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There Was Nothing Like The Madden Midnight Releases When You Were Growing Up. An Ode To The Madden Franchise.

Ever since it was announced that John Madden had died on Tuesday night twitter has been flooded with the awesome memories and images of the man who seemed larger than the NFL. The name "Madden" triggers different memories for all different ages. You know him as the coach of the Raiders, the NFL announcer, or the guy from arguably the most important sports video game franchise ever created. I know him as a mixture of the announcer and the guy from the video game. I'm 32 so I'm right in the sweet spot, Madden was my shit growing up. Coley hit us with a tweet about Madden that brought back a ton of memories for myself and I'm sure a lot of others. 

The Madden midnight release every year was something special. You and your buddies would get a ride to the local Gamestop, EB Games, anything like that and just wait. Wait in line for midnight and you could get your hands on that disc. It was always right around the second week in August so the weather was great, nice and cool at night. You'd get to the store and there would be TONS of people waiting. The GameStop off Dobbin in Columbia, MD was my go to shop. They hooked it up, ordered subs for people, pizza stacked as tall as the eye could see, as many cokes as you could drink. It was a full on event. 

My buddies and I probably started going up in 2002 or 2003. We'd get a ride from my mom and just hang out. They always had the consoles outside with the game already in them so you could play a game or 2 while everyone waited, sometimes they brought a DJ out. It was easily the best night of summer. We'd wait till midnight, they'd open the doors and in a calm, single file line we all went in with our prepaid receipt. 

"Which console?" they'd ask. "PS2" we'd all say. Boom, game acquired, we'd hop in my moms van and hit Wendy's across the street. Load up with spicy chicken sandwiches and root beers and head on home. My friends would bring their PS2s and we'd all set them up in the basement and play for like 8 hours. Legit all nighters getting your franchise all set up. I had to take at least an hour customizing each player to how I wanted them. I NEVER changed their ratings, but I'd customize all their gear to look sick. Dark visors on everyone, the team color 1 gloves, the team color cleats, cowboy collars on the lineman, fix the depth chart, had to get it all straight before I even played a game. From there you would sim the preseason, pray for no injuries and away you go. Personally, I don't think we'll ever see another run like the Titans had in my game. 5 straight undefeated seasons before I finally dropped a week 7 game vs Peyton Manning and the Colts. It was a good run.

There really was nothing like the midnight releases with your buddies and playing all night long. And this wasn't even online! Franchise or straight up head-to-head with your boys, it really was the best. I could still tell you some of my best games ever vs the guys in the basement. Madden unlocks so many good memories with friends from so long ago. And I haven't even talked about the mini games yet! Rushing attack, coffin corner, throwing the ball through the rings, oh my god were these great. So simple, yet so much fun. 

Clem and a lot of the other Barstool personalities also shared their experiences with the game and what it meant to them. It truly was more than a video game. This game helped people make new friends, for sure ruined some friendships if you used Vick in '04, and like I said above, it has so many good memories associated with it. Madden tournaments on the weekend in college, anything that had to do with the game was great. It was unreal how year after year EA Sports knocked it out of the park. It started with a midnight release and turned into a full year of fun. Madden was pretty much the only game I played religiously like that, and when I uploaded the draft class from NCAA to Madden? It was over. Playing 20 years of a franchise mode, winning 18 Super Bowls, it made you feel like a KING. And if you were playing a buddy and 21-skunked him? I mean those bragging rights are good for life. 

I bet you can look at each cover from 2000 to 2016 and you can recall games or seasons from each year. Remember how big of a deal it was when the cover athlete was announced? It was HUGE. Obviously I loved when Eddie George became the first guy not named John Madden to grace the cover in 2001, it's by far my favorite cover. It was a huge accomplishment to be named the cover guy. It was always followed by talk of the curse too. You can look at each cover and remember what they did in the game that year too. We all remember the passing cone with McNabb in '06, the hit stick with Ray Lewis on the front in '05, the highlight stick with Shaun Alexander in '07, every year they added something fantastic. They even did the thing where you could edit the fans and put them in face paint and masks with foam fingers. They didn't miss in the mid-2000s. I really do believe their peak was 2001-2008, every game was a hit. Ever since they went to the next gen systems the game has been awful. They ignore franchise mode, they try and do too much with the ultimate team, they really only try and cater to the online audience, it's not the Madden we all grew up loving with the jolly guy on the front. And it's a damn shame that it went downhill like it did.

(PS this commercial was SICK. Even though they used footage from the playoff game that the Titans beat the Ravens in, I'll let it slide.)

Just because the game isn't what it once was doesn't mean it's not a great franchise. Hell, a ton of us learned football through this game. I still laugh at myself when I was a 5'3 JV WR and told my football coach I had to miss the first week of two-a-days because I was going to Bethany Beach. I had just got Madden '04 and asked if I could have the playbook for the season because I was going to UPLOAD IT INTO MADDEN AND PRACTICE AT THE BEACH. What the hell was I thinking? But seriously, I learned a ton about football just from the game. Players, stats, plays, I learned it all from Madden. I'm not exaggerating when I say I think I've played around 10,000 hours of this franchise. It really was my childhood, and then into my teens, and then into my 20s. Madden was a staple in my life up until a few years ago, and we have no one to thank but John Madden. The ultimate football guy who gave so many of us the opportunity to learn and play football like it had never been played before. Madden was and always will be the the most transcendent sports video game franchise. Countless hours of fun with your friends while also rushing for 450 yards a game with Chris Johnson and throwing 75 touchdowns in a season with Steve McNair. I'd kill to be able to go back in time and enjoy a few more seasons of Madden like it used to be. RIP to the football legend and thanks for creating the game that shaped our childhood. 

PS. Madden always had the best soundtrack. You just finished a day of school, you plop down with a soda in your basement and turn the Playstation on and you hear this? It's over. Yellowcard, Andrew W.K. I mean it was hit after hit after hit.