2009 Cover Athlete Report Card

It's time for our annual look at how this year's class of sports game athletes fared in the real world.

by

Now that the year is winding down, it's time to take a few moments to look back on the year that was in sports gaming with our annual Cover Athlete Report Card. After all, being on the cover of a sports video game is an honor both for prowess on the field and a certain degree of popularity off it. How did this year's crop of video game cover stars fare in the real world? Read on to find out, and keep in mind, if you disagree with any of this, it's only because you are somehow ethically opposed to the facts.


Game: Madden NFL 10
Star: Troy Polamalu
Most players prove their mettle by playing. In Troy Polamalu's case, he has proved his value to the Pittsburgh Steelers--and why he is Madden cover material--because of his absence due to injury. Simply put: When Troy plays, the Steelers win. When he's out, they struggle. Of the only five games Polamalu has started this season, Pittsburgh has won four of them, with Troy snagging three interceptions and recording 20 tackles on the season. It's perhaps a bit cruel to call Troy a victim of the Madden Curse--as his level of play is as high as ever when he's healthy--but it's hard not to wonder what could have been if he'd stayed healthy--for both the man and his team.
Grade: B

Star: Larry Fitzgerlad
The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver kicked off 2009 with an appearance in the Super Bowl--not a bad way to start the year. And though the Cards came up short against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, Fitzgerald has proven time and time again this season that he is one of the game's premier receivers. With two games to go in the regular season (at the time of this writing), Fitz is one touchdown away from his previous season high of 12; giving him three straight seasons with more than 10 TDs. With the NFC West clinched, the Cardinals may be looking to rest Fitz for another deep run into the playoffs. Stay tuned.
Grade: A


Game: NCAA Football 10
Star: Michael Crabtree
At one point earlier in the season, it looked like we might not have anything to write about the former Texas Tech receiver's NFL career in this space. After being drafted by the 49ers 10th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft Crabtree and irked at the thought of making 10th overall money when the Raiders had picked the unheard-of Darius Heyward Bey at the seven position, he decided to hold out. He finally negotiated a contract and officially joined the 49ers in week seven and has so far managed to rack up 499 receiving yards and two touchdowns--which, incidentally, puts him 375 yards and one touchdown ahead of Heyward-Bey...despite having played two fewer games.
Grade: B-


Star: Brian Johnson (PlayStation 3)
Former Utah quarterback Brian Johnson started off 2009 in fine fashion, as he led the Utes to a surprise 31-17 beatdown of the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, a game in which Johnson threw three touchdown passes. Unfortunately, that game might have been the highlight of Johnson's quarterback career. Currently a free agent, Johnson went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft and was later picked up by the New York Sentinels in the upstart United Football League, only to be released soon after.
Grade: D


Star: Brian Orakpo (PlayStation 2)
If you ask us, Orakpo should have gotten the PlayStation 3 cover. Whereas Brian Johnson currently toils in football limbo, Orakpo, the former Texas defensive player--and winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Ted Hendricks Award, and Lombardi Award--has become a force on the Washington Redskins' defensive front. Orakpo has recorded 11 sacks this year (tied for first on the team) and 46 total tackles. The Redskins' coaching staff and front office might be a mess, but with Orakpo around, the team's defensive front looks like it's in good hands for years to come.
Grade: A-


Star: Mark Sanchez (PlayStation Portable)
With former USC star Sanchez, it's a good-news, bad-news situation:
Good news: Hey Mark, you've been selected fifth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft...
Bad news:...by the New York Jets.

Good news: You are the first rookie QB to win his first three games of the NFL season...
Bad news:...but since then, the Jets are 4-7 in games you've started. And you've thrown 20 interceptions.

Good news: Hey Mark Sanchez likes hot dogs! I like hot dogs too...
Bad news:...but why is he eating one on the sidelines during a game?

Good news: Hey Mark, you're on the cover of a sports video game!
Bad news: Oh, it's the PSP version.
Grade: C


Game: NBA 2K10
Star: Kobe Bryant
While it's fine that 2K Sports snagged Kobe for NBA 2K10, let's be honest here: It's not like the guy hasn't put his face on video game covers before. Let's not forget his multiple appearances on Sony's NBA b'ball games, as well as a Nintendo hoops series that featured his name in the title. As always this time of year, it's difficult to hand out grades to NBA players when the regular season isn't even halfway done. Still, there's reason to believe that this season might be one of Bryant's strongest in years. His field goal percentage is up considerably from last season, as are his minutes played per game and points scored. And while his three-point and free-throw numbers are down, the Lakers don't seem too concerned--that five-game lead in the Pacific Division might have something to do with it.
Grade: B+


Game: NBA Live 10
Star: Dwight Howard
Last season, Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic came up short in the NBA Finals against NBA 2K10 cover star Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. This season, Howard will once again need to live up to his "Superman" nickname in order to keep his Orlando Magic ahead in the NBA's tightly contested Southeast division. The sixth-year center is currently down statistically from previous years--though he is leading the league in blocks and rebounds. If the Magic is to keep ahead of the Hawks and make a return to the finals--perhaps for a rematch against Kobe & Co.--Superman will need to rise to the occasion once again.
Grade: B+


Game: NBA 10 The Inside
Star: Brandon Roy
We're not sure what it says when you're chosen to be on the cover of a basketball game that's known more for its minigames than its actual basketball gameplay. Still, as the face of the PSP version of NBA 10 The Inside (the only version of Sony's basketball game released in 2009), Roy is a good choice--an up-and-coming player who's currently leading his Portland Trailblazers in scoring and assists. He's been elected twice to the NBA All-Star game as a reserve. Perhaps this season will be the year he actually gets to start.
Grade: B


Game: NCAA Basketball 10
Star: Blake Griffin
Boy, it must be a splash of freezing cold water to the face of a first overall pick like NCAA Basketball 10 cover star Blake Griffin: "Congratulations on all your amazing success at the collegiate level. Here's your Los Angeles Clippers uniform; go toil away in obscurity for a few years until your contract is up." It's doubly disappointing in Griffin's case--not only is he a member of the one of the NBA's worst teams, but he's also not even playing, thanks to stress fracture in his knee that's delayed his regular season debut for weeks. The kid showed some promise in preseason games, hitting nearly 57 percent of his shots, but until he's in there banging bodies with the starters, it's hard to tell how his season will go.
Grade: C-


Game: MLB 09: The Show
Star: Dustin Pedroia
The Boston Red Sox second basemen had another solid year for the BoSox, hitting .296, 15 home runs, and 72 RBIs, as well as earning a place on the 2009 AL All-Star Team (though he withdrew from the game). As impressive as those achievements are, they pale in comparison to his work as cover athlete of 2009's version of Sony's heralded baseball series--most notably Pedroia's series of self-deprecating commercials where he argued with Sony reps over whether or not he can hit the high and inside pitch. They were arguably the best sports gaming spots of the past few years.
Grade: A


Game: Major League Baseball 2K9
Star: Tim Lincecum
The simplicity of being a Major League Baseball starting pitcher really must bore MLB 2K9 cover star Tim Lincecum to no end. Ho hum, the youngest player to win the Cy Young Award winner since Dwight Gooden and Bret Saberhagen. *Yawn,* winning his second straight Cy Young in 2009. A 2.48 ERA in 2009 (a career low), 261 strikeouts, and a 15-7 record. Oh, it's so dull! The Freak, as he's known, is just getting started--here's hoping the San Francisco Giants don't decide to run him out there for all 162 games next year...though he probably wouldn't mind it.
Grade: A


Game: NHL 10
Star: Patrick Kane
Oh Patrick. We so enjoyed talking to you after you were announced as the cover star of EA Sports' NHL 10. Like so many other NHL players we've met over the years, you seemed bright, unassuming, and polite. Then to find out you were arrested after some strange dispute with a cab driver involving a paltry sum of money. C'mon Patty! You're better than that! Legal problems aside, the Chicago Blackhawks' right winger has amassed some impressive stats: 10 goals, 24 assists, and 34 points in 34 games so far this season. With the Hawks currently atop the Western Conference's Central Division, Chicago fans will look for Kane to keep that momentum going--and stay out of cabs for the rest of the season.
Grade: B


Game: NHL 2K10
Star: Alexander Ovechkin
2K Sports fully immersed itself in its decision to put Alexander Ovechkin on the cover of NHL 2K10. 2K brought him out to Las Vegas and recorded a mo-cap session with Ovechkin--and a host of media--on synthetic ice...outside...in the middle of June. They also made a point of getting stumble shots, including an approximation of Ovechkin's unforgettable on-his-back goal against the Phoenix Coyotes, into the game. Unfortunately, all of that marketing muscle didn't equate to a successful product with this year's NHL 2K game. The game struggled critically and commercially, and as a result, 2K might be benching the NHL 2K series permanently, giving Ovechkin--who's currently second overall in goals scored in the NHL--the dubious honor of being the series' last cover star.
Grade: B+


Game: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
Star: Tiger Woods
If that day-after-Thanksgiving car accident had never happened, the life of the world's best golfer would be much different than it is today. Unfortunately for him, that car accident and the tawdry reverberations that continue to ring in the weeks since have become arguably the biggest sports story of the year. Despite Tiger's shattered image as a wholesome advertising-friendly money machine, his golf record remains unimpeachable. After coming off of surgery that shortened his 2008 PGA campaign, Tiger returned to golf this year, managed to win six events, and came within three strokes of winning his 15th Major at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.

Despite his personal failings--and his leave of absence that puts his PGA career (as well as his future on the cover of EA Sports' golf series) in question--should Tiger decide to take up the sticks again in 2010, there's no reason to think his success won't continue.
Grade: B (professionally), F (personally)


Game: Fight Night Round 4
Star: Muhammad Ali & Mike Tyson
It's tough to judge the year for fighters who are long since retired, so we'll keep grades out of this particular entry.


Game: Grand Slam Tennis
Star: John McEnroe
We love Johnny Mac and would love to give him an "A" for his cameo appearances on 30 Rock but like Ali and Tyson, the guy is retired, so we'll reserve our grade for the active players on the Grand Slam cover.

Star: Roger Federer
There's little doubt that Federer is a legend-in-the-making and one of tennis' all-time greats. And despite 13 Grand Slam wins before this year, Federer still found a way to make 2009 a banner year by doing something he had never done before: winning the French Open. The only Grand Slam event missing from his pristine resume, Federer defeated Robin Soderling. Ironically, Soderling paved the way for Federer's first French title in more than one way--the Swede managed to beat French Open master Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the championship, which was something Roger himself couldn't do in the previous three French Opens where he finished as the runner-up. A sixth Wimbledon title in a hard-fought championship match against Andy Roddick proved that Federer might be aging a bit, but he's still got it when it counts.
Grade: A

Star: Serena Williams
What's not to love about Serena Williams? She's a legendary tennis player, has a terrific fashion sense, and, along with sister Venus, is part-owner of the Miami Dolphins. She also managed to win five Grand Slam events in 2009: two singles (the Australian and Wimbledon) and three doubles (the Australian, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open). Sure, she verbally abused a lineswoman after a controversial call at this year's U.S. Open--and was subsequently fined $175,000 for her outburst--but that just shows she cares. Right?
Grade: B-


Game: UFC 2009 Undisputed
Star: Forrest Griffin
In the octagon, UFC 2009 Undisputed cover man Forrest Griffin had an up-and-down year: First, he was utterly humiliated against Anderson Silva at UFC 101, which Silva won in dominating fashion with a first-round knockout. At UFC 106, Grffin won a split decision against Tito Ortiz, bringing his overall MMA record to 17-6. Things were better for Forrest outside the ring in 2009, which saw him release a book called Got Fight?: The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat. Included here is an excerpt, written by a friend named Big John:

"That's why [Forrest's] been so successful--he can take himself mentally and spiritually to a place where everything is bathed in blood and devilish creatures feed on the limbs of babies."

Yes, Forrest has struggled professionally this year, but based solely on the above sentence, I'm going to forgo my usual judgment and award Forrest with a...
Grade: A+++ (We cool, right Forrest? We cool? Please?)

So how do you rate this year's class of cover athletes? Let us know in the comments below.

Discussion

68 comments
EmeraldViper
EmeraldViper

adompe This is probably due to the fact that this was an American article(By American Writer I mean) and no offense to the rest of the world but Soccer SUCKS in America. Its way behind Baseball, Football, Hockey, Basketball, College Sports, NASCAR, MMA, Wrestling, Golfing, Lacrosse(Spl?), hmmm sure theres more... Its just not popular in US as the rest of sports, may change in the future, but I extremely doubt it.

thorughfire
thorughfire

The Jets have the best rushing team and the best defense in the NFL.The only struggle because they lack quality WR (only 2 good ones and a good tight end).Also they dominated the Bengals and got in the playoffs. @ abosh1 FIFA maybe the most popular sporting game on the other side of the world,not in the US my friend.Here its Football,Basketball,Pro Wrestling,and the UFC.

abosh1
abosh1

um, Fifa is like the most popular sporting game in the world, and it got left out.... right.........

GimpYou
GimpYou

Mitten123: Nobody really cares about soccer, its all about Football here ThronedFlame21: Jets arent going anywhere in playoffs dude, they had the rely on other teams to win/lose to get in.... Sanchez threw 20 interceptions, 8 more than he got TDs.... Besides, you dont want them to play in the SuperBowl against the Cowboys, they'll get emberrased

ThronedFlame21
ThronedFlame21

uh oh. the bashing of the jets was a little premature.

Mitten123
Mitten123

This is clearly done by the US guys...and footy isnt exactly big there (although the fact it won sports game of the year here you would have thought it may have featured)...but just for completeness...Rooneys having a storming season...Walcotts been injured...Lampards stopped scoring but Chelsea keep winning... PES - Messi won best player in the world...and Barca won 6/6 trophies...so e's not doing too bad (!)

PlayNice951
PlayNice951

@kazman 2 : dont get ur panties in a bunch, he was on the cover of mvp baseball 04

Gangstah-Fresh
Gangstah-Fresh

I got St. Pierre on the cover of my copy of UFC undisputed... WTH is this? WHere is his A rating and why is he not mentioned?

rangeraa
rangeraa

since my original message was modded(I guess gamespot can't take criticism) I will repost....THIS GUY DOESN'T KNOW SPORTS! The whole point of the madden curse and things of that nature is that guys get injured and can't play to their potential...So how the HECK can you give Polamalu a good rating? he's been injured almost the whole season. You give Forrest an A++++ even though the last time I saw him he got beat BAD! I could go on and on and argue every single point made..but that would be pointless as this post will be modded again in a day or so...

Kazman2
Kazman2

How many more years in a row must Albert Pujols, one of the best baseball players to ever live, hit over .300, 30+ HR's, and 100+ RBI's in order to be a cover athlete on a baseball game!? I promise you no cover athlete has done that ONCE. Albert has done it 9 TIMEs.

213mug
213mug

I would Comment on your Serena Willams and Roger Feder ratings but I think you got the point

213mug
213mug

I would just like to point out the you gave Brian Orakpo a (A-) and Troy Polamalu a (B)?!?!? Does Brian Orakpo make his team win in the line up? Here let me answer that for you NO!!! The Redskins still suck to back that up there record 4-11. Not a Pittsburgh fan by the way I KNOW FACTS.

213mug
213mug

Next Golf, yeah I went there Golf. TIGER WOODS gets a (B)???? He only dominates Golf, the reason we pay attention to it. I mean Would you give Micheal Jordan a (B) and give Sam Bowie a (A+++). Just wondering how you truly get your ratings? Ok Tiger cheated, So did Bill Clinton, Kobe Bryant, oh yeah and Micheal Jordan, guess what there HUMAN...not a Immortal with superpowers or Some know it all Mr. Perfect...just HUMAN which entitles you to make mistakes...sorry to disappoint.

213mug
213mug

Last but not least from your own words and I Quote:" Still, there's reason to believe that this season might be one of Bryant's strongest in years. His field goal percentage is up considerably from last season, as are his minutes played per game and points scored". Let me also put on record Kobe three points percentage might be down but he shot 5 game winning buzz beaters all from behind the arch? Yet Kobe gets a (B+) and Brandon Roy get a (B)...so know Brandon Roy is on the same level as KOBE BRYANT who is a 4x Champion, 11x All-Star, 7x All-Defensive Team, 7x All-NBA Team, 3x All-Star MVP, 2x Scoring Champion, 1x Slam Dunk Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 1x NBA Finals MVP, oh yeah 1x Olympic Gold Medalist. NO I am not a Lakers fan I KNOW FACTS. GAMESPOT this is the best you can do?

Kazman2
Kazman2

2K Sports are idiots... Why put Evan Longoria on the 2k10 cover? Hello? PUJOLS!? Also they make the worst games on the planet.

HershalCrusto
HershalCrusto

thank you rangeraa, what is this guy talking about.

rangeraa
rangeraa

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

honkeytot
honkeytot

Kobe wins a ring..comes back and is playing some of the best ball of his LIFE..leading his team to the best record in the NBA...and you give him a B+?? if that's not worthy of an A+ nothing is.

Incrediblyreal1
Incrediblyreal1

Forrest Griffin a A++? He's fallen off of top LHW's in the UFC. Is this because he beat Tito? Give me a break.

ironmics
ironmics

Madden put two people on the cover so they have a better chance of one of them not being cursed right? I don't know how Polamalu deserves a B when he's only played 2 full games right? He's probably my favorite player in the NFL, so there's no bias, but an injured season doesn't deserve a good grade.

dalejrgamer
dalejrgamer

"one more thing I want to know is WHERE IS AFL [Arena Football League] I love slaming guys into walls and jumping over walls" Last I checked, they suspended operations, and EA figured that making a game based on a sport whose operations were suspended (or most likely pulled the plug on it) is very pointless.

DNOMYTE
DNOMYTE

Pro Evo and FIFA get snuffed....typical

CyleM
CyleM

cool article

power-fantastic
power-fantastic

Orakpo made the Pro Bowl as a Rookie. Come on gamespot tweak that grade to an A+

kizaola
kizaola

i think fifa isnt on this because it has diffrent covers like the usa version has blanco lampard and some other guy and in italy it has ronaldinho and i think luca toni and in england it has roony lampard and #14 from arsenal (blanking out on names) and there are more covers so maybe thats why they didnt put it cuz please soccer is more then a sport compared to golf, golf is like sitting on a couch

burth179
burth179

Soccer "isn't even a sport", but golf is a sport PatsFan? LOL! No one follows soccer in USA UFCme? I am from the USA and follow it, so there. And is that why the USA up to this point has sold THE MOST TICKETS for the World Cup so far? And even if nobody in USA did, there are plenty of Europeans who will buy the game. You see profit can be made outside of the USA, although most Americans believe we are the only country on the face of the Earth..

UFCme
UFCme

I really agree giving ufc09 A+++

UFCme
UFCme

one more thing I want to know is WHERE IS AFL [Arena Football League] I love slaming guys into walls and jumping over walls

UFCme
UFCme

No one in america follows soccer. Why do they even make the game???

pmo5010
pmo5010

soccer does qualify as a sport...to the world: yes; to america: no (except when america actually does well in soccer then, hypocritically, its a sport)

Anthonydaking
Anthonydaking

Most played sport in the world didn't make it onto the list.....sigh.

patsfan1112
patsfan1112

soccer doesnt even qualify as being a sport

Thrice8
Thrice8

lol Pat Kane's stats literally ONE week after you wrote this column: 15 goals + 27 assists for 42 points in 38 games, cracking the Top 10 of the NHL's scoring leaders for the first time in his career. Kane was actually named the NHL's Second Star for last week (the week of this column), so I'm just going to go ahead and give him an "A" rating... As for the cabbie thing, Kane was acquitted, the accusing cabbie has a spotty history at best littered with repeated similar run-ins with customers and oddly enough, only pursued legal action AFTER he found out who Kane and his cousin were, but I don't even want to start wrapping my head around that...

jeffv541
jeffv541

I don't see what all the fuss is about, my sister invented the NFL and she hasn't run out of firewood since the 90s...

thorughfire
thorughfire

the Jets are alright.I definently see them being a huge threat in 2 - 3 years.

JDaleMoney
JDaleMoney

the jets are good so its not bad news sanchez got drafted by them, u jerks

lindseyiluvyou
lindseyiluvyou

Yea, like Lincecum deserves an A when hes on the cover of the worst baseball series out right now and then Pedroia gets an A for being on the best? Wow...