Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/8/11

Peyton Hillis isn’t a victim to any “Madden Curse,” he isn’t a victim to anything other than his own self.  When Browns fans came out in bunches to vote Hillis onto the cover of the most recent Madden game, they weren’t concerned with installing a hex upon their own player.  Ironically though, they should have been concerned about installing their franchise running back with a false sense of entitlement.

Michael Lombardi and other notable sources have stated how the Browns are currently dealing with the same player that left Josh McDaniel’s and the Bronco’s front office with no choice but to trade him.  The reason we’re seeing the ugly half of Peyton Hillis‘ split personality isn’t due to a video game curse,  it’s due to an unintended consequence of an online vote for a larger than life video game.

When he was drafted in the seventh round by Denver, Hillis, like every other player not named Jamarcus Russell, had a chip on his shoulder.  He had something to prove.  One can now infer that that chip on his shoulder was larger than most.  One can also infer that when Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle read his name from the envelope, that giant chip on his shoulder evaporated and was replaced by a self fulfilling prophecy of his.  All of the votes it took to get Hillis on the cover ended up being, for him, a signed and sealed slip that justified what Hillis, himself, believed all along–that he was one of the best in the game–and in return, Browns fans have been treated to a ugly side of Peyton Hillis. 

Here is what winning that cover vote told Peyton Hillis…

It told him that he was the first ever Cleveland Browns to do so.  It told him that he was going to make more money from EA than he was from the Cleveland Browns.  It told him that he was the face of this historically bad franchise.  It told him that he had accomplished a feat that not even Tom Brady or Peyton Manning can say they have.  Most of all, it told him that his greatness had finally been recognized, and based on his content to not play for the rest of the year until he gets paid, it told him that he had nothing left to prove.

It’s one thing for EA Sports to name you to the cover of their highly renowned, wildly popular, video game; it’s another thing when millions of fans do it.  If EA had passed on the idea of opening up the cover to a fan vote, Aaron Rodgers would have been your Madden ’12 cover boy and all of this Peyton Hillis drama might not exist.  Heck, if EA Sports had just given Josh Cribbs the automatic bid to represent the Browns, this Peyton Hillis drama might not exist.  Instead, Peyton Hillis beat out the best quarterback in the league (Aaron Rodgers) and a guy who was just given a 100 million dollar contract by his team (Michael Vick).

Over the years, the Madden game and the whole “Who will be on the cover this year” hysteria has taken on a life of it’s own.  For a player, next to being named the Super Bowl MVP, gracing the Madden cover is the biggest individual accolade you could have for a given season.  For Hillis, you could argue that that’s what the fan vote meant to him–that he was the best, most exciting player in 2010, when, really, we all know that’s not the case.

Everything happened too fast for Peyton Hillis.  His jersey quickly became the teams number one seller.  The fans not only deemed him the franchise back for the next eight years, but because of his “blue collar,” “hard nosed” prototype, Clevelander’s christened him into the Cleveland sports pantheon faster than any athlete before.  After Browns fans anointed Hillis into legendary status, the Madden vote took it to another level.

Seeing a Cleveland Browns player on the cover of Madden did something for Browns fans.  It had fans holding their heads high and gave us a sense of entitlement.  If Browns fans got this much swagger from seeing their own player on the cover, is it any wonder that Peyton Hillis would be feel the same way?

Peyton Hillis winning the online vote justified the fallacies of allowing fan participation in an online voting contest.  Ask any innocent bi-standard and they’ll admit that he won because the voting was set up as a bracket style, instead of total votes.  They’ll also tell you that–his being a rare white running back, his cunning ability to jump over safety’s, his looking like Ronnie from Jersey Shore, his saving countless fantasy owner’s, and the Browns fan base backing him–were all reasons that led to his eventual crowning on SportsNation, not his being among the likes of the best in the game  For Peyton Hillis, he probably never considered these factors though, and that’s where the problems began.  The Madden cover led Hillis to believe he was more the player than he actually is and there isn’t much anyone can do to convince him otherwise.

Nothing tells a player that he is great quite like winning a vote for a contest that is unofficially labeled “best player”; especially when you play for a lackluster team that went 5-11.  For Hillis, the Madden vote was democracy in it’s purest form.  For everyone else, it was anything but.  Ever since that day in April, Hillis has had the votes of millions of fans doing his agents job for him.  Those votes are the giant barrier between the Browns and Hillis’ contract negotiations, and they’re probably what did Peyton Hillis in as a member of the Cleveland Browns.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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