Before it took its current form as High Dive and prior to its stint as Impala Lounge, 701 E. Center Street was home to a neighborhood haunt known as River Horse. Though High Dive’s interior still bears a strong resemblance to the past resident, the early aughts Riverwest dive bar had a few striking differences. Chief among them was River Horse’s “Madden Monday” league.
Created by then-Monday night bartender (and current Riverwest24 organizer) Jeremy Prach to lure in more customers, the competitive video game league quickly expanded. Starting with three people vying for an $8 prize each week in 2003, the Monday promotion exploded into a full-fledged league with 20 gamers in two conferences competing for a respectable cash prize by the end of 2005. Outside of Prach, the third season of “Madden Mondays” features such familiar faces as Andy Menchal (Decibully, Dramatic Lovers), Corey Baumann (Winter Bear, Future Plans), and Chuck Engel (Devils Teeth).
Though most of the short-lived league’s stats and records are forever lost in the sands of time, Renato Umali had the foresight to document the road to Madden Bowl III in late 2005 with a series of “Madden Mondays” videos. The first installment of the five-part series introduces us to Prach, an outspoken character named Poppy, and many of the other Madden NFL 06 enthusiasts who took part in the series.
From there, the rest of the series chronicles the playoffs, the “Toilet Bowl” game, and the eventual Madden Bowl III match-up between the No Jobs Conference and Day Jobs Conference champs. Along the way, viewers are treated to time-stamped goodness like smack talk on a MySpace page, tube televisions, pixelated cameos from Kerry Collins and Lamont Jordan, and the now-foreign concept of people smoking inside bars.
In the end, one competitor came out of the Madden Bowl with the $280 prize (worth $359.16 today) and bragging rights. It might’ve started as a way to attract some business on a typically dead night, but Madden Mondays became something more. To quote one player, “For what I put into it, this is one of the best things in my life right now.”
If you have approximately 35 minutes to kill before tonight’s game, let Umali’s five-part “Madden Mondays” series take you back to River Horse and the year 2005. You won’t be sorry.