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All Hands on Deck! Gronk and Madden '13

I know we're right in the middle of Free Agency. I know that there is a lot going on, both in New England and around the league, and I know that there is much to analyze and break down. But I'm going to take a step away from all that to bring you what I think is a service announcement of the utmost importance.

I've never tried to hide the fact that I'm a superstitious guy. I'll be the first to admit that I have more than my fair share of pre, mid, and post-game rituals that may or may not directly influence the success of the New England Patriots. I may or may not change my underwear during the playoffs. I may only be allowed to take swigs of beer on opponent's passing downs. And I may possibly have a little Tom Brady doll in my closet that I provide with fresh goat's milk and sage. Nobody will ever know.

But one thing goes beyond any and all superstition, misconception, fantasy, or any other word you want to use to try and dismiss the will of The Football Gods, and that is The Madden Curse. Say what you want about how effective my preseason beard or my air-hump touchdown dance is, but the The Madden Curse is 100% real and everyone knows it. Just ask Garrison Heart, Barry Sanders, Eddie George, Dante Culpepper, Michael Vick, Ray Lewis,Donovan McNabb, Shaun Alexander, Vince Young, Brett Favre, Troy Polamalu, and Peyton Hillis about that curse, and they'll tell you the same thing. There's no real explanation for it, and there are still those who try to pass it off as nonsense, but as Bill Cosby once said, the proof is in the pudding. Almost every player who has been on the cover of the Madden football game has either gone on to get seriously injured or have a historically bad season the following year. Some even say it was The Madden Curse, and not years of wear, tear, and playing for an awful football team, that caused Barry Sanders to retire soon after he was placed on the cover.

Up until now, we as Patriots fans have been fairly lucky. We have yet to have any players on our favorite team fall victim to this curse. Tom Brady has blissfully steered clear. Bill Belichick wouldn't give his permission to do it even if it came to that. Even Randy Moss, during his record-setting year, avoided the cover. However, we now find ourselves at the beginning of the voting process for who will next grace the cover of Madden '13, and for the first time, we are in real danger . To my utmost horror (although it wasn't all that shocking, to be honest), two Patriots are currently in the running: Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd. To make matters worse, Gronk is currently positioned as the #2 seed, taking the backseat to only Aaron Rodgers in his division and making him one of the surefire favorites to go deep in this tournament. Luckily for us, Gronk's first matchup is against Lloyd, so we'll only have to worry about one Patriot come Round 2. And let's not kid ourselves here: as much as I love Lloyd, there's no way he's going to beat out Gronk in the popularity poll. So that means Gronk is our representative going into some kind of weird reverse Hunger Games for who gets sacrificed for the cause.

Gronk must not win this contest. I repeat: GRONK MUST NOT WIN THIS CONTEST. If he makes it onto the cover of Madden '13, I am 100% certain that one of three things is going to happen:

1. He re-injures his ankle in preseason, this time blowing out his Achilles heel and going straight to IR, never to return to form again.

2. He takes a massive blow to the head during the regular season, thus setting off a string of concussions that force him into early retirement.

3. He contracts an incurable STD and spends the entire season doped on an penicillin.

We've all seen, firsthand, just how much less effective this offense is without a healthy Gronk in the lineup. We're going to need to him to come back stronger than ever next season and ready to help Tommy B make a strong Super Bowl push. And there is no way he'll be able to do that if he has The Madden Curse hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles all season.

The good news is that, for once, there actually is something that we as fans can do other than cheer and stay hydrated. We can vote. We can vote like the votingest bunch of voters that ever voted. We can be all over ESPN as much as humanly possible over the coming days and weeks, doing everything in our power to make sure that anyone other than Gronk graces that cover.

Who else you vote for is ancillary, to be honest - however, the odds of a non-Patriots player winning are greater if we all come together and vote for the same person. Personally, I think that we should all unite and sacrifice vote for Tim Tebow - not just for Gronk's sake, but for the sake of all of the poor souls doomed to grace the Madden Cover in the future. After all, if anybody can go all Exorcist on this curse and make whatever demon that possesses that video game retreat back into the fiery depths of hell, he can. In fact, I'd have no problem with Tebow's cover image as him in full priest's garb, a football in one hand and a vial of holy water in the other. Maybe instead of the classic "It's In The Game!" introductory soundbyte we're all so used to, we can all be greeted with "The Power of Christ Compels You!" instead. The madness needs to stop, and Tebow is the guy to do it.

But first thing's first: let's get Gronk the hell out of this running and back into rehab where he belongs. Join me in voting for anyone but Gronk - link to the voting poll is here. Our team needs us. And I know that I, for one, am going to answer the call.