Monday, August 21, 2006

Is There A Sports Cover Curse?

Congratulations! Your Dimaggio-like streak for saying nothing even remotely interesting is still alive and well!
--Dr. Perry Cox


Premise: Forget the Sports Illustrated curse, and don't just look at the Madden curse. This analysis will look at the performance of professional sports teams in the year in which a member of their roster graces a video game cover. The focus will be on only EA Sports Games.

Hypothesis: Taking a totally uneducated guess, at a point where I haven’t done any research and am postulating an idea simply by recalling past EA games, I am going to go out on a limb and hypothesize that 85% of teams who had a player from their roster appear on a EA Sports game did not win the championship that year. If true, that is the REAL sports cover curse.

Further Analysis: I will also look at injury time and playoff records, as well as any other interesting findings.

Methods of Research: Internet articles, reference pages, and a Wikipedia database of sports video games.

Sources:
EA Sports, Wikipedia
Madden Series, Wikipedia
NHL Series, Wikipedia
NBA Series, Wikipedia
Triple Play Series, Wikipedia
MVP Baseball Series, Wikipedia
Pro Football Reference
Hockey DB
Basketball Reference
Baseball Reference

Period of Study: I will look back seven years, to 2000, since that is when Madden stopped appearing on the cover of his game.

Games: Madden NFL Series, NHL Series, NBA Live Series, MLB Series

Importance/Relevance: None, whatsoever.



NFL

Madden 2000
Athlete: Barry Sanders
Team Season (1999): 8-8
Playoff Record: Loss in NFC Wildcard game
Year Before: 5-11, failed to make playoffs
Player Injury: None
Other Findings: Appearing with Madden on the cover, Sanders retired a week before the NFL season began.

Madden 2001
Athlete: Eddie George
Team Season (2000): 13-3
Playoff Record: Loss in AFC Divisional game
Year Before: 13-3, loss in Superbowl
Player Injury: None
Other Findings: Fumbled a ball in a AFC Divisional that was picked up by Ray Lewis and returned for a touchdown. Injured in 2001, his career was essentially over.

Madden 2002
Athlete: Daunte Culpepper
Team Season (2001): 5-11
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 11-5, loss in NFC Championship game
Player Injury: Played in 11 games, before getting hurt and having season ending knee-surgery.
Other Findings:Head coach Dennis Green lost his job after the fifthteenth game of the season. The Vikings haven't won ten games in a season since.

Madden 2003
Athlete: Marshall Faulk
Team Season (2002): 7-9
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 14-2, loss in Superbowl
Player Injury: In 2003, Faulk missed 6 games with an injured ankle.
Other Findings: After rushing for over 1000 yards in seven of his first eight years, Faulk never reached the mark again. As well, he never caught more than 50 passes a season again, despite catching over 80 a year in the previous five seasons.

Madden 2004
Athlete: Michael Vick
Team Season (2003): 5-11
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 9-6, loss in NFC Divisional game
Player Injury: Suffered a fractured right fibula in a pre-season game, only played five games all year.
Other Findings: Bill Simmons hailed Vick as the greatest video game atleter of all time, over such lauded company as Bo Jackson (Tecmo Bowl) and Jeremy Roenick (NHL 94).

Madden 2005
Athlete: Ray Lewis
Team Season (2004): 9-7
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 10-6, loss in AFC Wildcard game
Player Injury: Missed one game, the last game of the regular season.
Other Findings: The team won the game, but missed the playoffs. It was the first season in which Lewis didn’t make an interception.

Madden 2006
Athlete: Donovan McNabb
Team Season (2005): 6-10
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 13-3, loss in Superbowl
Player Injury: Suffered a “sports hernia” in the first game of the regular season, which made McNabb miss seven games of the regular season, as well as practically useless in the games he did play in.
Other Findings: It was the first time the Eagles hadn't won at least eleven games in a season since 1999.

Madden 2007
Athlete: Shaun Alexander
Team Season (2006): ???
Playoff Record: ???
Year Before: 13-3, loss in Superbowl
Player Injury: ???
Other Findings: Missed 2005 Pro Bowl due to right sprained foot. Will it continue to nag him throughout the season?


NHL

NHL 2000
Athlete: Chris Pronger
Team Season (1999): 51-19-11-1
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before: 37-32-13-0, loss in Rnd. 2
Player Injury: Missed a few games.
Other Findings: Won the Norris and Hart trophy that year. Missed 31 games in 2000, and will have to pay a karmic price for his abandonment of the Oilers sooner or later.

NHL 2001
Athlete: Owen Nolan
Team Season (2000): 40-27-12-3
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before: 35 -30-10-7, loss in Rnd. 2
Player Injury: Missed 25 games.
Other Findings: How the hell Owen Nolan ever got on the cover is beyond me. His career statistics aren't exactly impressive.

NHL 2002
Athlete: Mario Lemieux
Team Season (2001): 28-41-8-5
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 42-28-9-3, loss in Rnd. 3
Player Injury: Played only 24 games.
Other Findings: He did lead Team Canada to a gold medal at the Olympics that year. And you can't blame the game for his injuries.

NHL 2003
Athlete: Jarome Iginla
Team Season (2002): 29-36-13-4
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 32-35-12-3, failed to make playoffs
Player Injury: Missed a few games.
Other Findings: Went to the Stanley Cup Finals the next year. Not surprisingly, they lost.

NHL 2004
Athlete: Joe Thornton/Dany Heatley/Joe Sakic
Team Season (2003): 40-22-13-7
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 2
Year Before: 42 -19-13-8, loss in Rnd. 1
Player Injury: None
Other Findings: My favorite of all the covers. Thornton was the original cover boy, but was taken off after being charged with aggravated assault. Heatley was next, but was taken off after the car crash that killed Dan Snyder. Some of the Heatley units had already been shipped before they could replace him with Sakic, however, and are floating around. I believe it is the copy I owned. I'm kicking myself now for trading it in.

NHL 2005
Athlete: Markus Naslund
Team Season (2004): NA
Playoff Record: NA
Year Before: 43 -24-10-5, loss in Rnd. 1
Player Injury: NA
Other Findings: Naslund caused the whole NHL season to be cancelled.

NHL 2006
Athlete: Vincent Lecavalier
Team Season (2005):43-33-0-2-4
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before (2003): 46-22-8-6, Stanley Cup Champions
Player Injury: None
Other Findings: The PS2 version allowed you to play NHL 94. It looked the same as the original game, and had the Jets and Nordiques in it. The city of Hartford still refuses to allow anyone to use the Whalers name, logo, or jersey, so they were called the "Hartford Cranes."

NHL 2007
Athlete: Alexander Ovechkin
Team Season (2006): ???
Playoff Record: ???
Year Before: 29 -41-0-6-6, failed to make playoffs
Player Injury: ???
Other Findings: At age 17, joined Vladislav Tretiak as the youngest player ever selected to play on the Russian National Team.


NBA

NBA 2000
Athlete: Tim Duncan
Team Season (1999): 53-29
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before: 37-13, NBA Champions
Player Injury: Missed a few games.
Other Findings: Loves to play Dungeons & Dragons, and has as such earned the nickname "Merlin."

NBA 2001
Athlete: Kevin Garnett
Team Season (2000): 47-35
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before: 50-32, loss in Rnd. 1
Player Injury: None
Other Findings: Has his own blog.

NBA 2002
Athlete: Steve Francis
Team Season (2001): 28-54
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 45-37, failed to make playoffs
Player Injury: Missed 25 games.
Other Findings: He's been almost perfectly healthy every other year of his career. And a team-killer.

NBA 2003
Athlete: Jason Kidd
Team Season (2002): 49-33
Playoff Record: Lost in NBA Finals
Year Before: 52-30, lost in NBA Finals
Player Injury: None
Other Findings: McDonalds created a burger with three patties and two slices of cheese called the "Jason Kidd Burger" that was to be sold in stores in Phoenix. Get it? It was a triple-double burger.

NBA 2004
Athlete: Vince Carter
Team Season (2003): 33-49
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 24-58, failed to make playoffs
Player Injury: Missed a few games.
Other Findings: Wow. He actually made it through a season. I bet there was a ton of limping and grimacing throughout the year, though.

NBA 2005
Athlete: Carmelo Anthony
Team Season (2004): 49-33
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before: 43-39, loss in Rnd. 1
Player Injury: Missed a few games.
Other Findings: He was charged for possession of marijuana that year.

NBA 2006
Athlete: Dwyane Wade
Team Season (2005): 52-30
Playoff Record: NBA Champions
Year Before: 59-23, loss in NBA Finals
Player Injury: Missed a few games.
Other Findings: Won the 2006 PlayStation Skills Challenge, beating LeBron James. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with actually beating James at PS2.

NBA 2007
Athlete: Tracy McGrady
Team Season (2006): ???
Playoff Record: ???
Year Before:
Player Injury: ???
Other Findings: The Raptors 9th Overall pick in the 1997 draft was to be traded to the Bulls for Scottie Pippen. The Bulls wanted to draft McGrady. The deal fell apart when Michael Jordan told the Bulls he would retire if Pippen was traded.


MLB

Triple Play 1999
Athlete: Alex Rodriguez
Team Season (1999): 79-83
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 76-85, failed to make playoffs
Player Injury: Missed 33 games.
Other Findings: A year later, without Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr., the Mariners won 91 games, and A-Rod actually hit well against the Yankees in the playoffs (2HR, 5RBI, 3BB, .409/.480/.773 in sixgames). In 2001, with A-Rod gone to the Rangers, the Mariners won 116 games, tying the 1906 White Sox for the most games won in a single season.

Triple Play 2000
Athlete: Sammy Sosa
Team Season (2000): 65-97
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 67-95, failed to make playoffs
Player Injury: None
Other Findings: Won the Home Run Derby in 2000, with 26 dingers. It is the 3rd highest total in Home Run Derby history. Also hit 50 homers during the season, to go with 138 RBI, 91 BB, 168 SO, a .320 BA, .406 OBP, and .634 SLG.

Triple Play 2001
Athlete: Mike Piazza
Team Season (2001): 82-80
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs
Year Before: 94-68, loss in World Series
Player Injury: Missed 21 games.
Other Findings: His salary dropped from $16 million in 2005 to $1.25 million in 2006.

Triple Play 2002
Athlete: Luis Gonzalez
Team Season (2002): 98-64
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before: 92-70, Word Series Champions
Player Injury: Missed 14 games.
Other Findings: In 2002, Gonzo hit 28 homeruns, just under half of what he hit the year before (57). In fact, he only hit over 30 homeruns one other time in his career (2000).

MVP Baseball 2003
Athlete: Randy Johnson/Miguel Tejada
Team Season (2003): 84-78/96-66
Playoff Record: Failed to make playoffs/ Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before: 98-64, loss in Rnd. 1/103-59, loss in Rnd. 1
Player Injury: Only pitched 18 games/None
Other Findings: From 1990-2006, Johnson has won more than ten games in every season except for two. 2003 was one of them. His record was 6-8, with a 4.26 ERA./ Tejada was the American League MVP in 2002, but followed up in 2003 by hitting under .200 for the first month of the season. He recovered, but the A's still couldn't advance past the first round of the playoffs.

MVP Baseball 2004
Athlete: Albert Pujols
Team Season (2004): 105-57
Playoff Record: Loss in World Series
Year Before: 85-77, failed to make playoffs
Player Injury: Missed a few games.
Other Findings: Despite dealing with plantar fasciitis, Pujols had an amazing season: .331/.415/.657 with 46 home runs and 123 RBI. Too bad they got swept by the glorious Red Sox in the World Series.

MVP Baseball 2005
Athlete: Manny Ramirez
Team Season (2005): 95-67
Playoff Record: Loss in Rnd. 1
Year Before: 98-64, World Series Champions
Player Injury: Missed a few games.
Other Findings: One of the greatest hitters in the history of the game, Manny was--again-- almost traded in 2005. It didn't happen--again--and Manny keeps on driving in the runs. He reached the 100 RBI plateau on Sunday night, for the 13th time in 15 years. Babe Ruth reached 100 RBI 13 times in his career, as did Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. Hank Aaron achieved the mark 11 times, Musial 10, Cobb 7, Murray 6, Mays 10, Anson 7, Ott 9, and Barry Bonds 12. Of the top ten RBI men of all-time, only Gehrig has been more efficient. He drove in 100+ RBI's for 13 straight seasons, before being forced to prematurely retire in 1939.

MLB Baseball 2k6
Athlete (2006): Derek Jeter
Team Season: Currently 74-48, 5.5 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East.
Playoff Record: I hope they burn in hell.
Year Before: 95-67, loss in Rnd. 1
Player Injury: Nothing yet, but my fingers are crossed.
Other Findings: EA Sports no longer has licensing rights for MLB video games. As such, EA put out MVP NCAA Baseball in 2006.



Findings:

• Of the 29 players on the covers of these games (not including those who are on covers for this year but haven't started or finished playing yet), only 1 won a championship during the season they were on the cover (Dwyane Wade). That is a 3.4% success rate. Only two others besides Wade even made it to the Finals during a year they were on the cover (Kidd and Pujols), and both lost.

• Of the 29 players on the covers of these games (not including those who are on covers for this year but haven't started or finished playing yet), 10 were in the championship series the season before they were on the cover. 4 won the championship (LeCavalier, Duncan, Gonzalez and Ramirez), while 6 lost (George, Faulk, McNabb, Kidd, Wade, and Piazza).

• Of the 28 players on the covers of these games (not including those who are on covers for this year but haven't started or finished playing yet, as well as Markus Naslund of the lockout year cover for NHL 2005), 10 missed quality time due to injury (Culpepper, Vick, McNabb, Nolan, Lemieux, Francis, Rodriguez, Piazza, Gonzalez, and Johnson). That is 36% of all the players on these covers.

• Of the 29 players on the covers of these games (not including those who are on covers for this year but haven't started or finished playing yet), 18 were on teams who had a better regular season the year before the player was on the cover than the year he was on the cover. That means 62% of teams did worse the season they had a player on an EA cover than they did the year before.

• Not a single white player made it to the cover of a NFL or NBA game. Even the NHL cover has been more diverse.

Conclusions: My hypothesis that "85% of teams who had a player from their roster appear on a EA Sports game did not win the championship that year" has been proven correct. The number is 96%. Ergo, my belief that the Yankees won't win the World Series this year because Derek Jeter is on the cover of MLB 2k6 is supported by overwhelming yet completely stupid evidence. I'm happy with that, and look forward to Steinbrenner spending another $100 million dollars on hitters.

(And yes, that was the pretty much the whole damn reason why I started doing this project. I hate that f**ing team. I did learn some cool stuff in the meantime, though. Like if you are an NFL coach, you should refuse to let your black quarterback be on the cover of Madden.)

2 Comments:

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

"EA Sports no longer has licensing rights for MLB video games. As such, EA put out MVP NCAA Baseball in 2006."

This unfortunate fact nearly led to a 500-word rant from me on the subject. But then I shelved the box and my frustration abated.

You see, I am the unlucky owner of the latter game, thanks to mis-identifying it in the store. I saw the EA brand, MVP Baseball and 2006 on the box and the rest of my brain promptly shut off. The low, low price should've made me suspicious. Only once the package was opened did I realize my mistake.

As for the game, it might be okay if (a) I had any interest in the mechanics of college baseball (such as athlete recruitment), or (b) if the game was based on actual people (in dynasty mode you can choose to identify all players by number only, or by CPU-assigned names).

 
At 10:16 AM, Blogger Doogie said...

The MLB thing was pretty much 2K's vengance for EA snapping up the NFL's rights until sometime after the Apocalypse. The fact that, relatively speaking, no one really gives a shit about baseball games (or anything other than Madden, really) is immaterial.

GameSpot had a grading-the-cover-athletes feature a couple of years back. Damned if I can find it now, but I think they only found two or three guys over two years (EA, 2K, and 989) who actually had decent years.

 

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