I love football. Love it. While most people mark the time of year by Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, the only two seasons I recognize are football season and offseason. I got married right before football season started this year, and my wife quickly realized I had unbreakable plans every Thursday night, Monday night, and all day Sunday. I even watched the preseason games when most of the players on the field wouldn’t even make the team.
Today is the NFL Pro Bowl, where the very best players in the world get together to play each other in one game. But I won’t be watching.
Despite being stuffed full of superstars, the Pro Bowl is widely recognized as the most boring game in the NFL. It’s a problem of motivation.
The players have very little reason to try their hardest, and several reasons not to.
Winning the game means almost nothing. Sure, the players on the winning team earn more than the losing team, but while either amount might be significant to us it is a fraction of what the elite players make in a regular season game. In the end, the Pro Bowl means nothing to the rest of the season; it’s little more than an exhibition game. There is some pride in winning the game, but no one remembers which team won after a few days.
The common explanation is that the players fear injury, but that is only part of the reason the Pro Bowl is so boring. All throughout the preseason, regular season, and playoffs, players will give it their all and some even hide existing injuries so they can continue playing. It is only in the Pro Bowl that professional football players take it easy.
Why? As stated above, it’s a problem of motivation. These are elite players, the best in all the world; but they need a reason to play at their best and they are given none.
The same works for every other profession. If people are properly motivated, they can do wondrous things. Doctors invent new cures and business leaders invent new technologies that improve our lives. Construction workers build new homes and factory workers produce the goods we need. The economy grows and our lives improve.
But only if we are properly motivated.
The key insight of capitalism is to harness people’s own self-interest for the betterment of the whole society. High taxes and excessive government interference can limit or even override that self-interest. If the government is going to take 70% of what I earn, why should I work hard just to benefit the people who unfairly take from me? Football players will not perform at their best without a direct benefit to themselves, and neither will the rest of the world.
Leftist economics is the Pro Bowl of public policy; it sounds great in theory, but is a disaster in practice.