The Insight: Was I The George Plimpton of Madden Football?


I met Farley in a game lobby. At first, I was confident. After the teams were selected (I was the 49ers; he was the Seahawks), he spent two minutes cycling back and forth through offensive and defensive playbooks trying to find the right combination. I left the playbooks on default and changed the color of the 49ers’ shoes to the way that they wore them in the ’80s.

Once in the game, I won the coin toss and got the ball. As I glanced at my playbook, I thought about how many times Farley had run through that exact same playbook and how he probably knew what my first, second and third options were. He was already in my head based on reputation alone.

Three plays into my first drive and I was 18 yards away from a first down and uncomfortably close to my own end zone. Nothing I had done had worked so I went long and thanked the video game football Gods (Tecmo Super Bowl Bo Jackson and Christian Okoye) for the pass deflection. I went three and-out.

With the ball in Farley’s control, I tried to remember what defense he had told me to use in Madden during our conversation after I had told him that I have — since the days of Joe Montana Football — blitzed my right outside linebacker on almost every play to some success (and probably a lot more general failure). Unfortunately I couldn’t recall. But it didn’t matter since, after his first play from scrimmage, Farley proceeded to run a no-huddle offense rendering me helpless thanks to the fact that I have no idea how to call an audible.

It’s important that I tell you that I didn’t give-up or get trampled in the first half. There were a few moments in the early going when I made a pair of consecutive tackles for a loss and when I advanced to Farley’s 40 yard line where I allowed myself to dream. “Maybe I could at least keep the game tight,” I thought. But those hopes were quickly dashed. The score was 14-0. It could have been worse. Three minute long quarters limited the amount of damage that could be done due to my complete defensive ineptitude.

Zach Farley absolutely predicted that a player with my profile could “keep it close” in the first half before being “a little bit outclassed.”

As the second half got underway, I did indeed feel like a rookie, a junior high school rookie against a superstar. As I said before, I had played three games against other players in Madden 2015 (and a handful of others since then) and I always felt competitive. At the very least, I felt like I could score, occasionally stop my opponent and not embarrass myself.

Things did indeed get away from me in the second half. I experienced virtually no real success against Farley. He ran and passed freely and stopped me often. I gave up on the run and became completely one dimensional. I was desperate. Worse, I had ignored what Gibbons had said to me when he said that the number one mistake that people make in Madden is that they call plays “without any rhyme or reason.” I also forgot Farley’s advice about trying something as simple as a line shift to try and control the running game.

The final score was 28-0. I gained 77 total yards. The message was clear. I had just been taken to school and shown the difference between someone who prepares themselves to play, to dominate at Madden, and someone who thought that a general understanding of football and some comparatively light experience with the Madden games would be enough.

I didn’t even run-through the Skills Trainer before playing or select a team that matched my play style, as Farley had suggested. I had the arrogance that only an idiot can muster. It was as though I stood in against a boxing champion, and I got knocked out before I could even put my gloves up.

What difference did our hero learn when playing Madden against a professional?! Find out on the next page…

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