2017 Madden Championship airs May 14 live on NFL Network


Back in the dark ages, and by that I mean the late 1990s and early 2000s, my roommate and some of our neighbors in Eastside Costa Mesa, California, spent a little bit too much time playing "Madden NFL" and, uh, eating sandwiches.

One day my buddy Anderson remarked, "Man, it would be so cool if we could get paid to do this [stuff] for a living." And if you're imagining Anderson sounding like Wooderson from "Dazed and Confused," then you are certainly on the right track. But not with a Texas accent. He had that cool, smooth way of talking where everything he said sounded like the gospel. And he was a pretty sharp cookie. Kind of a cheater, too. I think you'll all recall that "Madden NFL 2004" Michael Vick was the greatest video game character ever. He was like a combination of Muhammed Ali and Yoshi from "Mario Kart." The dude had a 95 speed rating, but a 97 agility rating. NINETY-SEVEN. Nobody could touch that dude.

So we had this rule that nobody could use the Atlanta Falcons. But all of a sudden, Anderson started showing up at the house wearing Falcons gear. As if. Well, the debate on if he should be allowed to use the Falcons because he was a "huge fan" got a little heated. Some punches were … not thrown. Nobody was that agro. We were a little more passive, what with eating all of those sandwiches. But we passive aggressively knocked each other for hours until we lost our train of thought.

What should be noted is Anderson still supports the Falcons, which might be the longest con-job in the history of anything.

But Anderson was on to something. It would be cool to play "Madden" for a living. If only something like that existed.

Oh, wait -- it does! Some young man is going to be very rich by playing the game this weekend. That's because the 2017 Madden Championship takes place Sunday, May 14, in Burbank California, airing live on NFL Network (along with notable online esports platforms -- Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Live), at 9 p.m. ET. It's the fourth and final Madden major of the year. Each of the previous three aired live on NFL Network. And let me tell you, they were all pretty rad.

EA and the NFL launched the first large-scale competitive gaming tour by a major sports league back in 2016. The four majors total $1 million in prize money. Let that sink into you for a moment. One. Million. Dollars.

You know what's funny? You always hear stories about kids who stop playing sports because their parents were too overbearing and wanted to live through them vicariously. Or maybe they needed them to earn a scholarship. Whatever the reason was, you know how the story goes: The kid burns out ... like Todd Marinovich.

So I wonder now, with esports becoming a thing, if some kid will get sick of his parents forcing him to play video games and instead pick up a book and start reading. That could happen.

But I fear that we've gotten wildly off track, and for that I apologize. I mean, I'm not sorry enough to go up and erase that passage. Because, well, that was straight fire. And it will likely make its way into my standup. And let that be a warning to any would-be comics out there who think they are just going to lift that joke from these pages. I have proof right here! (I'm just kidding, comics don't read

But the tournament will be Sunday night. It will feature a bunch of dudes who you have never heard of, but are some of the best in the world at what they do. Guys like Skimbo, Problem, and Boogz. All of them fine young men. I was able to meet them a few years ago when I hosted a show called "Madden NFL Live."

Let me break it down for you. Tune in on Sunday. My guys Scott Cole, Gibs and Z Farls will be on the coverage to break down the action. And you'll be impressed with how good these guys are. I remember back in the day, I would hate to sit on the couch and watch my friends play. But it's hard not to get into seeing some of the best at their profession compete for these big prizes.

And look forward to seeing more of it in the future. The NFL (and EA, obviously) are making a huge investment in this. A bunch of NFL teams are involved, too, with the ultimate goal of all NFL teams having their own regional tournaments. It's big, people. Much bigger than my couch.

So I would consider it a personal favor if you would tune in for this. You don't want to be the millennial at the vegan coffee stand on Monday morning who didn't watch this. Look, you probably already missed the boat on "Game of Thrones" and "VEEP" so you should get in on the "Madden" championship.



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