August 26, 2002
Is It In The… Oh, Never Mind
By Ric Sweeney
Two weeks ago, I was strip club hopping, drinking beers, passing out $1 bills and showing the beautiful babies what the kids today would call a bitchin’ good time when my cell phone rang.
It was a friend of mine, barely able to speak he was so excited. He wanted to let me know that EA Sports had officially released Madden 2003 for the PlayStation 2 a day early.
I told him I was knee deep in a Coors Light commercial at the moment, but he could give call me back after he left the Star Trek convention. I then proceeded to remind him that I was much too cool to play video games, that maybe, if I was still 19, I’d meet him at the arcade, but I wasn’t and he needed to get a life. Wait, did I say 19? Nine, I meant nine.
(Sigh). OK, OK I’m tired of pretending. Much like Jason Biggs’ realization at the end of American Pie 2 that he’d rather be a band geek than make love to the (vastly overrated, by the way) Shannon Elizabeth I don’t hang out in strip clubs, drink a lot of beer or do anything that even an uncool person would consider cool. And yes, I’m what they call a “gamer” – I play video games. I’m 30. I’m unemployed. I live with my parents – you may have seen my life story a few years ago on a show called Seinfeld; Jason Alexander played me.
Well, now that I think about it; I’m not really a “gamer,” per se. Granted, I do own a PlayStation 2, and it was me calling a friend on the day of Madden‘s early release, not the other way around, but the truth is, beyond Madden, I don’t really play video games. Except for Grand Theft Auto. And Twisted Metal: Black. And Medal of Honor. And SSX. And Q-Bert.
Anyway, yes, I was pretty giddy about the release of Madden 2003. For past-their-primes athletes like myself who never, really had a prime, games like Madden do provide an, admittedly slight, vicarious-like thrill, as it represents the closest we’ll ever come to “playing” in the NFL.
And to that degree, the Madden series has always been a revelation. They somehow created an Artificial Intelligence that acts and reacts like a football team might. And each year, they tweak it just a bit so that it’s better than the year before. You have to actually read defenses and react to coverages and blitzes; playaction actually makes a tangible difference because safeties will cheat up and the pump fakes can freeze a defensive back just long enough to spring your wide receiver deep. And then there’s the off-the-field features, namely complete control over your roster, including the ability to draft players and sign free agents. And with the Franchise mode, you could conceivably play year after year with the same team for 30 consecutive years. Assuming you can make it through even one full year; I’ve only done so once.
The year was 1995; Alanis Morresitte was setting the musical world on fire; Barry Bonds was inching closer to his 100th career home run, and my friend Chimmy (who’s name has been changed to protect his innocence) and I played a tandem season as the Houston Oilers on Madden ’96 for PlayStation.
It was unreal. I remember a tough loss to the very good 49ers, which really deflated us, and then playing the next week against Seattle, being down, distracted, the Niner loss still haunting us, and the Seahawks just drilling us. I remember an improbable come-from-behind victory against the Saints that featured the only known successful onside kick in the history on the Madden series. Chimmy and I actually jumped up and down and woke my wife up when we recovered it; sadly, it ranks among my top 10 greatest sports moments ever. And then it all came to a crushing end in the Wildcard Game, hosting the Patriots in the Astrodome.
Needing a touchdown, we called the ole’ reliable TE Slant Chimmy controlled Frank Wycheck, the pass was complete, but he was tackled at the goal line. We didn’t play again for over a year; in fact, I don’t think we spoke to each other, either. It was devastating. It was every Oiler season EVER, neatly wrapped up in one amazing Madden season.
After that, most of my seasons ended prematurely because I lost interest in whatever team I’d chosen to try and fill the Oilers’ void. Which is what makes me so pumped about this year’s version: the Texans are prominently featured.
So what does the Madden version of the Texans look like? More importantly, can we glean anything from it all? EA Sports prides itself on its attention to accuracy; they’ve made it the cornerstone of their entire operation. They promise, “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game.” So is it? Are the Madden Texans anything like their real life counterparts? Let’s take a look…
Madden Texans: David Carr has a pronounced, Kent Tekulve-like sidearm delivery that has thus far led to 7,341 passes hitting the back of the offensive linemen’s helmets and falling incomplete. Who was EA’s technical advisor, Mel Kiper, Jr.?
Real Texans: While the sidearm delivery seems to be a dead issue, Carr has seen nearly 7,341 of his passes this preseason fall incomplete… after hitting wide receivers in their hands.
Madden Texans: Neither the Jaguar nor Texan medical staffs have incorrectly diagnosed and/or butchered the shoulder of Tony Boselli; he’s your starting left tackle for the Madden Texans.
Real Texans: Boselli’s out for who knows how long (I think ESPN’s Chris Mortensen just termed the injury “life threatening”), and either the Jags or Texans apparently have Dr. Michael Swango on retainer.
Madden Texans: In the first Cowboy/Texan match up (with me playing Houston and let’s call him “Fyron” playing Dallas), the Texans won 50-14. Among the highlights: Avion Black returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a score.
Real Texans: Fingers are crossed, but after four preseason games, it’s looking like the Texans might have trouble scoring 50 points total this year. Plus, it’s highly unlikely, even if they did build a big lead against the Cowboys, that a) Dom Capers would call an onside kick in the 4th quarter; b) David Carr would be throwing 50-yard bombs with less than a minute left in the game; c) the team would attempt a fake field goal and go for two with no time remaining (take that, Fyron!)
Madden Texans: Their default home jersey is the dark, or steel blue.
Real Texans: Looks like they’re going to be using white jerseys at home, which is so unbelievably ridiculous, I can’t even muster a response. White jerseys at home? Unless you’re Dallas or Washington, it’s a sick, perverse trend that I wish would go away.
Madden Texans: Despite an extensive database of players, John Baker, Eric Chew, Tony Donald, Billy Granville, Uhuru Hamiter, Toya Jones, Joey Knapp, Ahmad Miller, Matt Snider, Greg White and Jerry Wisne are not on the Texans’ Madden roster.
Real Texans: As of Monday, none of them are on the real Texans’ roster, either.
Madden Texans: Tony Banks is an erratic, inaccurate passer who can’t really be depended upon for anything beyond mop-up duty.
Real Texans: Tony Banks is an erratic, inaccurate passer who can’t really be depended upon for anything beyond mop-up duty.
Madden Texans: Jeff Posey has a player rating of 69 out of a possible 99.
Real Texans: Preseason or not, surely Posey’s better than Sedrick Hodge, who has a rating of 70, right?
Madden Texans: The Texans seem to miss a lot of tackles — a lot; very, very, extremely “I’m going to throw the PlayStation out the window” frustrating. Seems to happen with almost precision-like timing on most 3rd-and-short situations.
Real Texans: If it’s in the game…
Ric Sweeney admits he’s actually searched for and downloaded all of the songs featured on Madden 2003, including, yes, the one by Bon Jovi. “I’m gonna live my life… EVERYDAY!” Jermaine Lewis Return to Houston Pro Football If you have a question, comment or suggestion, contact Ric Catch up on past installments of Quick Slant