How many times have you sat around the bar, or your buddy’s house, and said “Man, I can’t believe that guy made it to the pros!” or “I bet I could do better than that guy!” We’ve all done it. Spike TV even made a TV show out of it, called Pros vs. Joes.
Most of the time that kind of head-in-the-clouds attitude is pointless, and completely misguided. Yes, some professional athletes are worse than others, but rest assured that each one of them is better, far, far better, than you or any of your buddies.
Having said that, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that once in a while, a completely underqualified, not quite ready for the big time player, makes it through the cracks. Most of the time, you can see the years of training, determination, and effort that separates amateur athletes from professionals. Sometimes, well, you can’t.
Those are the heroes that are being honoured here. Those brave men and women who, despite their lack of technical training and abilities, somehow managed to find a place and share a stage with the greatest athletes of their sports.
Whether it came to be through a well-timed phone call, an unusual stature, or some less-than observant scouts, these 10 athletes made it to the professional leagues. They are the world’s worst professional athletes.
10 Sean Gannon, UFC Fighter, Boston
Remember those Kimbo Slice YouTube videos? He had out-of-shape street fighters dropping like flies. But, years before he fell to pink-haired Seth Petruzelli, Slice was stopped by a big Irish police officer from Boston. His name was Sean Gannon, and apparently, someone at UFC was also a fan of Kimbo Slice videos, because they decided that Gannon had earned a spot in their organization. They did not take into account that Gannon lacked the stamina necessary for professional fighting.
9 Robin Deakin, Boxer, England
Rockin' Robin Deakin seemed to be properly qualified to become a professional boxer in Britain. He had amassed 40 wins as an amateur fighter before accepting payment for a fight. He even managed to win his professional debut in 2006. Since then, Deakin has gone on a 50-fight losing streak.
8 Vanessa Lima, Tennis Player, Brazil
The Brazilian-born Lima retired in 2011, but had a career that lasted 12 years and included absolutely zero set wins. In total, she won 22 games, just 5 percent of her total games played, with no sets and, of course, no victories out of 44 matches played.
7 Ali Dia, Striker, Southampton
Ali Dia is well known in the United Kingdom for his brief professional soccer career in the English Premier League. In 1996, Dia was a career minor-leaguer, toiling away in the lower divisions of French soccer, before being inspired to hit the fast-forward button.
Dia placed a call to Graeme Souness, former England national player and then-manager of Southampton, purporting to be Liberian soccer legend George Weah. "Weah" had an inside tip for Souness on a cousin of his, Ali Dia, who was a star in Africa.
Souness bought it, and had Dia brought in for a tryout. Though unimpressive, Souness and the Southampton management decided the word of George Weah deserved another chance. As fate would have it, Dia was named as a substitute in a Premier League match only 3 days after arriving in England.
Sure enough, a hamstring injury to another striker lead to Souness calling Dia into the match. He proceeded to play, according to a teammate, "like a deer on ice skates." In professional soccer, managers only get to use three substitutions in a game. After using one to bring Dia into the game, Souness had no choice but to use another one to remove him after just 50 minutes.
6 Paul Deutsch, Goaltender, Minnesota Wild
In November 2011, 51-year-old beer league goalie Paul Deutsch got a call from his friend; his team needed a goalie for the night. Except this was no ordinary beer league team. The call was from Minnesota Wild goalie coach Bob Mason, and the Wild needed a backup goalie for their game that night.
5 Eddie Gaedel, Pinch Hitter, St. Louis Browns
4 Manute Bol, Center, Washington Bullets
Bol was a Sudanese import who stood a whopping 7-feet, 7-inches tall. That height alone could have been enough to make Bol an intimidating shot blocker and rebounder. Alas, Bol weighed just a shade over 200 pounds, and was frighteningly thin and weak. He looked frail. He could hardly jump or run.
His career high for points per game was 3.1, which he "accomplished" in 1989. For a player that could have dunked without jumping, Bol made the offensive side of the game look as complicated as disarming a bomb. He dropped the ball, missed layups, and generally had no idea what he was doing.
3 Rusty Lisch, Quarterback, St. Louis Cardinals/Chicago Bears
2 Maurice Flitcroft, Golfer, British Open
Imagine Rodney Dangerfield's character from Caddyshack, except with less golfing ability. That's a pretty fair representation of Flitcroft, a shipyard worker who successfully entered himself into the 1976 British Open Championship as a professional, despite having played only a handful of rounds in his entire life.
To prepare for the tournament, Flitcroft read a golf instruction manual borrowed from his local library. His equipment amounted to nothing more than a faux-leather bag and half of a set of clubs.
1 Robert Dee, Tennis Player, England
Imagine an athlete being so bad at their sport, that newspapers frequently refer to him as the "World's Worst". Then, in an attempt to remove that unsightly moniker, he sues those newspapers for defamation. That is the beginning of the story of Robert Dee.
In 2010, Dee had an unprecedented 54-match losing streak on the ATP tour. A Reuters article, published by several UK newspapers, was naming him as the "World's Worst Professional Tennis Player". Dee, whose pride was probably more damaged than his backhand, sued for defamation. Most of the major newspapers agreed to retract and offered Dee some settlement money. The Daily Telegraph, on the other hand, took a stance for journalistic integrity. They argued, in court, that Dee was in fact the worst, as evidenced by his incredible losing streak. The judge agreed with the newspaper, and Dee began a litigation losing streak.
In happy news, Dee did eventually snap his tennis losing streak in 2010.
So, the next time someone tells you that you're not good enough, just think about these examples. Most athletes will repeat the mantra of "Work hard and practice." But the best stories of athletes who were able to live out their dreams, preferred to stick with "Fake it until you make it."
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