Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve never been a fan of the NFL or the EA Sports Madden franchise. In many cases I’ve been a pure hater on both the game and the surrounding community as well. As a life long sports gamer I buy every edition of the major sports genres, that was until this year when I was planning on walking away from Madden permanently. I had no desire to play online games, the computer bored me and I’m Ultimate Team’d out with FIFA and The Show’s Diamond Dynasty. There was nothing Madden could offer me and as interested as I was in Longshot I didn’t want to spend the money. But as luck would have it, a code happened to come my way and I received Madden three days early. (Thanks to @ThatSportsGamer and @SnaggleJ)

A “longshot” is an extreme underdog, a person (or team) which no one believes can win or succeed. It’s the odds I gave Madden 18 of winning me over. It’s also the name of the newly created Madden story mode (their version of FIFA’s “The Journey”) which hooked me and won me over with its exceptional story line and interactive content. I spent all of Saturday into Sunday experiencing Longshot, I literally couldn’t put the controller down, I didn’t want to walk away and my kids weren’t too thrilled.

I’m going to avoid spoilers since many of you haven’t played the game since it launches tonight. However the story follows Devin Wade, a Texas high school football legend who plays at the infamous University of Texas (Hook Em Horns) and attempts to make an NFL roster through the upcoming Combine & Draft. He’s accompanied by his best friend and wide receiver Colt Cruise. There are some distinct Varsity Blues meets Friday Night Lights similarities in Longshot and it’s everything you’d expect football in Texas to be.

There are memorable characters (just wait until you meet Ross Fountain) great dialogue and plenty of interactive moments where you need to make a decision on what to say or how to react. You’ll legitimately feel worried you might make the wrong decision and sabotage Wade’s chances. The rest you’ll need to experience yourself.

I’m not easily impressed with games, I’m more of a naysayer than anything else but when I’m impressed I’m really impressed. Longshot gave Madden a second life for me. The story not only rejuvenated my passion for Madden but my passion for being a fan of professional football.

There are many reasons to hate the NFL right now: concussions, Roger Goodell, bad officiating, the greed of the owners, how Colin Kaepernick is viewed, fantasy football but for me it goes back to my roots. I grew up in Southern California during the 1990’s, and during that time there were two teams: Los Angeles Raiders and the Los Angeles Rams. They both abandoned ship in 1994 and left the area with no professional team for over twenty years. The NFL was dead to me, I had no team and I was more than fine with that. There’s a part in Longshot where you need to select your favorite team, I sat there for two minutes and couldn’t pick one so I chose a team that fit the storyline line rather than my own passion.

♦ The Rams while close in proximity (20 mins) were the laughing stock of the NFL, also known as the L.A. Lambs. QB Jim Everett assaulted Jim Rome on ESPN Talk2 after Rome repeatedly called him by the name of “Chris” alluding to the female tennis player Chris Evert. Eric Dickerson was long gone, there wasn’t much to cheer about and then they left in 1994 for St. Louis.

♦ The Raiders were cool in silver and black but they were the bad guys, the villains and Al Davis was the head boss. Southern California gangs wore their colors and apparel, so all Raiders gear was banned from our public schools through middle school. It was hard to root for a team that the society around you deemed dangerous and inappropriate. The Raiders also left in 1994 for Oakland (again).

♦ The Chargers were two hours south in a completely different metro area. They were the closest NFL team but they too were terrible in the 1990’s. They had one run to the Super Bowl and were demolished by Steve Young and the 49ers. It wasn’t until LaDainian Tomlinson that the San Diego Chargers became popular in the LA area, But these were two different cities, two different vibes with different agendas. Some people adopted the Chargers, but I, like many other people shifted our attention to USC football (or UCLA depending on your allegiance). The NFL didn’t matter in Los Angeles there were too many other things to do and too many other sporting teams to root for.

So my entire life I’ve never been a fan of a particular NFL team. I had connections with the New York Giants in early days (age 5 to 9) as their third string QB lived on my street. I had a phase where I loved the 49ers because of Montana & Rice but nothing like being a bandwagon front runner. Thank God I never liked the Cowboys, I always hated them.

The closest I’ve come to rooting for an NFL team is the Patriots who I’ve “liked” since 1994 because of Drew Bledsoe and their awesome 90’s uniforms. (It’s mainly because the ’93 Fleer Ultra card I had which I thought was going to be worth hundreds) Their loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI nearly broke me but I stayed with them as they went on their run with Tom Brady and dominated the modern era. But recently I’ve turned my back on the Patriots because of Brady and Robert Kraft’s affiliation with Donald Trump. There are some things in life bigger than sports, this I make no exception on.

The point I’m trying to make is that I didn’t care about the NFL a month ago, hell a week ago, I hate fantasy football, I barely watched the prior three Super Bowls and Sunday is a day for me to do other things not watch the NFL. Madden 18 has changed me a bit, I’m more intrigued to get back into NFL fandom. I want to find a team to stay with and get my kids to root for. I want to care about the NFL again and Longshot was the longshot to get me motivated again. I know it sounds corny or dumb but it really sparked a youthful flame inside. Madden 18 could be the vehicle which brings me back.

*LONGSHOT SPOILERS*

Similar to FIFA once you finish Longshot, you’ll receive some awards that you can then use in Ultimate Team. Below are the rewards I’ve received thus far, others you’ll receive when you complete the Longshot solo challenges. In order to play those solos you must first reach a certain “Longshot chemistry” level in your starting line-up. Aka you need to have Wade, Cruise and one of the coaches (Cutter Wade or Jack Ford) in your line-up. You can also use Chad “Ochocino” Johnson or Dan Marino as well.

I’m half way through and savoring the second set which brings back nostalgia of NCAA Football 14. It’s hard to be this close to playing college football again and not have the real thing. It’s so damn hard to see Texas Memorial Stadium, the Texas Longhorns and Oregon Ducks in next generation graphics is just a tease. Maybe one day….