ESPN's SportsNation is at it again, and in response to last year's 32 player tournament, will be holding a 64 player tournament to determine the cover athlete of Madden NFL 13, due out later this summer. The tournament will feature two players from each of the 32 NFL teams going at it in the first round, with a bracket that I believe will be organized by division and conference, but nothing appears to be official yet.
Last year's cover athlete, as decided by SportsNation fans, was running back Peyton Hillis of the Cleveland Browns, a bizarre selection seeing as how the only category he led the league in was fumbles in 2010. The "Madden Curse" (in which every player who is put on the cover of Madden struggles the next season) was upheld, as Hillis ran for just 587 yards, scored only three touchdowns, and was recently involved in a strange CIA rumor.
The full list of first round matchups hasn't been released by the SportsNation crew yet and are slowly being rolled out to make this as long and arduous as possible. Some of the announced competitors are strange. The Patriots choices are Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. No Tom Brady? A pair of specialists (Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski) represent Oakland. No love for Darren McFadden? Also, could you imagine a kicker on the cover of Madden? That would be pretty jarring. The choices for the Rams are Brandon Lloyd and Chris Long. No Sam Bradford or Steven Jackson, the two biggest stars on the team? In the quarterback-laden NFC East, the only QB among the final eight is Michael Vick. Eli Manning and Tony Romo are both AWOL.
Remember when Madden covers actually meant something, as opposed to the shameless popularity contest that it's turned into now? Just go back to sticking John and his bushy eyebrows on the cover. It wouldn't be as flashy as the current covers, but you'd remove the risk of the Madden curse. Unless of course, Madden fell down some stairs and broke his hip.