In less than four weeks time, Madden NFL, the highest-grossing franchise of sports video games will be spawning their latest offering upon an eager game-geek world.

Madden 13, the twenty-fifth incarnation of football game bearing the likeness of the portly coach-turned-announcer John Madden, will hit shelves on August 28. With Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson serving as the cover model, this year’s game will feature some intriguing options, such as a more intuitive passing game, more realistic audio, smarter AI, and, *ahem*, ‘Tebowing’.
The release will be commemorated with throngs of young men, and some women, standing outside their GameStops and other retailers in anticipation of the midnight release. Public tournaments will be held, and workplace productivity will decline sharply as week drags to its end.
You’d have to expect this level of devotion for a game from people perfectly willing to vote in a month-long, 32-man tournament to determine what player will grace the cover, and subsequently fall victim to the fabled “Madden Curse.”
No other sports video game draws this kind of solicitous reverence, the dual billboard that heralds both the forthcoming NFL season, and the opportunity to create the first realistic NFL action seen since February. You know; the kind that doesn’t involve second quarter substitutions of superstars for players who’ll be mutual fund managers and loading dock workers inside of six months.
Nowadays, the main sell is online play, where you pit your skills against either friends, or otherwise random foe from somewhere in digital dystopia. In the case of the latter, it’s always the undereducated fourteen year old who goes for it on every fourth down, and picks whatever team has the best “BEAST MODE” running back. They usually quit after the second quarter, when they can’t see through the clouds of their own ganja smoke proficiently enough to figure out your audibles, en-route to a 37-14 trailing.
Having played the Madden games since the early 1990s, I’ve come to miss a number of features that really made the games unique, and I’ve decided to chronicle them here as kind of a trip down Madden Lane, you know? Long-time players will instantly know what I’m talking about, and hopefully this gives you a nice wistful feeling, as you prepare to drop a sixty-spot on this year’s roster update.
The ability to cheap shot a player and snap his leg after the play ends
Yeah, I know, I know, the NFL would never bring that back in an era in which they’re bullish about maintaining a good corporate and legal profi—er, concerned about the safety of their players. But once upon a time in the 1990s, you could sideswipe the quarterback or running back after the whistle, and be rewarded with a sound akin to a branch being snapped. So long, Barry Sanders. Looks like Herman Moore and Brett Perriman have to carry Scott Mitchell even more so now.
The best part of inflicting the injury would be Pat Summerall’s coffee-can-distorted baritone ringing through to say, “Oh no; there’s a man down.” It never got old, especially when they would show Summerall and Madden’s faces atop the screen, and they’d both be smiling. Those heartless, sadistic freaks.
Speaking of Summerall….
Pat Summerall on commentary
Point blank: Summerall and Madden made for the greatest announcing duo in NFL history. Madden’s simplistic, yet all-knowing view of the game mixed perfectly with Summerall’s dramatic, whiskey-stained drawl. Every game they called included the NFL’s elite, and felt like a life-and-death situation, not just some battle between third-place teams with an emphasis on the fantasy value of one or two stars.
Summerall performed voiceovers on the games through the 2002 edition; his last year with Madden before Madden jumped to ABC. Al Michaels took over from there and, while Michaels and Madden were a great team in their own right for seven seasons, Summerall and Madden just….I don’t know, they had “it”; the unexplainable intangible.
Even in later years, with Summerall butchering players’ names due to age and increasing senility, you still looked forward to the games he called, because his voice complimented the brutality, tension, and glory of the game in a way that few announcers could ever hope to match. I like Michaels, Jim Nantz, Brad Nessler, Thom Brenneman, and even Gus Johnson, but can any of them be what Summerall was? Of course not; he was one of a kind.
Hook up your Playstation 2 and pop in Madden 2001 or 2002. Tell me you don’t emit a tiny sigh.

NFL Europe teams
C’mon, it was fun running up the score on the Scottish Claymores as you got used to the game’s controls, wasn’t it? Remember beating them 106-0 while your best secondary players each netted 5 or 6 interceptions from the shaky hand of Clint Stoerner? Imagine what Bill Belichick could have done with their practice footage.

Attempting a field goal from your own goal line and having it fall mere inches short (a 109 yard attempt)
Wait, no, that was Tecmo Super Bowl for NES. Geez, I could write a whole other column on THOSE memories.
Losing track of time playing Franchise Mode
Tell me I’m not alone in enjoying this as a hobby: you take a day when you wish to have quiet leisure to yourself, away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, and you use that time to become the closest you may ever come to being a sports executive.
You play Franchise Mode, and you begin as, oh, any team. You simulate year one through the Super Bowl (or Pro Bowl, pre-schedule change). In the offseason menu, you switch ownership to the team with the worst record. Then, without playing a single game, you make all the off-field, offseason decisions as GM/coach, and you try over X number of seasons to turn the team into a winner.
It’s a strangely-engrossing way to play the game, oftentimes more fun than running up the score playing the actual game. Dealing with injuries, making good draft picks, balancing the cap, it’s a sports nerd’s dream. Of course, the PS3 version removes much of the fun from the PS2 version, focusing more on online play and all that hullabaloo, but if they could just restore Franchise this way, I’d be 100% content.
On a side note, anybody ever do the “Herschel Walker” trade, where you come in to a crap team and dispense your franchise player to a team for three draft picks? Especially if they’re the second worst team, so you get the top two picks in the forthcoming draft? Works every time.
Oddball names for the players you draft in Franchise
The random naming generator on Madden can provide some chuckles. One time, I swear on this, the top available pick was a corner named “Kobe Bryant.” Once I drafted a player with a name like Jamal Robinson, and he was a white fullback that looked like Jonah Hill. It’s the little things that make me laugh.
The Madden 2002 main theme
Madden’s introduced players to some catchy mainstream, and not-so-mainstream, music over the past decade or so. While I’m a fan of a number of bands that have been featured on the game’s soundtrack (The Offspring, Disturbed, Beastie Boys, Shadows Fall), the menu music for Madden 2002 was performed by rapper Pharoahe Monch, titled simply “Madden 2002 theme.”
While I have nothing against rap, nor against Pharoahe’s talents as a performer (I like ‘Simon Says’), the instrumental version from the game is, without question, one of the most relaxing, soothing, laze-inducing songs I’ve ever heard. You may remember it, the soft saxophone and horn beats mixed with subtle percussion. It’s perfect for that summer afternoon when you don’t feel like doing anything, or just mellowing out after work or school.
Sure beats that crappy “6 Foot, 7 Foot” crap from Li’l Wayne on last year’s game. What was that underscore supposed to be saying? “Oppadabbaoppadabba” on loop for like four minutes? Man, the youth of today really do have it rough.
Edited songs
Because it’s funny listening to Public Enemy’s “Shut Em Down” or Disturbed’s “Inside the Fire” with a million mutes and verbal cuts over bad or suggestive parts. A 2 Live Crew song would have more mutes than the world’s largest monastery.
NFL Films music
Remember those years when you could listen to “A Chilling Championship” or “The Equalizer”, and other great Sam Spence/Dave Robidoux songs? I miss those! Especially Tom Hedden’s “A New Game” with the wintry chimes and rising tension. I’d give up a chance to be exposed to mainstream music I may potentially like just to have a forty song soundtrack of nothing but their music. I demand to hear “A New Game” on a game winning field goal attempt! I want “Reunion in Canton” when I win the Super Bowl! I yearn for “The Lineman” when I kill their quarterback!
The Madden Ambulance
From Madden ’92. Just watch this video and tell me you don’t want this back