All Pro vs All Madden
No one wins in the endless All-Pro vs. All-Madden debates

Could you make the argument that Jamal Mashburn was a better small forward than LeBron James during the 2002-03 basketball season simply because Mashburn was playing with and against professional basketball players while James was playing with and against other high school players?

Similarly, could you make the argument that former NBA Shooting Guard Rex Walters was a much better hoops player than high school Phenom Kobe Bryant during the 1995-96 basketball season simply because Walters was playing with and against other professional basketball players, while Bryant was limited to playing with and against only other high school basketball players?

Marinate on that for a moment.

In the meantime, let’s now switch the subject matter from basketball players to fanatical video sports gamers. Would you believe that back in early 1999, I almost got into a fisticuffs fight with a good friend and fraternity brother of mine named Tim a.k.a. “Bigg Badd Bevv” because he and I got momentarily caught up in an extremely heated argument regarding the perceived strengths and weaknesses of engaging in EA Sports Madden NFL gameplay on the All-Pro level of difficulty versus the All-Madden level of difficulty?

At the time, whenever Bevv and I competed on the All-Madden level, I won probably 85-90% of our games. On the flip side, whenever we competed on the All-Pro level, Bevv won approximately 65-75 % of the time (He and I had an on-going ‘best-of-three’ series between us, where we would play one game on All-Pro, one game on All-Madden, and if a third ‘tie-breaker’ game was necessary, whoever won by the largest margin in their Game 1 or Game 2 victory got to play on their preferred level of difficulty for Game 3).

The first version of EA Sports Madden NFL I ever played regularly was Madden ’98. A close friend and fellow online league member of mine, DeMarrio Gray, introduced to me to the game of Madden NFL, and I immediately became ‘addicted’ to this form of video sports game competition (Actually, the first EA Sports game I ever played regularly was FIFA Soccer ’95).

On Madden ’98, there were three levels of difficulty: Rookie, Pro, and Madden. Whenever DeMarrio and I played games on the Rookie level, he won probably 95% of the time. When we played briefly on the Pro level, he won probably 50-60% of the games between us. But when we escalated up to Madden level, I completely dominated him. I won probably 95-99% of the time.

Consequently, I began to hate playing against DeMarrio on the Rookie level, and to a lesser extent, the Pro level, and conversely, DeMarrio developed a passionate hatred toward the idea of competing against me on the Madden level.

Now, could I validly make the argument that I was a ‘better’ and more skilled Madden NFL competitor because I defeated my two friends Tim and DeMarrio the vast majority of the time while competing on the Madden / All-Madden level? Initially, I honestly believed so. Years later, I was not so sure of that cocky assumption.

Just recently, I was conversing with another good friend and fellow Madden NFL online league member of mine named Ato (pronounced ‘Ah2’). Last Thursday, he and I played two games against each other on the new 2014-15 version of Madden NFL. In the first game, played on the All-Pro level, I defeated Ato 20-14 in Overtime. In the second game, played on the All-Madden level, I jumped out to a 13-0 lead only to see my buddy Ato score 20 unanswered points to eventually win the game 20-13. When discussing the game the other day, Ato expressed the lighthearted remark, “I hate playing on All-Pro.” I asked, “Why?” Ato responded, “Among other things, I think it makes the game too easy.” Too easy for whom?

Starting with the late 1990s all the way up until now, I have heard many other Madden NFL competitors suggest that those competitors who regularly play on the All-Madden level are “better” than those who compete on the Pro or All-Pro level. For the most part, I disagree with that assessment.

Returning to my professional sports analogies again, my attitude is, if Kobe Bryant is better than just about all of his basketball peers, he should have been able to dominate them on the high school level, the college level, and the professional level. Same thing goes for LeBron James.

Let’s say you have two competitors, “Larry” and “Brian.” If Larry wins 65% of his games against Brian on the ‘Pro’ level, and Larry wins 75% of his games against Brian on the All-Pro level, and then finally, Larry goes on to win 90% of his games against Brian on the All-Madden level, then Larry would have every right in the world to declare himself a “better Madden Baller” than Brian. Why? Because he proved his superior controller skills (also known as ‘stick’ or ‘user talents’) as well as his play calling and game strategy skills on each and every level.

On the other hand, if Brian wins 75% of their games on the Pro level, they each win roughly 50% of their games on All-Pro, and Larry wins 75% of their games on All-Madden, then how can anyone legitimately say that Larry (or Brian) is the ‘better’ Madden competitor? In reality, their talents would have to be considered about even. It would be clear that Brian is the better competitor on the Pro level, the two are about equal on the All-Pro level, and Larry is the better competitor on the All-Madden level.

As fond as I am of my good friend Ato, and I generally respect his opinions, to say that playing on the All-Pro level makes playing Madden NFL “easier” than playing the game on the All-Madden level is a ridiculous assertion in my opinion. “Easier” would imply that playing the game on the All-Pro level is “less of a challenge” and opens the door for one to achieve their desired gameplay goals much more frequently.