The Meaning Behind Being A Cover Athlete

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Hosted by
Sonny Fimple

Bengals diehard. Washed up college baseball player looking to get in tune with my creative side. Pete Rose belongs in the HOF, convince me otherwise. #SignedJT

It was recently announced that Fernando Tatís Jr. would be the cover athlete of MLB The Show 21. This is a fantastic choice considering the season Tatís had for the San Diego Padres. He is not afraid to challenge the “unwritten rules” of baseball if it means playing at his highest caliber. Tatís Jr. is making history, becoming the first Padre and youngest player to ever be showcased on the cover. This is fantastic news for Padres fans and gamers alike. As if the decision couldn’t get any better, the game will also be available for the first time on Xbox. You can kiss your days of playing RBI Baseball as a FOMO alternative goodbye.

Tatís is the perfect candidate to don the cover of The Show. He is one of baseball’s phenoms and is an integral part of a Padres team determined to win a World Series. Being a cover athlete means more than just another endorsement, though. Its not just another publicity stunt or ad campaign. It’s the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to become one of the sport’s best athletes. You become a symbol for not only your own success, but a symbol of the league you represent. Every twelve year old kid dreamt of being a cover athlete (part of me still dreams of this false reality).

In the spirit of the MLB The Show 21 cover reveal, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Here are some of the greatest cover athletes and one really weird choice that still leaves avid gamers puzzled.

Madden NFL 18 – Tom Brady

As crazy as it sounds, Madden NFL 18 was Brady’s first time being on the cover of Madden. This was despite him having 5 Super Bowl victories under his belt at the time, on his way to #6. I don’t think I need to analyze why Brady is cover-worthy, just take last Sunday’s 7th Super Bowl as proof. Undoubtedly the G.O.A.T, whether you love him or hate him. I expect many more honors in his likeness to be revealed in the future. One day we may see TB12 have his own Madden Legends edition cover in stores.

NBA 2k10 – Kobe Bryant

Kobe’s 2k cover debut, clad in it’s gold and purple glory. 5x NBA Champion and 18x All-Star, Kobe Bean Bryant will forever be immortalized donning 24 on this cover. Fresh off his fourth NBA Finals win and on his way to a repeat fifth, the 2009-10 season was the perfect year for Bryant to be chosen as the cover athlete. He would make his second cover appearance wearing the number 8 on the NBA 2k21 Legends edition cover.

NHL 2002 – Mario Lemieux

Mario Lemieux, who helped the Penguins win consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, was chosen to grace the cover of “chel” fresh off of a three year retirement. This retirement included his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame and him becoming owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise. Lemieux would officially retire after the 2006 season and resume his front office duties. Not many people can claim that they are playing for a franchise that they just so happen to own. Cover-worthy is an understatement.

MLB The Show 17 – Ken Griffey Jr.

“The Kid” had one hell of a baseball career and was chosen to be on the cover of MLB The Show 17. Griffey Jr. was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame the year prior, receiving 99.32% of the vote, breaking a record previously held by Tom Seaver (98.84%). To coincide with his Hall of Fame induction, the Mariners retired the number 24 in Griffey’s honor. They have even taken the number out of circulation within their minor league affiliates. Although his cover appearance was well after his playing days, Griffey Jr. deserved every ounce of the honor.

The Odd Cover

Madden NFL 12 – Peyton Hillis

Of the many questionable choices in Madden cover history, the selection of former Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis is right at the top of the list. In 2011, Hillis almost doubled Michael Vick’s numbers in a nationwide poll to select who would be on the cover of Madden NFL 12. Hillis’ cover appearance came on the heels of eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards the season prior becoming one of the NFL’s breakout stars of 2010. Unfortunately, Hillis would become yet another victim of the so-called “Madden Curse”, defined as the history of poor performance or injury to an athlete after appearing on the Madden cover. Hillis would never reach the level of greatness he sustained in 2010 and would officially retire from football in 2014. Adrian Peterson or Michael Vick should have been on the cover after all.

For The Future Of The Game

Tatís on the cover of MLB The Show 21 is great news for baseball, as he becomes yet another star young athlete to be immortalized in gaming history. Patrick Mahomes, for example, not only won a spot onto the cover of Madden NFL 20, but also broke the feared “Madden Curse” by winning the Super Bowl the same year. Lamar Jackson, cover athlete of Madden NFL 21, also had a very productive season, making it to the second round of the NFL playoffs without any injuries or misfortunes. Whatever the case may be, having a fresh batch of exciting talent represent the sport is a great way to keep younger audiences engaged. For Tatís, this opportunity is a dream of a lifetime. Now we just need to get Mike Trout on the damn cover of one of these things!

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Episode 19