Madden video game legacy will live forever

If you would've told me 20 years ago that a 3 x 5-inch video game cartridge would become a cultural phenomenon and a staple in the history of American sports, I would've laughed in your face and handed you an application for admittance into a mental hospital.

However, that's far from the case today as we've all gone crazy for the whirlwind hysteria of Electronic Arts Sports' John Madden NFL 09.

Madden has transformed the video game industry from a simple hobby for pre-teen and adolescent boys, to a multimillion dollar empire with football junkies waiting for hours in line just to purchase a copy from as young elementary school students to the corporate executive bringing home a six-figure salary.

As for myself, Madden is as much a part of my identity as my passion for jazz or homemade pecan pie.

I've been addicted to this game since the opening kickoff, calling out my first set of plays on Sega Genesis.

This in-depth video game, with it's attention to detail and play-by-play commentary, instantly became the superior football game of the late 1980s, sacking former heavyweights such as Tecmo Bowl and 10-Yard Fight.

When Madden first hit the streets, Sega Genesis was the new must-have and elite game system of the day. With its 16-bit graphics, and hand-friendly controllers (a far cry from Nintendo's rectangle controller), Madden and Genesis formed the perfect union with an array of touchdowns ringing the bells of football harmony.

In high school, snow cancellations served as the backdrop of multiple tournament games with my friends. We used stars like Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and John Elway to lift us to victory with the winner crowned as the unofficial video game king of the block.

Later in college, my Madden craze was taken to another level as the world was introduced to the original Playstation system, which featured the game on a disc as opposed to a cartridge on Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo.

My dorm room turned into the epicenter of gaming competitions where vulgar trash talk and arm chair quarterbacking played as the soundtrack to heated battle for supremacy.

We formed a league with regulations on trades, free agent signings and custom-made players as our teams duked it out for a Super Bowl championship, but more importantly, bragging rights as the most knowledgeable coach on the planet.

Going late or missing class for that matter was almost a requirement if the season was being impeded and your game was next on the schedule.

When I graduated rom college, the style of play also changed from the gray Playstation to the sleek black Playstation 2, which allowed gamers to take the Madden skills worldwide and compete against opponents via the Internet.

During this high-tech digital age, Madden has separated itself as not only a top-rated sports game, but an overall superior video game. With its array of plays and defensive coverages, it really takes a sharp football mind to understand and be successful at the game.

From setting up a corner kick in punt formation to pin the opponent inside the 10-yard line, to zone blitz schemes, Madden is almost like an instructional tool for would-be coaches or young players seeking to improve their football intellect.

I've devoted so much time, money and energy into Madden over the past 20 years, that it's almost if it was a member of the family.

Happy anniversary to the best thing to happen to football since the birth of the Super Bowl. I've been an avid fan from the beginning and although I'm in my early 30s, I know I'll still be playing and talking trash to my grandkids when I'm a senior citizen.

Rory Sharrock is a sports writer for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at rsharrock@news-daily.com