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Super Bowl 2020: Patrick Mahomes And The Madden Curse

Can you break a curse that might not exist?


The Super Bowl is coming, and this year the latest Madden cover athlete will be heading up one of the teams. Will Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes break the so-called Madden Curse? Has he broken it already?

What Is The "Madden Curse"?

Something of a superstition has been built up around Madden NFL's decades-long history. Essentially it suggests that after a player appears on the cover of Madden, he's more prone to some misfortune, be it a decline in play or even suffering a serious injury. The Madden Curse joins other great sports superstitions like the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx, which makes a similar claim about athletes who appear on the cover of the magazine.

And while it's difficult to make hard conclusions, the history of Madden athletes actually does show a lot of them coming to misfortune.

Wait, It's Actually True?

Short answer: maybe.

An analysis from GameSpot sister site CBS Sports found that roughly 15 of the cover athletes in the last 20 years had some kind of deleterious effect in the year following their Madden appearance. That certainly seems like a lot of athletes who suffered injuries or a worsening performance--or in one case, a criminal indictment.

It is difficult to draw any causal link, though. Injuries and decline in performance both happen frequently in football, so it may be happening to Madden athletes at the same rate as any other average player. At the same time, the same star status that leads players to be featured as a Madden cover athlete could itself put them in a position that makes a decline in performance or injuries more likely.

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The same analysis also suggested that to whatever extent the Madden Curse exists, it may be losing its power. Broken up by decade, CBS found that 9/10 of cover athletes from 1999-2009 were "cursed," as opposed to only 5.5 athletes from the last 10 years. If a curse ever did exist, it seems to be much less potent. In fact, not counting 2019's Antonio Brown, who is now a free agent, only a single athlete has been "cursed" in the last five years.

Still, the curse persists as a pop culture phenomenon that gets invoked whenever a Madden cover athlete rolls an ankle or suffers a decline in stats.

Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl

At one point this season, it appeared that Mahomes may be another victim of the curse. In Week 7, he suffered a dislocated knee that took him out of contention for a few weeks, and doctors suggested he dodged a bullet with an injury that could have been much worse. But he returned just a few weeks later with a fantastic personal performance despite a loss for the team.

The rest is history. Mahomes went on to lead his team to playoff victories in the Divisional round against the Texans, and then again in the AFC Championship game against the Tennessee Titans. Now he's going up against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, to take place at 6:30 PM ET on February 2.

Win or lose in the big game, having a dramatic comeback story post-injury and going on to win the AFC Championship is a huge accomplishment. He doesn't seem to have suffered from the curse, real or imagined.

For more on the Super Bowl, check out the spotty history of Madden's Super Bowl predictions, and all of the Super Bowl 2020 ads so far.

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