Like the New York Yankees of the baseball world, EA's annual Madden NFL video game series is one of those things that you either love or hate. Well, usually. I'm one of the few people who thinks that the series is simply an "okay" game. I'm more of an NBA 2K guy myself. But, Madden's mainstream appeal is second to none, and that same appeal is what makes events like the Madden Challenge possible.
You know what this bus means. The Challenge is in town!
The Madden Challenge (MC), now in its fifth year, is an annual tournament that pits players from around the country (or the world, for that matter) in a gridiron battle to see who is the best student of Maddenology. Spreading across twenty-six American cities, and five international cities, the MC is truly a global event. The winner of each region gets $1000, and a trip for two to Hawaii for the Finals.
Because it is such a big deal, I feel that it is not my duty, but my obligation to cover the event when it comes to the home of the defending Super Bowl Champions. Yes, two weeks ago, when the Pittsburgh Steelers were resting it up during their bye week, the EA Sports bus came to local Heinz Field, and the Pittsburgh region of the MC was in full swing.
This bracket was a little too intimidating for me…
For the first time ever, Madden beginners (like me) were able to take their game on the 360, against players who aren't exactly the best out there. Since I knew that I wouldn't have much of a chance in the 512 man Pro bracket, and since I play Madden on the 360 anyway (the Pro bracket uses the Xbox version), I registered for the sixty-four person 360 tournament.
You know you are in trouble when you are trying to decide what team to be when you are waiting in line to get in. Now, in my franchise season, I use the Steelers. However, I figured that since everyone else was going to probably use them too, I wanted to be different. I had just come off of a big online game that day. I used the Cowboys, and almost came back and won, even though I had been down by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. So, with that in mind, I took to the field as the Dallas Cowboys.
This bracket looked better..although I didn't exactly catch the world on fire…
The Cowboys' run defense cannot stop anyone. My opponent, who was using the Baltimore Ravens, ran Jamal Lewis down my throat during his first possession of the game. After he scored a TD, and I threw a few incompletes, the first half was quickly over. You only play two minute quarters, after all.
Anyway, I got the ball back in the beginning of the second half, knowing exactly what I was going to do. I was going to drive down the field, score a TD with about two seconds left, go for two, and win the game. However, it was not meant to be. I was on his thirty when I threw a very costly interception that he ran back for the clinching TD. It still pains me to think about it, as I knew it was a bad pass as soon as I threw it. Needless to say, he ended up winning the game. I knew I should've used Vick and the Falcons…Oh well, there's always next year…
Mr. Alexander may be hurt, but at least he has a Super Bowl ring…oh wait…
Of course, the bad game I played didn't take away from the experience whatsoever. I've taken part in video game tournaments before, but never at this big of a stage. From the DJ playing some good tunes (a remix of the old Super Mario music was even heard) to the announcer hyping the games up, to the big sceen TV's showing the NFL game that CBS was broadcasting, it was worth going down even if I wasn't going to play. Not only that, there were also TV's that had other EA games playing, such as Fight Night Round 3 and NCAA Football 07.
The event also had some cool swag. Just for signing up and paying the $15 fee to be in the 360 bracket, I received a $5 gift card at Best Buy, and a Madden Challenge shirt. I even got to keep the "Competitor" badge that they give you upon registering, which was a cool souvenir to take home. So, if the Madden Challenge is coming to your city, and you are thinking about going, I would recommend it. Even if you get killed, it's still a fun time.