SPORTSBALL, WEEK 2: I'm Good at This Game For All The Wrong ReasonsSHere’s the skinny: When it comes to football, I’m kind of a noob. I know the basics, but if I talk too much about it at parties, I will probably embarrass myself. I know even less about playing Madden. But I like video games, so I decided to give it a whirl. Check out how my first week went here.

For the longest time, I thought football had the most overly complicated set of rules in any sport. Trying to absorb them all makes you wonder how the game ever got invented. Spend some time engaging with those rules, though, and you start to feel a strong appreciation for the elaborate system of checks and balances that strives to control every possible variable so that every game is a pure contest of strategy and skill between two teams.

Which is why running up the clock is such a load of crap.

If you don’t know about this (and I really didn’t until I had seen it done in a football game a year ago), a team that’s in possession of the ball and about to win at the end of the game can pretty much guarantee their victory by wasting time on the field. The ball is put into play, the team waits out the thirty seconds they have to make a play, and then when the Quarterback receives the ball, he just takes a knee, completing the play while the clock ticks on. It effectively prevents the other team from playing at all.

It’s pretty gnarly.

I won my first regular season game against the Browns by nine points (Final score: 14-3), but the final minute and thirty seconds when I was in possession of the ball I was forced to just do have the QB kneel to run up the clock. I didn’t want to—the game isn’t any fun playing like that—but I haven’t started calling my own plays yet. I just use the quick menu (I’m not sure what the Madden Word is for it) and every one of the three options available was QB Kneel. I even got a delay of game penalty trying to figure out how to skirt around that recommendation and play the ball. No dice.

My next game is against the Broncos. At first, I worry that the difficulty will start to climb, as their offense is quite methodical and effective at working the ball up the field, but then I more or less start to figure out how to play defense: I just pick a lineman to control and go nuts. It’s the best way to not screw up whatever defensive play the game has picked for me. It’s strange that I’ve accepted this as my go-to strategy, since it’s essentially the game and I both agreeing that I’m kind of a useless dead weight at best and the reason the other team gains yards at worst. But I manage to make a few sacks so hell yeah Player Agency!

I should take this moment to mention that I’m also kind of terrible at offense, and it’s because being a Quarterback is flipping terrifying. I couldn’t imagine being a pro QB in real life. It’s like having to solve an equation that grows in complexity the longer you wait while at least five speeding Mack trucks are heading directly toward you. I can barely do it in the video game—I’ve made at least sixteen terrible throws thus far. These are throws that went directly towards an opposing player. It just so happens that everyone is terrible at interceptions.

So how did I win with a score of 28-10?

Run plays.

I mentioned this last week, but run plays are the best. The commentators also tell me that having Adrian Peterson on my team helps a lot, but I worry about using him so much. Won’t he like, run out of HP or something?

After I beat the Broncos, I’m finally caught up with the current NFL season. Week 3 pits me against the 49ers for my first home game. We’re both 2-0 so far. For some reason I wrote down their QB’s name: Kyle Orton. They also have Chris Johnson, who the commentator calls “the best Running Back in the NFL.” Adrian Peterson is very offended. (Adrian Peterson is also a Running Back, right?)

Speaking of A.P., he makes a 80+ yard rush that makes the commentator sing something like the 60s Batman theme. It’s kind of amusing.

Final Score: 28-3, Bengals.

I’m clearly doing pretty well on my maiden voyage. I should feel great. But it just leaves me even more apprehensive. I still have lots of questions, you see. Does anyone ever lose Franchise Mode? Is my amazing streak just beginner’s luck? ARE THEY SERIOUS ABOUT THIS BEING A COPYRIGHTED TELECAST?

Hopefully, as the season goes on, I’ll get some answers.

NEXT WEEK: Now that I’m all caught up with the NFL’s schedule, I’ll just play the one scheduled game (Bills at Bengals, we’re both 4-0) and start to delve into all the really complicated coaching/management features I’ve been ignoring. And maybe I’ll talk a bit about how great the helmets look in this game. Really, the helmets are so lovingly rendered. It’s like they’re from a totally different game.

Also, Madden needs a touchdown dance minigame.