Keeping a Promise to Joe

Earlier this year, EA Sports made an open call for names to add to its roster in NCAA Football 10. I put in for a guy to whom I felt I owed one.

Joseph I. Hodas never really knew me, and never knew he was in a video game. He was a professional acquaintance of a friend of mine, and my friend and I loved how The New York Times would insist on quoting him by his full name, with initial, instead of just "Joe Hodas." So, as an inside joke, I put his full name on the back of a jersey of a team I created in NCAA 2004. He was the backup QB as a senior. He had lost his job to a sophomore (incidentally, the writer who profiled Brian for 5280 Magazine.)

I later heard Joe was kind of disappointed about getting benched in the middle of a championship season, and I honestly felt bad for that. Like he'd been the unwitting butt of a joke. So when EA Sports asked for names, I submitted his and hoped for the best. EA Sports reminded that you were submitting names only for "potential use."

Who knows, how, exactly, his last name got in there. I do know I'd never heard it said in previous versions. But I'd like to think that in a recording studio somewhere, maybe Florida, or New York or the West Coast, Brad Nessler of ESPN sat down, maybe cleared his throat, looked at a piece of paper and a pronunciation guide, and said "Hodas."

And in a game on Friday, Virginia Tech vs. the University of Denver (above), I got to hear "Hodas comes to the line under center." As silly as it is, it was a game-pausing, fist-throwing moment. Because it really underlines the game at its finest, when real life collides with sports fantasy on the television set, where you've always wanted to see a great sports moment starring you or your friends.

So, thank you, EA Sports. And I have one more promise: Joe, we're going to the title game this year. And we're doing it with you in the saddle.