FIFA Corruption Scandal: Why “Boys Will Be Boys”

FIFA Corruption Scandal: Why “Boys Will Be Boys”

FIFA corruption scandal
Mark Goulston, M.D.

Mark Goulston, M.D.

Mark Goulston, M.D. is a business advisor, consultant, speaker, trainer and coach trained as a clinical psychiatrist who honed his skills as an FBI/police hostage negotiation trainer who increases people’s ability to get through to anyone.

He is Co- Founder of Heartfelt Leadership whose Mission is: Daring to Care and Go Positive Now and is the Resident Big Brother at Business Women Rising and serves on the Board of Advisers of American Women Veterans and Dr. Oz’ foundation, Health Corps.

He is the author of international best selling book, “Just Listen” Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, $24.95) which has reached #1 at amazon kindle in six business categories, #1 in China and Germany , #1 in audible audiobooks and has been translated into fourteen languages.Dr. Goulston and his book was also a PBS special entitled “Just Listen with Dr. Mark Goulston.”His next book, REAL INFLUENCE: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In, co-authored with Dr. John Ullment will be the lead book for the American Management Association in January, 2013 and will focus on influencing people in a post-selling world.

Dr. Goulston’s development of those skills started with his education: a B.A. from UC Berkeley, an M.D. from Boston University, post graduate residency in psychiatry at UCLA. He went on to be a professor at UCLA’s internationally renowned Neuropsychiatric Institute for more than twenty years, become a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and was named one of America’s Top Psychiatrists for 2004-2005 and again in 2009 and 2011 by Washington, D.C. based Consumers’ Research Council of America.

A partial list of companies, organizations and universities he has trained, spoken to, provided executive coaching to or consulted with include: GE, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Xerox, Deutsche Bank, Hyatt, Accenture, Astra Zenica, British Airways, Sodexo, ESPN, Kodak, Federal Express, YPO, YPOWPO India, Association for Corporate Growth, FBI, Los Angeles District Attorney, White & Case, Seyfarth Shaw, UCLA Anderson School of Management, USC, Pepperdine University.

He is or has been a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and is the best selling author of four prior books including the international best seller, Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior (Perigee, $13.95) Get Out of Your Own Way at Work…and Help Others Do the Same (Perigee, $14.95), is a contributor to Harvard Business,blogs for the Huffington Post, Business Insider writes the Tribune media syndicated column, Solve Anything with Dr. Mark, column on leadership for FAST COMPANY, Directors Monthly. He is frequently called upon to share his expertise with regard to contemporary business, national and world news by television, radio and print media including: Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, Los Angeles Times, ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox/CNN/BBC News, Oprah, Today.

Dr. Goulston lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.
Mark Goulston, M.D.

Latest posts by Mark Goulston, M.D. (see all)
Tsk, Tsk. How naive of us to think that good sportmanship only applies to athletes and not the people people running the show.

What’s most shocking about the FIFA corruption scandal is that it has been going on for so long with so many people aware of it and yet the majority turning a blind eye to it.

The rationalization that it’s not about fixing games, it’s just about doing business in a global community where bribery and corruption has always existed and always will and some will say is the only way to get stuff done.

How and why does it happen that corruption like this can go on so brazenly for so long?

Although women are sometimes discovered to be involved, this is largely a male phenomenon, so please forgive me if I am going to get a little sexist and focus on how and why males can lie to others and themselves with not just a straight face, but with a deep belief that they are not doing anything wrong.

It not’s how you play the game…

More and more, from the soccer world to “deflategate” in the NFL it appears that Grantland Rice’s famous quote has been reversed to: “It’s not how you play the game that counts, it’s whether you win or lose.”

Why is that so important, especially to men?

As men get older, what becomes more important than winning is not losing. Why is that?

Because when men lose they feel a great sense of humiliation, embarrassment, self-doubt and when they lose at something that they thought was a sure thing (think Clippers losing the playoffs to Rockets after a 3 to 1 lead or Seattle Seahawks giving away the Superbowl after an ill conceived pass at the end) it can cause men to question many things about themselves in an almost savage self-hating way.

In fact in more sports fanatical cultures, great sports defeats have been known to lead to murdering a superstar or suicide by one.

Values are no match for needs and impulses

Values are what we like to say to other and ourselves that we believe in and live by. But in reality, they are often no match for urgent needs and irresistible impulses. I’m guessing that the majority of athletes believe in the value of marriage and honoring their spouses. However when they’re on the road, the memory of a “nagging” and aging spouse telling you at home that you need to grow up and pay attention to your children often loses out to a hottie throwing herself at you in utter adoration and idolization.

Without naming names, you and I know of many seated politicians and political candidates that succumb to the same temptation.

I’m sure that the FIFA officials have said to themselves that they follow the values of not allowing cheating in soccer games and that it’s no big deal to get involved in the world of bribery and corruption because people in power nearly always have. To the saying, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” many of them in private probably think, “Yeah and so what?”

The more innocent in the world probably look at “game playing” (i.e. lying, manipulation, etc.) as something wrong and bad and to be avoided. To the people involved in corruption their view is more likely, “The best defense against the game playing in life, is to play them well.”

How brains corrupt minds

There are also multiple neuroscience explanations for this behavior, which don’t justify or excuse them.

Men and women, but especially men, increasingly engage in “transactional myopia” a.k.a. get the deal, win the deal, next deal. Being transactional is all about winning (and not losing) and essential to it is not being empathic/compassionate towards your opponent. In other words, don’t be bothered by their losing or your hurting them to win as long as you win. In fact, a winning at all costs approach can use empathy and getting where your opponent is coming from to more successfully exploit and manipulate them. This is something that “snake oil” salesmen have known forever.

What underlies this win at all cost, throw compassion for your opponent to the wind approach is neurophysiology and neuroanatomy.

Oxytocin is the hormone underneath bonding and what causes young mothers to have amazing patience with a screaming and difficult infant. It’s even working when an athleticteam bonds together especially after a victory or a defeat. It is what fuels compassionate empathy. It some rare individuals it actually enables them to love their enemy.

In a more, sooner impatient and rushed world, oxytocin is no match for testosterone and adrenaline. Testosterone fuels aggression and adrenaline fuels feeling powerful. One of the reason adrenaline junkies are hooked on adrenaline rushes is that they make you feel powerful and almost superhuman.

However what people who are hooked on adrenaline are not bargaining for is that the thrill of an adrenaline rush is exceeded by the utter anguish of an adrenaline crash (remember: “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat” from ABC’s Wide World of Sports).

That agony can be so powerful that people will do anything to avoid it including engaging in daring and foolhardy behavior. I remember one of my motorcycle racing clients told me that until this foot pedals are creating sparks on the pavement, he feels almost bored to death. Another over the hill superstar painfully revealed to me that “When you’ve been somebody and go back to being anybody, it’s the same as being nobody” which explained the crazy behavior he engaged in (“Hmm? Shades of O.J.?”)

Something else that testosterone and adrenaline do with regard to oxytocin, is they obliterate the kind of compassionate caring that mitigates aggressive, destructive and sometimes even murderous impulses. When you’re on testosterone and adrenaline, people become mere objects that are either there to help you win or in your way and needing to be destroyed. That may explain some coaches’ orders to players to “take out” star players on the other side.

Our neuroanatomy is also at play when our brain corrupts our mind and our needs do the same with our values.

Connecting the right (emotional) cerebral hemisphere and the left (analytical) cerebral hemisphere anatomically and functionally is a fiber tract called the corpus callosum. It is thicker in women than in men.

What this means is that under stress a woman’s right and left brain are more in contact than a man’s. This may explain why studies show that young boys will stick to rules even if it hurts other boys’ feelings and why young girls will bend those rules to avoid doing so. In these more innocent cases bending the rules is not about winning or losing its about preventing the aggression of boys from taking over and ruining the game in a bad way and about preventing hurting feeling of girls in a well intentioned way.

This may also explain why men are more likely to kill than women. For women the right and left hemispheres can buffer each other. For men, the hemispheres can operate separately such that under stress men can be machine like logical or over the top emotional.

There is also a survival reason for the difference in corpus callosum size between men and women. When you’re at war and you best buddy just had his head blown off, you don’t have the luxury of becoming emotionally upset. You need to quickly recoup, regroup and re-engage with what you need to do next for your and your squadron’s survival. Having your right and left hemispheres more capable of functioning independently allow for that.

What are the takeaways from this?

Because of the above, people and especially men will always be tempted to cut corners to win and to avoid losing, to greedily grab for more and avoid settling for less.

We just need to accept that and perhaps develop a calm, well thought out process for dealing with it when discovered. This is exactly what our approach to terrorism and extremism is, since there will always be both.

However there is one factor that could change this in favor of routing out corruption. With the ubiquity of the Internet, of body cameras and of drones upon us we may be coming into a world that supports what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said: “Sunshine makes the best disinfectant.”

Maybe that is one of the best purposes for and promises of technology.

oes it happen that corruption like this can go on so brazenly for so long?

Although women are sometimes discovered to be involved, this is largely a male phenomenon, so please forgive me if I am going to get a little sexist and focus on how and why males can lie to others and themselves with not just a straight face, but with a deep belief that they are not doing anything wrong.


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