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Inside EA Sports, Why Madden Must Be Called 'American Football'

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Once upon a time there wasn't much of a dispute over the word "football." Over here, it meant cheerleaders, instant replay, and concussions. Over there, it meant relegation, riots, and flopping. Then came the Internet, and commenters stomping around in one another's mud puddles.

Football. Soccer. Handegg. Communist Kickball. Whatever you call your version or the other guy's, EA Sports makes the top video game for it: FIFA and Madden NFL. Madden is the older title, one that not only gave rise to the EA Sports label but also the company's console publishing dominance. Today, FIFA sells more, to more countries, and the bosses of EA Sports during its ascent and primacy have been a Liverpudlian and an Australian supporter of Chelsea F.C.


So, inside EA, which game gets called football?

"My title is general manager of football," says Cam Weber, the man in charge of Madden and NCAA Football for EA Sports. "It's on the business card I give out."


"To me, there's not really any rivalry," sniffed Matt Bilbey, an Englishman and Tottenham supporter. "My official title is just general manager of football for EA Sports."

In consideration of our U.K. readers' feelings, since late 2011 I've tried to refer to American football as just that on first reference, unless the sport in question was already established by a reference to NCAA Football or Madden or some other title. In stories where both FIFA and Madden or NCAA are discussed, I've deferred to calling FIFA football, because God knows, if you don't, you'll hear about it.

But I can make such decisions unilaterally. After coming aboard as the chief of Madden and NCAA in 2011, Weber had to sort out such matters with Bilbey. It's especially humorous that Weber himself is from Canada, whose version of football, like its versions of bacon and whiskey, must always be qualified by country of origin.

So Weber proposed a round of golf, at Northlands Golf Course outside Bilbey's home turf of Vancouver, to resolve ownership. "He lives on a golf course and plays a lot of golf," said Bilbey. "So Cam gave me a 10-stroke lead."


"I beat him by eight," Weber said.

"Either way, I won," Bilbey said.

"Yes, my business unit, internally, is called American football," Weber said, sounding none too pleased. Was his staff informed of the showdown or its stakes? "No, they don't know anything about it," he said.


What about Bilbey's gang? "I wouldn't say I was bragging about it," Bilbey smirked, "but they were informed. There may have been a few updates from the course. A simulcast back in the office."

Will there be a rematch?

"I fully expect Matt to appear on stage as the general manager of European football next year," Weber laughed.


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