So I happened to be in Landover on Monday night to witness what was certainly an historic performance by the Philadelphia Eagles offense. Quickly, the disappointment and disgust I felt towards the home team dissipated as the wonder and awe of what Michael Vick was doing began to set in. He could do no wrong. He ran and passed his way to the record books, cementing the glory of his comeback and securing his place back in the upper tier of quarterbacks in the league.
As I watched, I could not help but think of his performance as very Maddenesque ... as in the video game. Which brings me to this week's list of Top five video game athletes with local ties. I put the emphasis on how fun it is to play with each of these guys and not necessarily on whether or not they suit up for a local pro team. Each of these guys is or was capable of dominating a game between you and a friend or as a member of the franchise you were building.
No. 1: Michael Vick, Madden NFL (local ties: Virginia Tech, Newport News)
Pick the year. Since he arrived on the scene in the game of Madden, Vick has been as unstoppable on your PlayStation as he was the other night against the Redskins -- in the right hands of course. I always liked to start my own franchise and play year after year with the Redskins. You better believe that Vick was my quarterback. He was good for 5-10 yards without even really trying around the end on every single play. You could run him out of bounds to prevent him from getting hit. This got to be boring eventually, so I always ended up trying to go for the home run scampers and literally holding my breath as he would get crunched by opposing defenders. I even would construct my own playbooks, designing countless plays that took advantage of Vick's speed in the backfield. I was that guy -- how I ever got married is still beyond me.
When I would play with friends, there was a staunch no-Vick rule. It was no fun to play against him since we all knew how to use him in a way that the other player would be powerless to stop. Given we were putting pretty decent sums of money on the outcome, there was no way anyone was going to give Vick to an opponent.
No. 2: Gilbert Arenas, NBA Live (Washington Wizards)
My first foray into the world of NBA Live was in 2007. I was playing Madden pretty much year-round, but my buddies swore by the NBA game and so I started playing it just to change it up and get more opportunities to gamble on video games. Of course I chose the Wizards as my team to use in NBA Live, and nobody seemed to argue. With dough hanging in the balance, we would turn off the fatigue setting and go at it.
This was the version just prior to the year that Gilbert was on the cover of the video game. It featured the freestyle superstar moves. I quickly figured out how to get Gilbert's freestyle moves going and the rest is history. His speed up the court always put him in a good position and I had the option of taking him straight to the hole, where he would routinely dunk over anyone in his path, or I could drive to a corner and go baseline for windmill dunk from one side of the basket to the other. I would score 100 points with him, making the "Cha-ching!" sound after every single shot. I would have been banned from using the Wizards if anyone else could understand exactly what I was doing to get that kind of juice out of Gilbert. But I was taking to the hole over everyone. The only other player I could seemingly score at will with in that game was Baron Davis, then a member of the Golden State Warriors.
No. 3: Kevin Durant, NBA Live (born and raised in the area)
He was born in Washington, D.C., and played ball all the way through high school for area schools and clubs. These days, you can find him playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder on your PS3 (or other preferred console).
My love of NBA Live has grown through the years. With only five guys on the floor, I have no problem working one guy all night long. Again, money is on the line. Durant is not a sleeper in this game. If you follow the NBA, you know who he is. But Oklahoma City is not the first team a lot of my friends will go for, leaving them all for me. I tend to do better with players who can drive and either dunk or lay it in.
Durant has the rare combination of being able to take it to the hole at will while also being very capable of hitting open shots. I need that since my shooting from outside of 15 feet has always been a weakness. The give and go with him and Russell Westbrook is unstoppable.
No. 4: Shawne Merriman, Madden NFL (local tie: University of Maryland)
As I said before, I am and always have been an avid Madden player. When I would draft my team to start my franchise, I always went with a stud linebacker. Lately, Patrick Willis has been my man.
But there was a time there for a while -- say 2005-2006 -- when Merriman was my top pick and franchise player. He was the guy I controlled on every defensive play and he did not disappoint. To this day, I swear my pixelated linebacker was digitally juicing. And I was all for it. I could rush him around the end for a sack or I could sit him in the middle of the field and cover pretty much anyone who came my way. While not the usual position of preference for most video game players (maybe I am wrong), playing with this former Terp was satisfying as a Maryland fan as well as a Madden fan.
No. 5: Alexander Ovechkin, NHL Hockey, (Washington Capitals)
I must admit I am a little out of my element on this one. I have not played the hockey game with the same kind of regularity and passion as the football and basketball games (or even the soccer games -- FIFA is simply awesome). In fact, since Blades of Steel on the Nintendo, I have not played much video game hockey at all.
When I first saw the NHL game on my PS3 though, it was awesome. The graphics and the game play were seemingly better than any of the other games. Now, I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of hockey. I don't know how to run a lot of plays and I don't have a lot of strategy. My game is all about one thing: get the puck to the Great 8 and let the magic happen. It would be like being a Lakers fan, picking up NBA Live for the first time, and finding that the best player in the game was on your team. You just get Kobe the ball and enjoy yourself.
So I am predictable and beatable, unless Ovie is having a good night for the Caps. I do also love getting the puck to Nicklas Backstrom, but controlling No. 8 on the ice is enough fun to put down Madden and NBA Live for a night here and there.