I don't know much, but I know this - the Madden cover jinx is real.

Forget the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, the Campbell's Chunky Soup jinx or any other famous jinxes. Forget also that I just used the word 'jinx' three times in one sentence and five times in the first two paragraphs of this column.

And please forget, at least for a moment, that anyone would have enough invested in a stupid video game to know that every single player to grace its cover in the last seven years has suffered an injury or a career-crushing dropoff in productivity.

Consider, instead, the mounting empirical evidence:

2001 - For the first time, EA Sports' flagship video game franchise, John Madden Football, replaces its lumpy, rambling namesake on the cover with an actual football player. The first victim is Eddie George, who appears unaffected through the 2000 season (Madden releases are always one year ahead of the actual football season) but then slogs through 2001 with a variety of maladies and registers career-lows in rushing yardage, touchdowns and yards per carry before limping off into obscurity.

2002 - Daunte Culpepper signs on to be the Madden cover boy after a tremendous rookie season in which he passes for 33 touchdowns and almost 4,000 yards. Instead of a repeat performance, Culpepper struggles mightily, throwing just 14 TD passes to 13 interceptions before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He continues to be overwhelmingly mediocre, now turning the ball over on every other possession for the Miami Dolphins.

2003 - Marshall Faulk was the golden boy of the NFL after winning league MVP awards in 2000 and 2001, but the Madden cover jinx strikes again. Faulk injures his ankle in 2002 and sees his rushing total drop below the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in five years. He battles injuries for the rest of his career and never regains his old form.

2004 - Michael Vick gives the Madden cover jinx national attention when he breaks his fibula in a pre-season game, just one day after the game is released to the public. He goes on to play in just five games in 2003.

2005 - Ray Lewis, known thug and alleged murderer, somehow lands on the cover and fails to record an interception for the first time in his NFL career. The next year, Lewis suffers a torn hamstring and misses the final 10 weeks of the season.

2006 - Donavan McNabb actually taunts the jinx, saying 'I don't believe in the curse at all,' after landing on the cover of Madden '06. Not surprisingly, McNabb is injured in Week 1 and plays through the pain before finally opting to sit out the remaining eight weeks of the season.

2007 - Local hero Shaun Alexander, who led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl a year ago and set an NFL record by scoring 28 touchdowns, is the seventh and most recent player to succumb to the jinx. Alexander fractures his foot against the Giants on Sunday and will be out indefinitely.

There you have it. Cold, hard facts. The Madden cover jinx is real.

Still don't believe me? OK, tough guy, do you want to be on the cover of Madden '08?

Zack Palmer is the News-Times' sports editor. He believes that Jimmy Hoffa is buried in Giants Stadium. He also believes in Bigfoot.

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