Peyton Manning is one of the greatest and most famous football players of all-time. He has hosted Saturday Night Live, appeared in countless commercials and, oh yeah, won a couple of Super Bowls. Now, he’s hosting his own series on ESPN+.
The second season of Peyton’s Places is in full swing and it follows the NFL great around the country as he explores the history of the National Football League, one piece at a time. For this 13th episode, titled “The Madden Curse,” Peyton talks with former NFL running back Garrison Hearst about the unfortunate luck that has stricken the cover athletes over the years.
The episode opens with Peyton explaining superstitions and curses in football. We flash back to his interview with Willie Gault from last week’s episode to hear about the curse of the Honey Bears that has kept the Bears from winning a Super Bowl. He even sits down with his father and longtime Saints quarterback, Archie Manning, to talk about the belief in curses in New Orleans.
That leads to the most famous curse in the history fo the NFL – The Madden Curse. Peyton provides some history on the game and it’s incredible popularity. Eventually, he sits down with Hearst, the first ever athlete to grace the cover of the game in 1999.
This is a great topic for Peyton to tackle. While it seems ridiculous on the surface, it’s a well known thing amongst football fans and the evidence for the curse has really piled up over the years. Peyton and Hearst talk about it in a manner that is a bit tongue in cheek, but they also seem believe in the curse at least a little bit.
Peyton and Hearst discuss the incredible season the running back had in 1998. That took an unfortunate turn for Hearst shortly after Madden 99 hit stores in Europe. On the first play of a playoff game, Hearst took a handoff and badly twisted his ankle. The injury not only took him out of the game, but cause him to miss two full seasons and undergo six surgeries. Madden Curse aside, it’s always heartbreaking hearing an athlete discuss such a devastating injury. Luckily, Hearst eventually got to return to football, so that made this instance a bit easier.
Peyton then takes us through a bit of the history of the Madden Curse, highlighting some of the injuries to players like Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, Troy Polamalu, Adrian Peterson, Richard Sherman, Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski, Shaun Alexander, Mike Vick, Ray Lewis, Donovan McNabb and Vince Young. Like I said, there has been a lot of evidence over the years.
The one downside to this episode is that Peyton never goes into a full year-by-year breakdown. There is a lot of history with this topic and a closer look could have been fun. Still, he did provide plenty of evidence for those who believe in the curse.
Peyton asks Hearst if he would do anything differently regarding Madden. He admits that he has some belief in the curse but he still shows his kids that he was on the cover of a video game. Peyton also asks him if he ever had any doubts about ever being able to play football again during his recovery. They both share that they had doubts during recoveries from their respective injuries. We get to see some highlights of Hearst after his recovery and see his triumphant return to the sport. Ironically, much of the commentary on these highlights come from John Madden himself.
Peyton and Hearst both admit they’re not big gamers but they still sit down to play each other in Madden 99. Peyton plays as Hearst’s 49ers while Hearst uses the Colts led by a rookie quarterback named Peyton Manning. They show pretty quickly that they were not lying about their video game experience. This segment is filled with jokes, including some jabs at Tom Brady and the game’s graphics. The episode wraps up with the signature selfie with Peyton and his guest.
This was another fantastic episode of Peyton’s Places focused on a very interesting topic. It does feel as though it could have been longer, with this episode’s runtime being almost 10 minutes shorter than most others. Again, a deeper dive into the history of the curse would have been interesting. Still, it was a lot of fun visiting this topic with the athlete who was claimed as its first victim. Luckily, he managed to put together a successful career after his injury and can look back at his injuries now and smile.
Peyton’s Places is available now on ESPN+. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $5.99 a month and can cancel at any time.
Mike is a writer that has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed “nerd.”