5 Pro Athletes Who Are Hilariously Bad At Sports
It's one thing to be bad at sports. It's completely another to be bad at sports, yet somehow end up competing at the top level of said sport. It sounds impossible, but every once in a while, athletes with the sporting ability of a wet mitten manage to sneak their way into top-tier competitions. And that's when things go from "graceful athletic competition" to "Benny Hill montage."
The World's Most Amazingly Awful Golfer Played Cat And Mouse With Officials For Decades
The year was 1976, and the golf-loving world was gearing up for the Open Championship, a prestigious-as-shit tournament which modern audiences and people who watch two minutes of golf before switching back to a COPS marathon know as the British Open. It was the preferred hunting grounds for the cream of the golfin' crop -- the sort of folks who would go on to have the first golf computer games named after them. Among these argyle-patterned titans of the industry was Maurice Flitcroft, an up-and-coming pro golfer no one had ever really heard about. But hey, every big name had their first major competition once, right? Let the guy in, see how he fares, and if he gets lucky, his name will haunt the players of Maurice Flitcroft's Golf Masters forever.
With that logic and with no internet to double-check Flitcroft's credentials, the officials shrugged and wrote him in to compete against legends like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Flitcroft repaid them by immediately making history. Only, not the sort of history that most stuffy golf enthusiasts like to reminisce about.
A rare image of Mr. Flitcroft in the vicinity of a prize.
The astute reader might have guessed by now that Maurice Flitcroft was not exactly what you'd call a seasoned golf professional. He was a 46-year-old crane operator from Northern England who had never once played a full 18-hole round of golf -- he just happened to pick up a club one day and, after whacking a ball at some scraggly local field a few times, decided "Screw it, I'm a professional now." So he entered the tournament, artfully dodging questions about his handicap and professional status by either lying or just not fucking answering. And that's how the 1976 Open got all sorts of rough.
Yes, that's a "literally and metaphorically" joke, and yes, you're welcome.
Clad in plastic shoes, a fishing hat, false teeth, and playing with an incomplete set of cheap mail-order clubs, Flitcroft took the tee amidst a sea of immaculately dressed pros with perfect swings. He attacked the ball like he'd heard that it would reveal his darkest secret if he didn't kill it, and yet he barely got it off the tee. His ultimate score -- a ridiculous 49-over-par 121 -- is still the worst in tournament history, and no one has even come close to performing more badly. Immediately after he was done playing, they changed the rules so that Maurice Flitcroft, specifically, would never again be able to compete anywhere in the country.
Not that Maurice gave a single fuck. He had decided that he liked the game, lords and ladies be damned. For the next 20 years, he would attempt to enter the Open and several other competitions, using various plots that even Wile E. Coyote would deem impractical. What's more, he succeeded. Sporting false names, ridiculous disguises, and giant dyed mustaches, Flitcroft managed to enter several tournaments over the years, gleefully playing a few holes until his signature "confused combine harvester" technique revealed his true identity and disgruntled officials chased him off the premises (sometimes literally). Sometimes, he would disappear for years on end, only to suddenly reappear and have officials promptly shit bricks as they realized that they had the Maurice Flitcroft on their hands. He even gained a nemesis in the form of Keith McKenzie, the adequately stuffy secretary of the Royal and Ancient, a powerful St.-Andrews-based organization that was essentially running the sport. No, I didn't make up that name. I know, it sounds like something you'd find in an annoying Witcher 3 side quest. Go Google it, I'll wait.
Golf grasped the concept of pretentiousness early on, and never saw the point of letting go.
Eventually, the Universe caught up to the plucky underdog role Flitcroft had been playing for all those years. People started recognizing him as a folk hero who stuck it to the elitist sport at every opportunity. Even the sport itself started warming up to the "worst golfer in the world," to the point where at least one golf club has named an event in his honor. When he died in 2007, the esteemed Golf Digest gave him a fond obituary. Sadly, to this date, he still hasn't gotten his own Windows 95 golfing game.
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A High Jumper Attempted To Compete While Drunk Out Of His Mind
Sometimes, you don't need to be the world's worst athlete to completely bumblefuck your way through competitions. Even fairly decent sports-folks can drop the ball at a moment's notice if slapped in the face with an absurd enough situation. Take esteemed Russian high jumper Ivan Ukhov.
That's not a participation medal.
He's a pretty big shot in the world of high jumping, but even he could indulge in stupid slapstick dipshittery with the best of them. Ukhov's chosen venue for these antics was the 2008 Athletissima in Lausanne, Switzerland, and his chosen method was to turn up completely shitfaced.
I'd GIF that clip up, but really, you only get the full effect if you watch the whole thing. It's a delight from beginning to end. The woozy "Waitaminnit, where am I again?" shuffle at the beginning. The drunken terror as he slowly realizes that everyone in the stadium is watching him and expects him to do something. The dread when he realizes said something is high jumping -- which, despite its name, requires an utterly ridiculous amount of body coordination. The part when he removes his warm-up shorts in the exact "Wait, how do clothes work, again?" fashion so familiar to all of us after a long night out. The "FUCK YOU, CARL, I CAN DO THIS!!!" body language at the fellow athlete who comes up to check his condition. And, after a lengthy "Ohshitohshitoshit" buildup, a near cop-out, and an intervention by an annoyed official, the glorious, glorious jump itself. Witness the human body in its full grace and might:
To be fair, there were slight mitigating elements to Ukhov's behavior. Just before the competition, he had failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympic team, and had a massive fight with his girlfriend to boot. The natural Russian instinct to stop giving a fuck and go bathe in vodka for a week or six has been triggered by less. Ukhov repented, reimbursed the competition for the embarrassment, and got away with a slap on the wrist. He went on to jump like a goddamn beast, and actually won the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. This is all the more impressive considering that he had to carry the added weight of no one ever letting him live the events of Lausanne down.
The Formula One Driver Who Didn't Understand How Car Races Work
To say that Taki Inoue was a bad Formula One driver would be a waste of a perfect opportunity to use the word "abysmal." In fact, even that word is not quite fitting for Inoue, who seems to exist on a plane of existence generally occupied by the likes of Nic Cage and Gary Busey. Here's an amazing interview wherein he happily admits his status as the worst of the worst, having been terrified at the wheel because he didn't realize how fast F1 cars were. He also imparts sage knowledge about the way racetrack doctors used to feel up his balls to determine whether he had brain damage.
"Yes, 'racetrack doctors.'"
In his 18 races, Inoue lapped up a total of zero points, and drove like an overcautious grandmother. Despite his short tenure, he managed to earn an unparalleled reputation for ineptitude. He came in without knowing what pit stops were. Other racers used his name as a shorthand for awful racing performance. Even other famously bad drivers freely called him "rubbish." Fate itself seemed to think Inoue was bullshit. During the practice rounds of one race, he was being towed to the pits when a safety car accidentally rammed his car and flipped it. Yes, Taki Inoue once had an accident with the fucking safety car while just quietly chilling in his own vehicle. That's not bad luck; that's the Universe kicking you in the dick for embarrassing it in front of its friends.
Inoue didn't have the luck or the talent that it takes to pilot super-fast land rockets, is what I'm saying.
The fact that Inoue idolized legendary driver / professional wino James Hunt and regularly emulated his drink intake was probably juuust a coincidence.
The thing most F1 enthusiasts (who haven't managed to bleach his name out of their brain) remember about Inoue, however, was his strange accident in the 1995 Hungary GP race. In characteristic fashion, Inoue was forced to bail out of the race because his car was on fire. Typically, this is how such situations go: The driver stops the car in the safest location possible, gets the fuck away of the car, and lets the people who actually know how to put out a fire ... put out the fire. Now, this is what Inoue did:
After slowly emerging from his car (which, you'll remember, was on fire at the time) uninjured, he immediately started intervening with the marshals' attempts to put it out. Apparently having decided to put out the fire himself, he stumbled back and forth like a headless chicken -- and promptly threw himself in the path of a medical car. The medical car that was visibly approaching all the time. The medical car that was coming to check that he was alright. He injured his leg, and had to lie on the side of the track for an hour because the officials wouldn't stop the race to helicopter him to a hospital. Once he finally got to one, they refused to treat him unless he gave them his credit card, which he obviously didn't carry in his driving suit. A day in the life of Taki Inoue, ladies and gentlemen.
Inoue soon recovered from his injury and resumed racing. However, people soon figured out that the split-second decisions necessary to control a powerful racing car were probably not up the alley of a guy who obliviously walks in front of vehicles that move at a walking pace. Still, Inoue has never regretted a thing. He went on to manage (hopefully more talented) Japanese drivers and a truly glorious Twitter account, and is always ready to fondly yet irreverently reminisce about his time in the F1 car.
The Amateur Soccer Player Who Bamboozled His Way To Premier League
It's November 1996, and the phone of Graeme Souness, the manager of the English Premier League team Southampton, is ringing. The caller is none other than Liberian striker George Weah, one of the absolute best players in the world at the time. Weah has a proposition for Souness: He has a cousin who is, like, amazing at football, and who wants to take his game to Europe. If Souness were to offer the guy a contract, he might very well have another George Weah in his hands, wink wink. Souness is a hardened professional with a keen eye for bullshit, but he figures this chance is just too good to miss. So he gives the cousin a contract, leans back, and waits for the game-changing goal machine to arrive in his squad.
What he got instead was Ali Dia.
You know that what's about to follow is a train wreck, so I'll cut right to the chase: Dia wasn't George Weah's soccer prodigy cousin. He was just some random dude from Senegal, and even calling him a "soccer player" is stretching things out a bit. Although he was aware that the ball was round and that he could even kick it on occasion, his skills were on Sunday League level at best. He had played before, but it was exclusively for backwoods outfits, and he was the kind of talent who was described by his former teammates in Finnish semi-professional teams as a dude who didn't seem to know how to play at all. As for the "George Weah" call, it was actually Dia's agent -- or just a fellow university student, depending on who you ask.
Still, Souness (who would later learn that Dia had been trying to pull the same stunt on a number of other clubs, all of which saw through his bullshit almost immediately) decided to throw him on the pitch at a Premier League game against Leeds United. And boy, did Dia rule. He turned the tide of the game completely, scored goals left and right and, in a feel-good story that defied all odds, led his team to championship.
Ha, no. He wouldn't be in this column if he had, would he now? Instead, this happened:
Dia came in the game as a substitute at 32 minutes, and proceeded to play some of the worst soccer the world has ever seen for 53 minutes until, in a rare move in the game, he himself was substituted the fuck away from the pitch. His contract was terminated after just 14 days, and he quietly drifted away to the land of legend (and mud-heeled amateur leagues).
A Marathon Runner Took 54 Years To Finish A Race
The 1912 Stockholm Olympics were a shitty time to be a marathon runner. Without modern shoes, fabrics, and training, it was a sport of grit and chafing. What's more, on the day of the race, Stockholm was hit with unexpectedly warm weather, which the runners were completely unprepared for. Hyperthermia ran rampant among the competitors, and half of the 68 entrants were unable to finish the race. In fact, the conditions were so bad that one runner went completely missing.
"Ha, what a poor bast- wait, you're talking about me?"
It wasn't that Shizo Kanakuri was a bad runner. However, Japan had only recently gotten into the whole "other sports than martial arts" thing, and their training methods were ... ill-advised. When Kanakuri started out, he believed that perspiration drains your strength, and to avoid sweating, he ran his marathons without drinking. After figuring out that this wasn't the most clever move, he quickly qualified for the Olympics and was sent to Sweden as part of Japan's two-man Olympic team. The eight-day journey to Stockholm was excruciating, and upon arrival, the Japanese quickly found that the local food didn't agree with them at all. Kanakuri spent the days before the race mostly caring for his ultra-sick teammate and trying to recover from the plethora of shocks Europe kept throwing at his body and digestive system. Add that to the hot conditions and the fact that Kanakuri's racing footwear of choice were two-toed tabi canvas shoes, which were decidedly not for long-distance running, and the odds weren't exactly on his side.
The story of how exactly Kanakuri ended up quitting the race varies. Some say he passed out around the 27-kilometer mark, and was nursed to health by a local family. Others insinuate he got exhausted, went "Screw this noise", and wandered off to hang out at a nearby garden party. However, no matter how things transpired, one constant remains: Kanakuri never bothered notifying officials that he was fine. He simply pissed off back to Japan.
Maybe it was a shame thing. Maybe he just wanted to get the hell out of the country before they tried to feed him another meal of surstromming and meat balls. All Sweden knew was that he had disappeared. Since it was 1912 and missing person cases were a bastard to deal with, they just filed him in a "damned if we know" folder and presumably hoped like hell that Japan wouldn't complain.
Meanwhile, Kanakuri focused on being fabulous as fuck.
Kanakuri kept on competing like nothing had happened. For reasons that may or may not be telling of Sweden's investigative abilities, they managed to completely miss his existence for over 50 years, despite the fact that Kanakuri ran in several subsequent Olympics, once even finishing at a respectable 16th place. When they finally stumbled upon the fact that Kanakuri wasn't exactly missing at all, and had in fact become a cherished sports innovator in his home country, the Swedes approached him with a "Hey, you're a missing person in our files. We, uh, just kind of figured you died in a ditch somewhere five decades ago." They also invited Kanakuri to finally come finish his marathon, which the amused 75-year-old agreed to in 1967.
"Man, you Swedes really don't like loose ends, do you?"
His final time: 54 years, eight months, six days, five hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.
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