'Choose a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life,' or so says an old idiom, but we all know that the truth is most people do not love their jobs. Most would consider sports stars to be some of the most notable exceptions though. Whether you love soccer or hockey or anything in between, when you see people spending their entire time doing something you love and being paid handsomely for the privilege, many are a tad jealous.
The thought that an athlete could actually have no interest or not particularly enjoy their sport seems alien to some. However, it has been claimed that a large number of athletes simply view their sports as a job like any other. Some may have enjoyed the sport as a child but once the pressures and strains of it set in, they began to lose their affection for the sport. For some, the loss of love for the game can spell early retirement, whilst others can be indifferent to their sport for an entire career, yet experience great success.
The list features athletes from eight different sports. There will be many more athletes out there who don't love their sports, strange as it may seem, but have never openly expressed that this is the case. All the athletes on this list were either known to not be particularly fond of their sports or expressed as much directly themselves. Here are the top 15 athletes who hated their sports:
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15 Brock Lesnar - Professional Wrestling
Wrestling may not be a sport, but you try to look at Brock Lesnar and say he's not an athlete. Lesnar took the WWE by storm in 2002, winning the company's world title and quickly became one of their biggest stars. However Lesnar left the company in 2004, as he had grown to dislike the grueling travel schedule of the business. He returned in 2012 as a part-time performer after a career in MMA. In a recent interview with fellow wrestler Steve Austin, Lesnar said he likes performing, but never embraced all aspects of the business and he views it as a job. On leaving the business in 2004, he said:
“I felt like I was a trapped animal. I can remember times being on an airplane and wanting to punch the door open and jump out of the plane. That’s what I felt like… I tell Vince (McMahon) to this day, ‘I was built to be in the ring. I wasn’t built to get from ring to ring.'”
14 Ronnie O'Sullivan - Snooker
A somewhat controversial inclusion, as Ronnie O'Sullivan certainly has a love-hate relationship with the game of snooker. Often described as the most natural snooker player in history and one of the greatest players of all time, this would be the equivalent of finding out Lionel Messi didn't love soccer or Barry Sanders wasn't a huge football fan. O'Sullivan is a five-time world champion but is also a perfectionist who has suffered from clinical depression, and seems to state his intention to leave snooker every couple of years.
13 Chris Kluwe - Football
The genius child of a doctor and a scientist, Chris Kluwe fell into football rather by accident. When his high school team needed a kicker, Kluwe found out he was really rather good at it. A couple of decades later and Kluwe had spent eight years with the Minnesota Vikings, as well as more brief spells with the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders.
Kluwe admitted to not being much of a football fan, and was better known for his love of video games, reading and later, activism - on issues such as same sex marriage and gay rights. Kluwe is known to be a regular player of games such as Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft, League of Legends and more.
12 David Bentley - Soccer
At one time David Bentley was being lined up as a potential successor to David Beckham. They were both talented but not particularly pace right wingers, who could deliver great service from wide areas as well as being dangerous from dead ball situations; the pair even shared a first name. But whilst Becks loved soccer, Bentley did not. Having looked so good with Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham between 2006 and 2008, when he broke into the England team, Bentley rapidly disappeared. He stopped playing regularly in 2010, aged 26 and officially retired in 2013, aged 29, admitting a lack of passion for the sport was his main reason for retiring.
11 Gary Lockett - Boxing
Gary Lockett was a very decent boxer who was at one time a world title challenger in the middleweight division. Lockett lost his world title fight and announced his retirement from the sport with a record of 30 wins and only 2 losses, stating that he had, "never been a lover of boxing". This was a view Lockett had repeated on multiple occasions, claiming that his real love was property development, and boxing was just a way to fund that venture. Having retired at 31 though, Lockett recently returned to boxing as a coach, so perhaps he didn't hate boxing so much after all.
10 Espen Baardsen - Soccer
American/Norwegian goalkeeper Espen Baardsen seemed to have a very promising career ahead of him in soccer at one time. At 18, he had been signed up by Tottenham and even kept a clean sheet in the North London derby against Arsenal, as well as winning his first caps for Norway at the age of just 20. Despite such ability, the game wasn't in Baardsen's blood, and he retired at just 25. He spent a year travelling the world, before becoming a financial analyst in London. He later commented, "It is a great myth that football is easy, it's quite miserable compared to what I have now."
9 Bobby Zamora - Soccer
Former England international Bobby Zamora has played for the likes of West Ham, Fulham and Tottenham, as well as winning two caps for his country in a very respectable career. Now back with his former club Brighton, Zamora seems to be enjoying the sport, but he previously went on record saying "I’m not a massive football fan, really. Quite a lot more players than let on are the same. I don’t watch games on an evening or anything like that. A lot of people find it strange".
8 Numerous Boxers
In researching this article it became clear that far more boxers than any other type of athlete appear to have some trepidation regarding their sport. This is hardly surprising given that while some sports are very physical, few involve being repeatedly punched in the head. A renowned trainer who remained anonymous recently spoke out, saying "I really believe that boxers today and the people associated with boxing hate their own sport." He cited the early retirement of many and the lack of fights and willingness to fight even among top class boxers as prime evidence to support his belief.
7 Stephen Ireland - Soccer
Stephen Ireland was named Manchester City Player of the Season in 2009, aged just 23, yet the 2008-09 season ended up being rather the peak of the Irishman's career. In 2007, Ireland claimed his grandmother had died in order to get off international duty, a claim that later turned out to be false. A controversial figure at time, Ireland took to Bebo (yes, Bebo), to say, "football is sh*t", adding, "why did i get stuck doin it." Ireland retired from international duty in the aftermath of the incident, aged just 21, and is currently a bit-part player at Stoke City.
6 CM Punk - Professional Wrestling
While some may debate the spot of a pro wrestler on the list, the story is too much to ignore. Currently awaiting his first fight in the UFC, CM Punk grew to dislike the wrestling business towards the end of his tenure. He's also never been shy of speaking his mind when asked about why he quit wrestling, saying to Sports Illustrated: "Well, that’s another thing in that phony world. What does it mean to be a good fake wrestler? That’s an identity crisis that I think I struggled with. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best; someone else picks who they want in the top spot.”
5 Elena Delle Donne - Basketball
Elena Della Donne may have progressed to become one of the most distinguished basketball players in the WNBA, but at one time, she certainly hated the sport, and admitted as much. In 2009, she said, "I blamed basketball for taking me away from home. I hated the sport. Every time I played basketball I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t realize that feeling was having to leave my family – having to leave my sister who can’t even communicate with me when I’m gone." She took a year out from the sport, playing volleyball instead, before returning and beginning what would become a hugely successful career.
4 Joe DiMaggio - Baseball
Few, if any, MLB players have transcended American culture in quite the way Joe DiMaggio did. His impact upon music, film, art, TV and many other aspects of American culture is titanic. He is best known for his 56-game hitting streak, a record which still stands. DiMaggio was a three-time MVP winner and an All-Star player in every one of his 13 MLB seasons. He is consistently ranked among baseball's elite, despite not being able to play the sport between the ages of 28 and 30 due to World War II.
However, DiMaggio's biographer recently wrote, "It was a way of making money, he didn't think of it as anything other than that." As a young man, DiMaggio apparently had little motivation to play the sport. DiMaggio is not alone among MLB players, more recently Dee Gordon and Anthony Rendon expressed that they haven't always been huge baseball fans either.
3 Benoit Assou-Ekotto - Soccer
The most openly admitted soccer player to not be a huge fan of the sport is Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The French-born Cameroon international sparked controversy in 2011 with his comments, with some outraged by what he said and other launching to his defense, praising him for his honesty and frankness on the matter, echoing what they believed many players felt but simply didn't have the courage to admit. Asset-Ekotto said, "I don't say I hate football, but it's not my passion." Adding that he often felt uneasy with the seeming hypocrisy of the Premier League.
He added, "Football is just a job, a means to an end... there are more important things in life than kicking a ball around... Yes, I play for the money but then doesn't everybody who gets up in the morning and goes to work? They do it to provide for their family." After almost a decade at Tottenham Hotspur, Assou-Ekotto now plays in Ligue 1 with Saint-Etienne.
2 Chris Eubank - Boxing
While most boxers who aren't entirely keen on the sport were covered in entry number 8, special room had to be made for Chris Eubank, who seemed to have an even stronger dislike of the sport than any other. "I hate boxing." That is a quote of Eubank's, and one of many on his rather low opinion of the sport which made him a superstar. In the build up to his most notable fight, against Nigel Benn, Eubank said, "Boxing is a mugs game, 99.99% of boxers get used and abused and disfigured."
Eubank was the WBO middleweight and super middleweight world champion at one time, going through 43 fights undefeated, before losing five of his last nine bouts. An eccentric who craved attention and was often a figure of dislike and ridicule, Eubank was a tremendous boxer, with an outstanding chin and very brave in the ring. Despite his 'hatred' of boxing, Eubank is still heavily involved in boxing, with his son being an up-and-coming star of the sport.
1 Andre Agassi - Tennis
There could only be one man to head this list, and that is Andre Agassi. An eight-time Grand Slam champion, and widely regarded as one of the finest tennis players of all time, no athlete has been as successful in their field in spite of having a deep dislike for their sport as Andre Agassi. The Las Vegas-born legend of the sport has always been something of an enigma, and when he spoke so strongly of his dislike for tennis in his 2009 autobiography, some were unsure of the honesty in his words.
Agassi wrote, "I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have." As well as his eight Grand Slams, Agassi also won an Olympic Gold medal in 1996, staggering achievements if he really did hate tennis. Having dropped to world no. 141 in 1997, Agassi made an incredible return, becoming world no. 1 again in 1999 and embarking upon the most successful period of his career.
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