ON THE TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS October 29, 2012 #408 Coming up next…Incentives?

After further review…While the New Orleans Saints infamous bounty program appears to be “deceased”, its “burial” has not yet happened. This disgraced system offered a financial reward, an incentive if you will, for intentionally-caused injuries to opposing players. It paid off when overzealous      hits took an opponent out of a series of players, or a game, or even a season, with special incentive given to removing said players from the field on a cart.  Bounty systems per se have always run counter to NFL policy; whenever they have flourished undetected, it has been because the hits, although violent, are not rule-book-illegal.

In gamification terms the NFL game was designed with a particular “social fabric” in mind, meaning that all agree to play by the same rules with the same values and the same goals. This “fabric” is based on trust–trust that all who enter the game do so in agreement about those rules, values, and goals. When players violate that trust, game officials (who many refer to as “referees”) then must step in to reinforce the game’s integrity as expressed in that fabric.

The concept of pay-for-performance, which rewards a player with extra money for quarterback sacks, or stifling kick or punt returns, etc., has always been around. But the question has grown in frequency along with the salaries being paid: If you’re making millions of dollars, isn’t such performance simply part of the job?  In years gone by players’ salaries were nowhere near today’s levels, and the bonuses paid for extra performance were more symbols of peer recognition and respect than financial gain.

Are incentives good for the NFL game? It’s a business after all, like many others in which incentives play a role in meeting performance goals.  Coaches are given financial incentives if their T*E*A*M reaches the playoffs or wins a championship. Isn’t that “best” performance implicit in their salaries? Should the money flow the other way if goals are not met?  Did you ever pay your kids for A’s on their report cards? Hmmm! Is that where it all starts?  Whatever happened to doing your very best just for the sake of  pride-in-performance?

Will you give your very best effort without an extra incentive or is that necessary for you to be successful?

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