Double, double, toil and trouble

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

Move over Sports Illustrated, there’s a new cover curse in town.

Ever since Eddie George’s stint on the cover of the popular John Madden-endorsed video game ended with a bobbled pass that was returned for a touchdown by Ray Lewis in the 2000 AFC Divisional Playoff game, football fans have been paying more and more attention to the so-called “Madden” Cover Curse.

While most rational people would dismiss such talk as pointless and unfounded, there might actually be something to it. Consider the following: After appearing on the cover of “Madden,” Dorsey Levens and Marshall Faulk both endured the worst seasons of their impressive — at least in the case of the latter — careers. All things considered, however, those two got off easy.

Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Donovan McNabb and Shaun Alexander all appeared on the cover of “Madden,” and all five players suffered serious injuries the following year.

Vick broke his leg in the preseason, Lewis fractured his wrist and McNabb, after leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl the previous year, had to deal with both a sports hernia and Terrell Owens, the latter of which is still plaguing the NFL to this day.

Some people even blame Barry Sanders’ unexpected retirement on the fact that a small, blurry picture of the legendary halfback appeared over John Madden’s left shoulder on the very first edition of the video game. Such people, however, forget that Sanders played in Detroit, a city capable of sucking the life out of almost anyone.

As awful as all of these sob stories are, no one got it worse than Alexander. The 2005 MVP had never missed a single game in his entire career before a broken foot — which may or may not have been related to his appearance on the cover of the most recent edition of “Madden” — sidelined him for most of 2006.

Well aware of the fact that the “Madden” video game franchise has a knack for turning the NFL’s top players into walking wounded, the people of San Diego are hell-bent on preventing the same thing from happening to their city’s most prized possession, all-pro running back Ladanian Tomlinson.

As the 2006 NFL MVP, Tomlinson would be the logical choice for the cover of “Madden ’08.” Chargers fans, however, aren’t about to sit idly by while Electronic Arts derails the career of one of the greatest halfbacks ever to pick up the pigskin.

A handful of militant fans started a Web site called www.SaveLTfromMadden.com, a petition demanding that Tomlinson be left off the cover. So far, the site has gathered nearly 2,000 signatures and has folks all over the country wishing the “Madden” cover on players they don’t like. Not surprisingly, T.O. is at the top of the list.

Although I respect their moxie, I feel compelled to remind San Diego fans that the cover curse should be the least of their worries at this point. They seem to have forgotten that the Chargers’ brass hired Norv Turner — a man whose name doesn’t even pass spell check — to coach their team.

With Turner at the helm, the odds of L.T. having a great season in 2007 are virtually nil, regardless of whether or not he appears on the cover of “Madden.”