How do we go about getting a Viking on the cover again? Apparently, the announcement of the "cover boy" for Madden video games is now a big deal. On the same day I picked up Madden 06, they announced that Seattle RB Shaun Alexander will be gracing the cover for Madden 07.
(I've always been behind the times somewhat, and I've decided that it would be cool to have all the EA "06" games. I have NASCAR, FIFA, NHL, NCAA Football, and NCAA Baseball. I saw Madden yesterday at Sam's Club, and decided to pull the trigger. Haven't played it yet as of this writing, but I can't imagine that a Madden game would be anything less than great.)
With the jinx in full force last year (Donovan McNabb), and recent cover players Marshall Faulk, Daunte Culpepper, and Michael Vick all having sob stories to tell, it's wondrous to me that EA can get anyone on the cover. EA should try one year to see if the jinx can work the other way. Take a completely miserable excuse for a football player (Joey Harrington comes to mind) and put him on the cover - just to see what happens to his career. After all, a guy like Harrington can't get any worse, can he?
Since I brought it up...random video game notes. NCAA Baseball is awesome. One of the best things to happen to my video gaming experience is EA losing the rights to produce MLB-licensed games. Because of that, EA made the decision to make a college baseball game. It's got some holes (the "create a team" feature sucks, and there aren't nearly enough ballparks, nor is there enough detail in the "create a ballpark" feature), but EA did a good job. There's already some talk about an MVP 07: NCAA Baseball game, so I'm guessing sales are at least decent. If you haven't picked it up, and you like playing video game baseball, I highly recommend it.
I like FIFA 06, but I think it stinks that EA made a separate World Cup game. I guess I'll have to get that before the World Cup starts in June (Father's Day gift...hmm...). FIFA is fun because if you set the game speed high enough, you can get a full game in and it only takes about 15 minutes (I usually play a six-minute half). I took on the challenge of trying to build Norwich into an English club soccer power. You're pretty limited in the money you can spend in Manager mode, so it makes it pretty tough to get the players you want.
NCAA Football 06 is one of the best games I've ever played. Superb detail, fun features, and exciting gameplay. It took three seasons, but I just won a national championship with Army. It was fun, because it was exceptionally challenging. It would have been even more challenging if I hadn't created the perfect QB to run the spread-option offense. The defense still isn't that good most of the time, but it's fun to see how many more blue-chip recruits want to play for your once-moribound program when you start winning a little bit. I was losing recruits to crappy MAC schools in my first year, and recruiting after the national championship season was much easier.
NHL 06 is the best hockey game EA has produced in, literally, years. Like FIFA, the gameplay is fast enough that a full game can be played within 15-20 minutes. And the game is challenging enough (at least for me) in dynasty mode. About halfway through my first season, the Wild are fighting like dogs for a top-four spot in the West. Usually, the challenge for me is to make the game challenging without making it impossibly hard. That's not a problem for me in this edition. The difficulty is such that I've had some blowout wins and some blowout losses. And I like that goal horns in the different arenas are much more authentic than I remember them in previous years.
Even though I've had NASCAR 06 for some time, I haven't played it much. The career mode is interesting, as you have to work your way up the ladder, instead of starting as a Cup series driver. The gameplay is fun (hard to screw up car racing), and it's pretty realistic, with the exception that other drivers, in my view, are much more aggressive in this game than they are in the actual races. There is too much bumping going on in the game, to the point where you will never win much of anything unless you turn the damage settings down.
To confirm, I am actually going on 29 years old. I am married, and I do have a four-year-old son. And I am an avid video-game player. Ain't life great?
Weekend notes...The NFL Draft is a week away. Still no sign that anyone but Reggie Bush will be selected by anyone but Houston with the first pick. I expect the Saints to try very hard to trade down, and I think the Packers will end up with tOSU linebacker A.J. Hawk.
The NBA Playoffs start tomorrow. I'm not going to preview them with the same enthusiasm as I did the NHL, but I'm looking forward to seeing Detroit beat up on everyone in the East, and I'm looking forward to seeing LeBron James in the playoffs. The Clippers will be a nice story, and expect Kobe Bryant to make things very interesting in the Lakers/Phoenix series.