Now Newton is back in the Final Four of the Madden '15 cover vote, joining Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Richard Sherman in competition for the cover. Results are determined by fan voting, which is always a fickle process (remember how the Panthers managed to win "Best NFL Uniform Ever" in a national fan vote for their all-black getup, despite having only worn that uniform once in a regular-season game at that time?). The semifinals for Madden 15 end May 30, with the two finalists being chosen and voting opening immediately for another week. The winner will be announced Friday, June 6, on ESPN's SportsCenter.
I can't get very excited about who makes a videogame cover, but it's obviously important to Newton and to a lot of other people (my teenaged sons like to keep me monitored on this contest). This time Newton faces Luck in the semifinals in a battle of the No.1 picks from 2011 and 2012.
Newton, a No.1 seed, has already won two voting matchups to get that far, trouncing Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly -- a No.6 seed who plays a starring role in the Madden 15 official trailer -- won one matchup over Denver's Demaryius Thomas but then lost to Kaepernick in the quarterfinals.
What this does mean, besides the fact that Madden 15 is getting a lot of publicity and will sell a whole lot of copies once more?
Not much, really, except that the Panthers continue to become more nationally prominent. Only 16 players were selected for this contest, and two of them were from Carolina. That tells you something, much like Carolina's renewed prominence in prime-time games in their 2014 NFL schedule, when they play three games at night. The Panthers are no longer an NFL afterthought.