Don't panic: you didn't buy a game from 15 years ago. Contrary to tradition, and perhaps because last year's best college player is still NCAA-eligible
, EA Sports chose 1991 Heisman trophy winner Desmond Howard to grace the cover of NCAA Football 06
. But the game's unconventional poster boy (poster man?) has a deliberate purpose: EA is using Howard, possibly one of the most iconic Heisman winners of the last two decades, to promote a new single-player Heisman mode that lets you create your own player from scratch and control him throughout his career.
Of course, EA really didn't need to go through the trouble. Heisman mode is just a sanctioned and slightly more detailed version of the thing that people have been doing forever in sports games: namely, creating themselves as players and selfishly pumping all of their stats up to high heaven. Gamers who couldn't huff their way to a 5.5 40 delight in using their juiced-up avatars to catch 10 touchdowns per game and return every kick for a score, to the point that winning a mere Heisman trophy would actually denigrate their Herculean accomplishments.
That, my friends, is what sports video games are and have always been about: scratching the itches of participatory longing that inevitably accompany sports fandom. It's the rare supporter who doesn't secretly wish they could be on the field themselves, making circus catches and generally running roughshod over the competition. Not even real players are immune: my freshman-year college roommate was the kicker on our football team and took solace in drilling field goal after virtual field goal, as himself, hours after missing last-minute kicks and losing actual games. There are also those people who've been out of college for over a year now and can't cope with the fact that everyone on the team they grew up with is now younger than they are. Not that I'm projecting.