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Roy Jones: The Latest Victim of the EA Curse?
By Brent Hedtke (May 23, 2004) 
Alright, it has been a week and the shock has almost worn off. Reality is now setting in and what was once unthinkable has been securely nestled away in our brains right next to the place where we keep names like Buster Douglas, Oliver McCall and Leon Spinks. Throughout the last six days the “how’s” and “why’s” of Antonio Tarver’s one punch knock out of pound for pound king Roy Jones, JR. have been thoroughly debated in every internet chat room, local sports bar and office water cooler across the world. Some say that father time has finally caught up with Roy. Others have noted that Tarver may just have Roy’s number. Some contest that it was a lucky punch that rendered Superman supine. Logic tells us that it is probably a combination of all these that has left the boxing world struggling to pick their jaws up off their shoes. But could it be that the great RJJ was just the latest victim of the (insert scary piano music here) EA Sports Curse?

On the surface the EA curse seems about as rooted in reality as the Blair Witch and about as scary as a Disney flick. Dig a little deeper though and you’ll uncover some startling facts about other athletes that have submitted their likeness to cover of one of EA Sports’ video games. A cover shot can be great way for an athlete to get worldwide exposure and at the same time add plenty of 0’s to their bank account. It can also be a great way to ensure that they fall from grace with a resounding thud.

Back in 1999, Philadelphia Flyer’s center Eric Lindros was chosen for the cover of EA’s NHL 99’. Lindros was coming off of a stellar year in which he racked up 40 goals and 53 assists. Shortly after the game was released though, Lindros suffered a collapsed lung in a game against the Panthers. He has since picked up his career in New York, but has failed to return his game to the level it was at before NHL 99’ was released.

More recently, Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley was selected for the cover of NHL 04’. Heatley was the NHL’s 2001-2002 Rookie of the Year and was named MVP of the 2003 All Star Game. Days after the game hit shelves, Heatly was involved in a car accident that left him seriously injured and his teammate Dan Snyder dead. Heatley returned for the 2003-2004, but now faces vehicular manslaughter charges that could land him in prison for up to 15 years.

Some have even narrowed the curse down to EA’s best selling product, the Madden series football games. The cover of Madden 2002 featured Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Duante Culpepper. Culpepper was a fast rising star who threw for 33 touchdowns and led the Vikings to the NFC championship. After the release of Madden 2002, Culpepper suffered a knee injury that left him riding the bench for five games and then throwing a league high 23 interceptions in 2002.

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The next year, Madden struck again on his cover boy, LA Rams running back Marshall Faulk. Faulk’s four consecutive 2,000 plus yard seasons had led the Rams to the playoffs for three years straight. As if I even need to tell you, all that came to abrupt halt after Madden 2003 was released. Faulk suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss six games and the Rams failed to make the postseason.

Most Recently, Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick felt the wrath of the Madden curse last season. Vick was chosen by EA as the cover boy for the new Madden 2004. Only weeks after the new Madden was released, Vick broke his leg in a pre-season game and was sidelined for most of the season.

Not a believer yet?

Look at Duke point guard Jay Williams. Williams led Duke to the NCAA title and was chosen number two overall in the NBA draft. He was chosen by EA as the cover star of their NCAA College Basketball 2003. Many wondered if Williams would be the first to thwart the EA curse and I’ll save you the suspense, he wasn’t. After a sub-par rookie season Williams was involved in a motorcycle crash and his future lingers in jeopardy.

Boxing has not been exempt either. In 2001 the sport’s rising young star Shane Mosley was fresh off his victory over Oscar De La Hoya. EA saw Mosley as the perfect face for the cover of their Knockout Kings 2001 series. Just months after the game was released Mosley suffered his first career defeat to Vernon Forrest. He has since gone 1-2 with one no contest.

The recently retired Lennox Lewis could not escape the curse. Lewis had seemed to have finally gained the appreciation of American boxing fans with his 2002 knock out of bad boy Mike Tyson. In 2003, Lewis was featured on the cover of the new installment of Knockout Kings. In June of 2003, Lewis received arguably the worst beating of his career in a 6 round TKO victory over Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko. Lewis has since retired and many recognize Klitschko as the heir to his throne.

That leads us up to now. In April of this year, EA released its best boxing simulation game yet. Fight Night 2004 revolutionized the video boxing landscape and forever changed what I do with my free time. (As it stands, my fighter “Captain Intensity” is the reigning Middleweight Champion of the World and is 55-0 with 54 KO’s. And yes, that is on the hardest level, booya!) To commemorate the release of Fight Night, EA selected Roy Jones, JR. to grace the cover. A little over a month after the release of Fight Night, Antonio Tarver delivered the left hook to Jones’ jaw that shook up the boxing world like an etch-a-sketch.

So has the great Roy Jones finally joined the realms of us mortals? It’s hard to say. A rubber match with Tarver is the only way to tell for sure. While some say age has dulled his reflexes others will tell you that Tarver is the Frazier to Jones’ Ali. Let’s just hope that Antonio isn’t forced to change his nickname to “The Black Magic Man.”
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