For those who mark the passage of time with the release of the Madden NFL game every year, the Tampa Bay Storm and Blockbuster have teamed up to host a Madden '09 Tournament on the eve of the video's debut.
The pre-release party starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Blockbuster store in Pinellas Park, where fans will show off their skills on Madden '08. Up to 64 players can participate with priority going to those who reserve a game, which goes on sale at 12:01 a.m. directly following the tournament.
A few Storm players and members of the Storm Dancers will attend, including wide receiver Tyrone Timmons, a longtime Madden fan. A former Tampa Bay Tech star, Timmons started playing the game in 1994 when his parents gave it to him for his 10th birthday.
"I played it every day all day for a long time,'' he said. "I got real good at it.''
Timmons, 24, recently extended his contract with the Storm until 2010. During the off-season, he works as a substitute high school math teacher.
A Mississippi Valley State grad, Timmons buys the new releases almost every year and currently plays the '07 version on his PlayStation 2. He doesn't doubt all the virtual play has helped his real play.
"I used to create myself all the time,'' he said.
Madden '09 is the first of the series to offer online league play. It also introduces Madden IQ, which will automatically gauge a player's skills through a series of mini-games.
And for anyone in Tampa Bay who hasn't heard enough about estranged Packers quarterback Brett Favre, his picture appears on the cover.
Winners in the Blockbuster tournament will receive Storm merchandise, Tampa Bay Lightning tickets and other prizes. The top winner will take home a free copy of Madden '09.