Sunday, November 13, 2005

SportsMatters Classic: 2nd Annual Madden Weekend Pt. I

In anticipation of the release of the XBox 360, and because Sundays on SportsMatters are a) all about football, and b) days when we usually don't post, I thought I would drop the opus that is the 2nd Annual Madden Weekend again upon the world. These posts were originally published on an old blog of mine. The post from the 1st Annual Madden Weekend can be found here.

When I was finished writing this bad-boy, I realized it was nearly 10,000 words long. As such, I decided to break it into three readable parts. I did a bunch of fancy formatting with the posts, adding captions under the pictures and creating a table in HTML. In total, it took me over 12 hours to edit, find pictures, format pictures, create a table, etc.. That doesn't even count the actual writing of the story. It was almost as exhausting as the weekend itself. I placed the posts in order so that people could read right from the beginning to the end, and I have done the same here. I am sure the posts will eat up most of the main page, which is another reason why I thought I would drop it on a Sunday. I don't want to steal space from the other writers.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed living it. Sure, Kevin didn't talk to me for a month after this, and we played our first game against each other only last Sunday, but it was all worth it. I don't think Kevin actually ever read this, so I will be interested to see what he thinks of it now. Hopefully it won't prevent us from finishing our season on the regular XBox. I would like to get it done before the 360 hits and we start a season on that (which I know we will).

Friday August 12, 2005
2:04 p.m.

Tonight is the night. Tonight, Kevin Kimmis and I embark upon the 2nd Annual Madden Weekend at Casa de la Kimmis. We will do so alone, since Alex is in Halifax and Nathan is in Calgary. A shame in one sense, because it prevents me from destroying multiple opponents. Fortunate in another, because it means that Kevin and I have uninterrupted playing time for the next three days. We might even be able to fit in a whole season in one weekend, if we skip playing the pre-season games. Thirty-two games plus playoffs should be doable over a fifty-hour period. Kevin has actually taken Monday off, so that means we can play deep into Sunday night. This is going to be awesome.

Is Someone Bringing Me Ribs?

We actually got started on Tuesday, the day that Madden 2006 was released. Kimmis pre-ordered a copy from EB Games, and it was waiting there for him when he strolled into work Tuesday morning. Because he had pre-ordered a copy, Kevin also got free access to EA Sport’s Football Fantasy League. I don’t know what that means, exactly, or how it was a selling point, but Kevin was excited about it so I pretended to be excited too. Kevin went the extra distance this year and purchased a Prima Guide to Madden 2006. I would make fun of him for this if I weren’t convinced that he bought it to get an upper hand on me this weekend. Son of a bitch. Little does he know that I have my own tricks up my sleeves.

Kevin and I met on Tuesday night, at his place, and started up the game. First we went through a preview of the most important new feature in Madden 2006: the vision cone. The basic idea behind the vision cone is that some quarterbacks see the field better than others. This wasn’t ever truly realized in previous Madden editions. Basically, you could drop back thirty yards, with your back to your receivers, and right before you are about to get sacked, spin around and just huck the ball at them. The ball would always reach the intended receiver, and more often than any sane person liked, the receiver would actually catch the ball. This was a favorite move of Kevin’s, and it drove me mad. Well, with the vision cone, this sort of thing will never happen. If you are not looking at the intended receiver, or at least in his general vicinity, the ball will go wide. Way wide. The problem with the vision cone feature is twofold: it adds an extreme amount of difficulty to passing the ball because you have to play around with a bunch of new buttons, and it makes it more likely that you will be sacked or intercepted. The reason for this is simple: you end up being so freaked out about who to pass to that you either take too long and get hammered in the backfield, or you stare at one single receiver the whole time and the defensive players notice and pick off the ball. Needless to say, the vision cone has given us all nightmares for the past three months.

After watching a video on the vision cone, Kevin and I drafted our two teams. We always do this. We pick our two favorite teams and then go through a fourty-nine round draft to pick our players. It usually takes about two hours. My goal in previous years has been to take high-ranking defensive players in the early rounds, along with a top ten receiver, and then fill out my roster with young cheap talent during the later rounds. I like having my salary around $50 million before the season starts. I don’t know why I do this, because we never play two seasons and my salary is therefore irrelevant, but I obsess over it. I think it is my attempt to be Billy Beane for a weekend.

This year, I knew things had to be different. I knew that I needed to take a good quarterback in the first few rounds. My goal was to get a quarterback, along with a really fast defensive end. I intended to use that end to wreak havoc on Kevin’s offensive line and force a ton of turnovers. I figured with the pressure of the vision cones, this would be an easy enough task. Kevin’s strategy was to draft a shutdown cornerback to prevent my always amazing and frustrating long ball game (he took Champ Bailey), a quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger, of course), and then a big offensive line. Kevin figured the smart thing to do on offence was to run the ball as much as possible, which meant he needed some big boys on the frontline.

Well, Kevin succeeded in his plan, and I did not. Old habits die hard, and I found myself drafting the way I normally would. I ended up with Joey Harrington at quarterback, along with a pretty shitty offensive line. I was sweating bullets, knowing that I was about to get my ass kicked. And that is precisely what happened. The Eagles and the Steelers played each other in the first pre-season game of the year, and that meant Kevin and I faced each other right away. To put it mildly, Kevin beat me. To put it strongly, he beat me like a rented mule. Remember Chong Li beating that monkey fighter in “Bloodsport”? Or is it Ogre from “Revenge of the Nerds” who does that? Either way, that was me. Kevin just picked me up and threw me out of the ring. It was humiliating.

You Break My Record, Now I Break You, Like I Break Your Friend.

Kevin beat me again with his Steelers in pre-season week two. I wasn’t playing with my own team, but the loss still rankled me. I didn’t want to be his whipping post for the entire season. So I did what any good GM would do when the realize that they have Joey Heisman as their QB (Hello Matt Millen? Oh yeah, I qualified that with “good” GM): I tried to make a trade. I ended up finding a good one, with me trading Reggie Wayne, Antonio Gates and Joey “I somehow lost my vision cone on route from the NCAA to the NFL” Harrington for Jake “The Man” Delhomme, Chris “I Wash My Hair With Mineral Water” Samuels and a 1st Round Draft pick. I was ecstatic, because I would get a decent quarterback, an over ninety rated offensive lineman (players are ranked out of one hundred) and a first round pick for a crappy quarterback and two players I could afford to lose. I already had Todd Heap and Anquan Boldin, so Wayne and Gates were expendable. The only problem is that I couldn’t make the trade. I tried, but the game wouldn’t let me. Apparently, you can’t make trades during the middle of a week. I had to play my game, and the rest of the teams had to play their games, before I could pull off the trade.

Cue ominous music here.

So what happened next? I played my game, annihilating Kevin with a strategy of blitzing him on almost every single play. Kevin likes to run a lot of play action, which gives me time to get to him. And I certainly did that. My Eagle defence looked like the Buddy Ryan Gang Green defence of the 90’s. I was just waiting for people to be carried off on a stretcher. We simulated the rest of the games for that week, and then I went back to pull off my trade. But guess what? Jake Delhomme was hurt, out for seven weeks. Since the computer won’t let you pull off trades when players are hurt (which I think is bullshit), I was stuck with Harrington. I almost started crying. I found other deals, but none of them were as sweet as that one. I couldn’t pull the trigger, and that was how the night ended. Kevin was passed out on the couch, and I left in a rage of fury. As I left, Kevin kindly offered to do the draft over again tonight, which I think I will take him up on. Maybe it is a weak way out of things, but I don’t care. As far as I am concerned, everything before tonight is practice, and doesn’t really count. And I really want to hammer Kimmis. All is fair in love and Madden, right?

Wednesday morning I woke up with an insatiable need to play Madden. I hadn’t bought the game yet, mostly because I don’t really enjoy playing it by myself at home. This year, however, I wanted it as a training tool, not as a real game. So I traded in some of my old games and picked up Madden 2006 for about $25. I knew that Kevin was busy Wednesday and Thursday night, so I wanted to get the upper hand by practicing with the game while he was running around after a Frisbee and his mother.

There is a book called Committed: Confessions of a Football Junkie, about a guy who quits his job at an advertising firm to focus on his fantasy football league. It is a true story. The guy who wrote the book, Mark St. Amant is the guy who did it (so I guess he quit his job to play fantasy football and to write a book about quitting his job to play fantasy football). Many people, mostly of the female variety I would assume, would call this crazy. Personally, I think the guy is a genius, an inspiration, the living embodiment of the maxim “Carpe Diem.” Anyways, I am sure that Amant, when he quit his job, felt like he was pulling a fast one on his buddies. They would all be sitting around at their meaningless jobs all day while he was doing what they all really wanted to be doing. Well, that is how I have felt for the past two days. While Kimmis has been working, playing Ultimate and having dinner with his mom, I have been practicing Madden 2006. Even better, I have been jotting down notes so that I could write about practicing Madden 2006 while Kevin has been busy. Sure, I have done some other work, but I have been completely justified in playing a video game for four or five hours a day for the past two days. It's research, don’t you know?

First off, I drafted a team. This time, though, I tried to follow my original strategy. I also tried to incorporate some of the things Kevin attempted to do in his draft (imitation is the best form of flattery). I went back and forth between offence and defence, for the most part, which gave me a really balanced team. My running game was strong, my offensive line was huge, and I still had good cornerbacks and defensive ends that could do some damage. Plus, I drafted a quarterback in the first round, to ensure that I didn’t get stuck with a quarterback with low awareness and a vision cone the size of a needle. Then I practiced playing with the vision cone. I did a quarterback drill for about half an hour, getting used to the demands of the vision cone. It was a really good experience, as I was able to get over my fear of the cone (now there’s something I never thought I would say) and feel comfortable in playing a real game. That is what I did next. I started playing my season (I skipped the preseason), building up huge leads through my running game and defence, and then just practicing throwing. I finished five games, and am now very comfortable with the vision cone. My only concern is that I have been playing on a Game Cube, and will now have to move to the Xbox system. The controllers on the Xbox are much more sensitive, and I am a little nervous that it will affect my game. I also got very good at blitzing the quarterback, so much so that I am averaging about eight sacks and three interceptions a game. Every game I pretend I am Buddy Ryan putting a hit out on Troy Aikman. The one thing I do love about the vision cones is the increase in interceptions. In old Madden games, it was very hard to pick a guy off, even if your defender was the only guy near the ball. It would just hit his hands and fall to the ground. Now, the defenders are intelligent, and their hands aren’t bricks, so you can pull off some pretty spectacular snags.

After I finished my fifth game last night, I engaged in some devious activities. Well, I would call it smart, but others (i.e. Kevin) might disagree. I saved my current franchise, and then drafted a new team. I did so, however, in order to determine what round I should take players in. Having played enough Madden, and drafted enough teams, I came to realize over the years that certain positions are drafted at a higher level than other positions. For example, tight ends and kickers are never drafted in the first five or six rounds. Defensive ends, quarterbacks and offensive lineman (besides centres) are. It might be a glitch in the game, but more likely it matches what happens in real NFL drafts, and indeed any major sports draft. It is all about position scarcity and value, regardless of the sport, although I don’t really understand why goalies aren’t drafted earlier in hockey. My buddy Tumnus and I have long planned on breaking down hockey like Bill James and other sabermetricians have done with baseball, but I am digressing here. The long and short of it was I wanted to know exactly how long I could wait to draft certain positions at certain values. I didn’t have the rounds down to a science, and I figured I should. I spent the next two hours playing around teams, drafting and redrafting to find the perfect combination of players.

It worked like a charm. I only figured it out for the first thirty rounds, but I still came up with a drafting system that met my particular needs. I can’t wait to try it out tonight. Kimmis is going to know something weird is going on, because I will be able to draft players with alarming speed. I wonder if my confidence in drafting will cause him to model me? Probably.

I am tempted to show people my draft order, as I am quite proud of it. Should I do so? I think I will wait and see. Why should I level the playing field? Isn’t it enough that I have told people about this strategy? Shouldn’t they figure it out for themselves?

Friday August 12, 2005
3:30 p.m.

For the diehards, here are a sampling of reviews and articles about Madden 2006.


Here also is a Madden Fantasy League that I stumbled upon. These guys know what they are doing, even down to the sound file of “Thunderstruck” at the bottom. I wish we had enough Madden fanatics here in the city to do this. It takes fantasy football to a whole new level. What would be awesome is if each guy’s team had the exact same players that as in his rotisserie league. That way, even if you lost in one league, you could avenge yourself in another.

Does Any Game Compare To The Glory And Majesty Of Tecmo Bowl?

Friday August 12, 2005
7:39 p.m.

Kevin and I have just loaded up on essential goods. We are going to eat supper, and then start drafting. I realize now that without Alex here it is going to be hard for me to write as much as I want. Having three people playing means that someone is always taking a break, which allows for writing time. Kevin and I are committed to finishing a whole season this weekend, so my writing may be sparse. I may just have to take notes and then write it all at a later point.

For the record, our stock of goods were as follows:

Four bags of chips
Two bulk bags of lime tortillas
10 litres of pop
Four litres of orange juice (for the gin)
Two litres of Koala juice (again, for the gin)
Six pack of Low Carb beer
Two import cherry weird beers
Two packs of Djarums
Two 26’s of Gin (one Bombay, one Tanqueray)
Three loose beers
Two Quiznos subs

And a Pomegranate juice for Kevin. Just to stay healthy, you know.

Saturday August 13, 2005
12:42 a.m.

Before we started playing tonight, Kevin and I were watching the Rams play the Bears on WGN. During a break, I saw one of the weirdest commercials I have ever seen. It was for AM/PM, some American fast food joint I have never even heard of. The focus of the commercial was on the ability of the consumer to buy a three pack of food for $1.99. You have four choices--hamburger, hotdog, nachos, and corndog--and you can make a combo of any three for $1.99. I just looked at the television, completely stunned. I mean, I know what we bought to eat tonight, but this was a special occasion. Wow.

I have just taken a break to write this, and Kevin is scrambling to practice his throwing. Want to know why? Because I have beaten him in three straight games tonight, and have been throwing like John Elway. My draft strategy worked, and I got a player in every round, at every single value, that I wanted. Kevin picked up one player that I wanted, but it didn’t matter. I just picked up another guy with essentially the same stats.

I can’t decide whether I should stop writing and get back to the game, just to prevent Kevin from catching up to me. I love hoarding my advantage over him.

We played one preseason game, with my Eagles versus his Steelers. I annihilated him. He didn’t get a single point in the first half with his first team offence. He only racked up points in the second half once I had my second-string defence in. It was impressive, though. He ran for over three hundred yards with his backup running back, Jesse Chatman. It should be noted that I ran for over two hundred yards in the second half with my backup running back, Eric Shelton. Just a comparison, is all. I don’t want to make my defence look too porous.

We then advanced to the regular season, simulating the final three preseason games. In week one of the regular season, the Steelers played the Titans. I had Sean King as my starting quarterback, which sucked, but I also had Clinton Portis and an amazing offensive line. I played Kevin’s game, running the ball constantly and killing the clock. I killed almost the entire third quarter with one touchdown drive. I held a lead of 13-10 into the fourth quarter, and just shut Kevin down. With less than a minute left, with Kevin without any timeouts, Portis fumbled the ball. I was livid. I should have just knelt and killed the clock, but I didn’t want to pull an Abboud, who is a notorious kneeler (zing!). I ended up picking off Kimmis, and winning the game, but it was close. That is such a Kimmis thing, for me to fumble the ball in the last minute. Kimmis always seems to get breaks like that. It is uncanny. The only difference is that he wasn’t playing Abboud. If he had been playing Abboud, he would have gotten the fumble and then scored with a seventy yard Flutie on fourth down, with no time left on the clock. Then Abboud would have screamed at the television and attacked Kimmis with a molaram. I can practically hear him fuming, like music in my ears. And the smoking and drinking that would have followed? Oh, it breaks my heart to know that I won’t see Abboud snap this weekend.

We just finished week one, with my Eagles defeating the Falcons. I scored over sixty points, but Kimmis racked up thirty-four himself. Damn Plaxico Burress. Kimmis is still awkward with the vision cone, but he was connecting with Burress all over the place during this game. Kevin has also been picking up my blitzes by leaving one or even two backs in the backfield to protect the quarterback. It is infuriating, even though I am still getting my sacks. “The Freak,” Jevon Kearse, picked up four in the last game alone. Not many interceptions so far, though, which is weird. When Kevin and I played earlier in the week, and when I played by myself (tee hee), it seemed like there were a lot of picks.

My new psychological tactic is to yell Chappelle Show aphorisms at Kevin on a constant basis. My favorite is “BANG BANG,” but I also like “Purrrrrrrr,” “They Callin’ Me” and “FUCK MY COUCH!”

Yes I am drunk. So is Kevin. It is glorious.

***Note*** It kills me how laborious it was to write sixteen hundred words a day for the novel I wrote this summer, considering I just fired off seven hundred and fifty words in about twenty minutes. Fucking book. I wonder what my fellow novelists Danny and Tim are doing right now? High as a kite, I bet.

Saturday August 13, 2005
1:54 a.m.

I just hammered Kimmis again, and he has threatened to kill me. In fact, he has threatened to kill me in a very specific manner. It involves a whetstone, knife, and an army hat, along with scenes of nudity. I best leave it unsaid.

I swear to God that wide receiver Terry Glenn has a conk. Didn’t that hairstyle go out in the 1950’s with the Zoot Suit? I keep waiting for his picture to start singing “Minnie the Moocher” to me. Brother has got some Cab Calloway/Detroit Red going on.


Saturday August 13, 2005
2:45 a.m.

Yup, same result, same sour Kimmis. During this game Kev told me not to talk to him. This shouldn’t be hard to do, since the guy turns into a mute when he plays video games. He makes Jodie Foster in “Nell” look literate. Chicka, chicka, chickabee. Kimmis t'ee an me an t'ee an me. Kev is so miserable that he is playing goal line defence against me in the third quarter, when I am on the fifty yard line. It is a classic mental breakdown move, a universal sign that a guy just doesn’t give a fuck. It almost breaks my heart. Almost.

That makes five victories in a row over Kimmis, one in pre-season, and four straight in the regular. If this keeps up it could go down as the greatest weekend in Madden history. I would be like the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Maybe EA Sports could fly me in to watch contests where other guys are going for perfect seasons and I could get smashed off of champagne and yell at them when they failed, just like the Dolphins?

By the way, I do recognize that I have jinxed myself by saying this. I told Kevin at the end of this last game that I was going to start letting him win on purpose. Kevin freaked, because even if I was joking, he will never really know. Since I would never actually lose on purpose, I have done the next worst thing, which is brag openly about having a perfect season. There is no way the football gods will allow this to stand.

Saturday August 13. 2005
3:43 a.m.

Bingo. Kimmis has just beaten me for the first time. And I really pissed off the Gods. They gave Kevin Brett Favre and Curtis Martin to beat me with. I was lost out there. Favre’s cone is immense (this all sounds so filthy) and “My Favorite Martin” breaks tackles like Paul Martin breaks promises: relentlessly. Plus, Kimmis got two cheap turnovers from me, whereas I got none. I even had wide-open looks at interceptions, twice, and the defender just let the ball bounce off his hands. I need to make amends quick here. I was enjoying winning and barking at Kevin. Losing sucks. I will play one more game and then call it quits for the night. Ebb the flow of football karma, as it were.

Saturday August 13, 2005
4:49 a.m.

Kimmis beat me again, and I really pissed some deities off. I got stuck with the worst receivers and quarterbacks in this game. One of those quarterbacks is Ben Roethlisberger. This guy is awful. I had hoped in my heart that he would end up being the second coming of Todd Marinovich (except Big Ben would have at least one good season), and now I am sure of it. If I was a Steelers fan, I would be horrified about the upcoming season. This guy makes Kordell Stewart look like Johnny Unitas.

I am a little pissed off when I look at the rest of the teams we play against for the season. Kimmis gets all these good teams with great offensive players to play against me with, like Peyton Manning and LaDanian Tomlinson. I get to play Kevin with duds like Joey Harrington and the backup to Patrick Ramsey, who is hurt. I don’t even know the guy’s name, but I know if he is the backup to Patrick Ramsey I am in for a load of trouble.

Man I want to beat Kevin bad now. I want that fucker to have the Peyton Manning Face all weekend.

Wait for it. Here it comes.

Throw an interception.

Confused hands in the air.

Head down. Pulling off the chinstrap. Slow head shake. Hands in pocket.

Jot to the sideline. Pulling off of helmet. Pursing of lips. Pause. Repeat headshake.

Move to the bench to receive feedback from upstairs. Stare listlessly at the scoreboard.

That is my goal for Kimmis.

Ooh, I see that I get to play with Ray Lewis. I am going to blitz Kevin all day with Ray Ray, and just yell “NOT IN MY HOUSE, SON. NOT TODAY!” at him over and over again until he cries.

That is six games down, twenty-six and playoffs to go. I wonder if we can get fourteen games in tomorrow?


Post a Comment

<< Home