The release of a new installment in the annual sports gaming juggernaut that is the Madden series of video games is a cause for rejoicing for fans of meticulously rendered stadiums, variably successful uncanny valley-dodging player likenesses, stealth marketing, and feeling the exhilaration of big time pro football without the fear of pulling a hammy or getting degenerative CTE. It’s also the cue for actual NFL players to get righteously pissed off at how the game’s designers have scored their various in-game attributes, since everybody knows [select player] is faster than [select player], and no pointy-headed stat geek’s going to slight [first player’s] digitized ego.
With J.J. Watt hosting last night’s pre-Super Bowl Saturday Night Live, it was only natural to have a sketch about Watt himself expressing outrage at how his in-game avatar will be portrayed in next year’s Madden 2021. (For one thing, playing himself was probably a bit more comfortable for non-actor Watt than playing a genteel Bigfoot.) The five-time Pro Bowler might have had an injury-hampered season this year (plus he’s hosting SNL instead of prepping his body for the Thunderdome that is the Super Bowl), but the sketch saw Watt running up against a bigger problem, when his innocent voice-over session for some in-game chatter turned on him, big time.
Starting out with some boilerplate taunts and celebratory shouts, Watt found himself reading off a prepared list of puzzlingly self-deprecating exclamations. You know, like “Oops!,” “Whoopsies!,” and the crestfallen, “God, I suck today.” With booth engineers Mikey Day and Ego Nwodim briskly brushing off his concerns that, maybe, somebody at EA has it in for him, Watt soldiered on, at least until his in-game self started a feud with a heckling fan—apparently a little kid in a wheelchair. “Suck on that, wheelchair boy!,” certainly sounds like a feud, anyway. Throw in the late-sketch revelation of his player avatar (looking like The Goonies’ Sloth, with a bellybutton ring), and it’s time to call the Players Association. At least they got his flossing touchdown dance right. It’s a hard dance.