I watched the world’s top golfers play in the prestigious PGA tournament over the last 4 days. This is one of the top 4 prizes in world golf and a massive achievement for the overall winner. Winning a “major” is a vital brick in the career of the world’s top golfers.
Dustin Johnson was leading coming into the last of 72 holes and needed only a four shot par to win. His first shot ended out in the area where a large crowd was gathered. His second shot was from a rough scrub area in a sandy patch. He touched the ground with his club before making his swing and striking the ball. He ended the hole with 5 shots. This left him in a tie for first place with two other golfers. He still had a chance to win one of golf’s great prizes (and a lot of money). As he waited, a rules official approached him and told him that the second shot that he hit from the sandy patch had infringed upon the rules. After reviewing the situation, Dustin Johnson took out his eraser, rubbed out the 5 he had scored on hole 18 and wrote in the number 7 – in one self-regulated moment taking away his dream of victory.
I was struck by a massive disconnect between the attitude of the players in golf’s “world cup” and the recent FIFA football world cup in South Africa.
The world’s children grow up looking for role models that drive their developing value systems and aspirations and ideas of what a good life looks like. I believe that sports stars attitudes translate directly into children’s beliefs about what is appropriate behaviour in life.
The French football team were a particularly pathetic example of poor attitude, cheating being ok, laziness and lack of respect for everyone else: countrymen, coaches and the referees. The team should not have been there in the first place having beaten the Irish in a game where Thierry Henry handled the ball into the Irish goal net in plain view of all the world’s video cameras – but not the game’s referee. When the referee gave the goal there was uproar from the Irish team. Thierry and his mates in the post-match interviews did not deny that their victory was a victory of blatant cheating. Every Irish and French boy watched this. Every Irish and French boy saw what the football authorities think is ok – if the cheating is undetected by the referee then it is ok.
The world’s most talented football players spend a lot of time falling over without being touched and arguing with the referee over each and every decision.
Once at the world cup, the french team truly delivered a performance that embarassed every french person that I know. Nicolas Anelka, the captain had a poor attitude in training and was sanctioned by the coach. He publicly insulted the coach. He was taken out of the team and sent home. The rest of the team went on strike and didn’t show up to practice. The coach refused to shake hands with coaches from other teams believing that they had insulted him. All in all, a ten out of ten score for pathetic performance. (French team world cup summary on BBC) The French president was so insulted by this group of fools representing their country that he called them in for a meeting to explain themselves. Two were sanctioned for sex with an underage girl about a week later.
We are currently in a global financial crisis brought upon by banks doing what they could get away with (like the French football team) rather than what they knew to be right (like the golfers). I often hear the claim that we need more regulation. Football won’t change by putting 2 referees on the field. It will only change when the culture of football rejects cheating and ostracizes those that regularly cheat.
The financial services answer is not more regulation – it is about making sure that the 10, 11 and 12 year old children growing up today see more sports stars with the attitude of Dustin Johnson than Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka and when bankers celebrate great client service (that was the point of them wasn’t it) rather than publish lists of how much money each dealmaker has scraped together. Goldman Sachs looks more like french football than US golf. I hope that the generation of 10 year olds of today forget about Thierry Henry and remember Dustin Johnson – and 20 to 30 years from now, when they are running Goldman Sachs – they will live with some basic values (not asking for charity; just not lying, not cheating and not stealing) – rather than defining “not illegal” as their operating boundary.