Best video games of all-time Madden 2012 giveaway Madden Cover Boys Peyton Hillis Madden Cover Peyton Hillis video games what Peyton Hillis tells us about race in America
I hesitate to make any great leaps or assumptions of cause and effect when the fact that a white cult hero playing in the depressed, blue-collar heart of middle America made the cover of the most popular sports game in the country suggests tepid correlations at most. But it is interesting that, in the final throes of a nasty lockout pitting the haves and the have-mores, such a bewildering figure dons Madden 12 by way of fan vote and, in the process, becomes one of three Caucasian athletes ever to do so (Favre, Brees in case you’re wondering).
Madden, the multi-platform gaming lifestyle that consumed roughly three quarters of my entire middle school existence, exists a window into the NFL fan psyche. Like the league itself, the game is inseparable from the economic realities of those who participate. Madden 12 retails for about $60. You need a high-end gaming platform to use it, and more, you need plenty of discretionary time. Kids working 50-hour weeks at McDonald’s do not make up EA Sports’ core market. Sorry, but if you make $8 an hour, you’re not “in the game.”
Similarly, the NFL, as it’s grown in stature from One of Big Four to de facto weekend pastime, has become a more expensive entertainment endeavor, not just for those who attend, but as a multimedia experience. With blackouts on the rise, the pay-per-view nature of out of market games and the slow migration to exclusive cable networks (namely, NFL TV), just watching your favorite team on a weekly basis usually entails some kind of out-of-pocket expense. At the same time, very heated, very public labor talks between players and owners have threatened to temporarily sideline the whole shebang in lieu of bigger money, more profits.
So what does Peyton Hillis — Madden Cover Boy 2012 — have to do with any of this? Maybe nothing. But to give some incoherent pontificating a little direction, it does say something that Hillis, a 25-year-old white bruiser playing in Cleveland, beat out Michael Vick of all people in a fan voting tournament in the midst of grossly off-putting, grossly lucrative labor negotiations.
The voting element here is key, because if EA Sports decides to put Hillis on the cover, I draw an entirely different conclusion: company puts popular white guy on cover to appeal to middle-class fan base alienated by cutthroat money-mongering of multimillionaires. Simple. Now we have to contend with the notion that this same middle-class fan base made this choice for themselves.
I know what you’re asking: Is the Madden vote a microcosm of America’s sociopolitical undercurrents? Hold that thought.
Again, I admit that I could be turning an anthill into Everest. But Hillis as cover boy strikes the same chord — though nowhere near as resonantly — as John Lennon-as-working class hero or Sarah Palin-as-lowest common denominator of political angst. So I’m willing to go this far: Hillis is the “Tea Party” Madden candidate, and his main challenger, Vick, speaks to a similarly disgruntled faction of a different demographic (think of him, in political terminology, as a more divisive 2008 Barack Obama).
Hillis was a statement vote. Really. He was: a symbol of growing middle class frustration at becoming the new lower middle class. He is a product of tempered social upheaval in the vein of Springsteen and Rocky and Michele Bachmann and all the other white cult heroes of economically challenged yore. He is, in short, America in a helmet.
Or maybe he’s just a great running back.