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Champions and Money Players


From 1947 through 1964, the New York Yankees were the American League Champions fourteen times. They missed playing in the World Series only three times during those seventeen years, and won the Series ten times in that short time span. They were known as the “money” players—players who fought hard for a share the World Series bonus money. The bonus money was truly significant, often equaling close to the annual salary of the typical player. They could smell victory and had the killer instinct to win.

But was it the pursuit of money that really motivated these players? The cash certainly didn’t hurt, but was it the real motivating factor?  If you ever visited the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, NJ and saw his collection of World Series rings, you’d get a completely different perspective. Out of all of his honors and awards, Yogi was most proud of the ten World Series rings he won as a player, and another three as a coach on championship teams. Those rings are the lasting tributes to his participation and contribution in winning the top honor.

It doesn’t matter how much Michael Jordan’s championship bonuses amounted to. What people remember him for are his feats and the image of him flashing six championship rings on his hands after the second great three-peat. His legacy is that he was an integral part of a Chicago Bulls championship dynasty.

In golf, being able to wear the Green Jacket as The Masters Champion is much more meaningful than the actual prize money. Just ask Jack Nicklaus.

Winning the big game and all of the rewards that go along with victory is the ultimate goal for all sports teams. All their hard work and long, arduous, months of grinding practices and hard fought games, finally culminate into one game for ultimate superiority. The Super Bowl is such a contest.

In reality, the Super Bowl has become much more than just a championship game between two outstanding teams. It has become a national ritual, a happening of enormous proportions—an event that touches the lives of most Americans. It consumes weeks of pregame hype, TV commercial planning and half-time entertainment extravaganzas. Millions of Americans plan all day events around the game, preparing huge quantities of food and drink and hosting parties. Corporate workplaces create the ever-present pools for employees to get a chance for a quick jackpot. Everything is geared toward total involvement in the game and its outcome.

Often, the game brings two superstars together which further heightens the pregame hype and adds to the stakes. Every Super Bowl awards a hero or most valuable player, usually someone who makes the big play that turns the game to the winning side. In addition to a separate individual trophy, that award winner gets to ride away in a new car.

When the final whistle is blown and a new Super Bowl champion emerges, the honor isn’t awarded to a single player or coach. It is, more appropriately, awarded to the team—all 53 men on the roster, all coaches, trainers, and team officials.  It was the team, working as a single unit, who won it all. Without the individual effort of every single member of that organization, each doing their specialized job in an extraordinary manner, in total concert with one other, they would not be celebrating their victory.

Every business should have a comparable Super Bowl goal as part of its business plan. Their goal doesn’t have to be played out in front of a national television audience, but there needs to be total corporate involvement with measurable levels of achievement. Employees have to understand their role and responsibility in this quest, managers have to coach and devise strategies to lead the company toward their goal, and owners must provide the necessary tools for everyone to do their jobs with excellence.

People want to belong to winning organizations. They are only willing to give their best effort, however, when they see that their organization is dedicated to winning its own Super Bowl. Goals that are meaningful and gratifying for everyone involved in the effort of achievement are most rewarding to those that toil in its pursuit. Recognition of their contribution to the team success is essential.

Oh, about those Super Bowl game bonuses. Unlike the wide disparity in player salaries that currently prevails, bonus money is divided equally into 53 parts. Every player on the 53-man roster of a playoff team actually gets bonuses throughout each round of the postseason. The winners of last year’s Super Bowl 49 each received a check for $97,000. The losers received a consolation prize check for $49,000.

On top of these Super Bowl checks, both teams received bonuses for playing in the conference championship games — checks of $44,000 — and divisional round games — checks of $24,000. So in total, Seattle’s players walked away with $117,000 in bonus money for the playoffs, while New England’s players ended up with a whopping $165,000. That’s a good chunk of change, even in an era of multi million dollar salaries.

And of course, all of the winners get their famous identical rings.