In 1963, legendary writer George Plimpton famously suited up for training camp with the Detroit Lions. His seeming objective was to chronicle what it would be like for an “Average Joe” to try to become a professional football player, just like the world class athletes that they cheered for and occasionally booed from the comfort of their sofas. Unfortunately, commissioner Pete Rozelle never allowed him to play in a real game. Yet the Lions gave him a football sprayed in gold and bearing the words: “To the best rookie football player in Detroit Lions history.” Plimpton had given it his all.
Obviously, I wouldn’t say that I and my bright idea to play a professional Madden Football expert on Playstation 4 are on par with the great Plimpton and his work in The Paper Lion and other participatory endeavours like Out of My League. For one thing, he was a master and actually risked physical harm and epic embarrassment. For another, unlike Plimpton who went into those endeavors in an effort to merely understand what those experiences felt like, I went into this with the misguided view that after years of mild success playing against the computer, I could at least briefly compete against a pro. Which is, to me now, as silly as someone looking at a baseball game and thinking that they could walk out of the stands and do something with a 92 MPH fastball because they occasionally rake while in the batting cages at the local family fun emporium.
These guys are genuine athletes. Yet Wright needed some convincing until I compared gamers to Nascar drivers. Obviously, eSports aren’t as visible as Nascar, the NCAA or the pro sports that you can typically find on ESPN. But exposure isn’t what makes an athlete. It’s the sacrifice, it’s heart, it’s reflexes and skills that have to be honed and a level of dedication and preparation that is unmatched by casual and serious gamers.
As game time for Farley (aka ZFarls) and me neared (the day after the release of Madden ’15), I had played three games online and two against the computer. As I powered my system on, I remembered that Farley had told me that he had beaten the computer blindfolded last year.
Sounds like the stakes are high for our Madden competitor! The match between these two begins on the next page…