Former Raiders QB Jim Plunkett
Photo: George Rose (Getty Images)

For the first time in years, I’ve been trying to play some serious Madden in 2021, and while I’m surprisingly enjoying myself quite a bit—taking a few seasons off annual sports games like this is good for that—I am very disappointed in one particularly weird hangup the game has with my name.

Madden 22 is kinda built around the idea of the player building and having an “avatar”, who isn’t just the player you can take into its career mode, but also hangs around the main menu dressed in whatever outfit you’re willing or able to unlock. While in RPGs I’ll always create the most fantastical character I can, when it comes to sports games for some reason I always like to role-play as…myself. Boring, perhaps, but I’ve played and still play a ton of team sports (including what we’d call American football), so direct role-playing has always seemed fine to me.

Anyway, so here I am, putting my name into the fields in Madden 22 when it asks for my surname, and I put it in, same as I have every other sports game since the 1990s:

Only then I see something I have never seen in my life. Or at least after putting in my own name:

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Please know that I spent the next 10 minutes sitting at my screen trying to work out what, exactly, the profanity was. Lunk? Kett? Ett? Plun? No, those aren’t words. Had I typed it in wrong and dropped in a curse by mistake? Nope, every letter was correct. Was I inadvertently the victim of EA Sports scanning the game for Middle French vulgarity? Maybe!

Turns out I’m not the only one suffering from this, as people with other such rare and disgusting names as “Simpson” are finding out. Hopefully it’s a bug EA can fix in the short term, but if not, I’ll just keep on playing the game with my new avatar, Johnny Profane.

Anyway, the reason this disappointed me so much, to the point where I’m telling you this story at all, is that my only truly positive experience with my last name in video games also came from the Madden series. Back in the early 00s, maybe around Madden 03, I remember punching in my actual name for career mode, getting under centre as QB, taking my first snap and hearing the commentator say “Plunkett drops back to pass” and just dying.

My name isn’t exactly a common one. Sure you can probably name one or two other Plunketts—one in particular that has relevance to my Madden experience—but it’s not like there are a ton of famous celebrities and athletes out there sharing this weird-ass surname that was, let’s just say, not very fun to take through school.

So to play Madden for a bit of role-playing and hear a commentator say my name out loud in the process was, and probably remains, one of my favourite all-time moments in sports video games. I know it’s only because that year EA brought in a bunch of classic players, Super Bowl-winning Raiders QB Jim Plunkett among them, but the reason it said it didn’t matter to me so long as I got to share in the end result.

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