Shutdown Corner - NFL

Letting people vote for things is how America ended up with Jimmy Carter, purple M&Ms and Taylor Hicks. It's also why EA Sports will be stuck with either Michael Vick(notes) or Peyton Hillis(notes) (yes, Peyton Hillis) on the cover of Madden '12.

The two players are in the finals of the Madden '12 cover vote, having made it through four rounds of a 32-player bracket on ESPN.com. From now until April 27, fans can vote for either the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback or the Cleveland Browns running back as the new cover athlete for the biggest video game in sports. The winner will be announced that afternoon on "SportsNation."

Vick was a No. 3 seed in his 16-player bracket and easily outpaced DeMarcus Ware(notes), Andre Johnson(notes), Patrick Willis(notes) and Adrian Peterson to reach the final. The 10th-seeded Hillis had a Butler-like run through his bracket, squeaking through an early matchup against Matt Ryan(notes) and then upsetting top-seeded Aaron Rodgers(notes) to reach the final.

It's hard to imagine EA Sports had a white running back or convicted felon in mind when it started this contest. I'm guessing it figured it was in the bag for Aaron Rodgers and everything else was just easy publicity. Now it'll have a general unknown or the most divisive player in the sport as the winner. I don't envy the marketing executive who has to explain to his bosses why Hillis may grace the cover or the PR person who will have to face an onslaught of criticism for celebrating Vick.

But is it really so bad? I tend to think things couldn't have worked out much better for EA. A Hillis win will bring a whirlwind of positive attention to him and the game. Vick's victory would be accompanied by some controversy, which is not always a negative.

By and large, the people who are going to be upset about Vick being on the cover of a video game aren't going to be the same people who are buying said game. Any negative effect the Vick cover will have on sales will be made up for by the publicity generated by having him on the cover. This is one of those circumstances where all press is good press.

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