Sportsmen of the past

“Uncle Dick and Uncle Andrew were very keen on sports.”

It must be some thirty years since my grand uncles died, but from what I remember they never seemed very like sportsmen. Our family are not athletic.  We are short and stocky, broad shouldered, solid, not the sort of people who tend to excel at sports.

“Keen on sports?”

“Yes. Once a fortnight Uncle Andrew would go up to Bristol and he and Uncle Dick would go to watch one of the Bristol teams.”

I remembered stories of them going to Eastville. “Rovers, Mum.”

“Yes, one of the Bristol teams.”

“Definitely Rovers, I don’t think they liked the other lot.”

“As well as football they both played darts and skittles.”

These seemed more the sort of sports that might be played by our family members. At five feet seven inches, I am among the taller members, but lack of height is no hindrance in engaging in the sporting activities at a local pub.

“And they went greyhound racing.”

“That would figure, there was a greyhound track as well as a football ground at Eastville.”

Sports in the days of Uncle Dick and Uncle Andrew had connotations different from that of those that require the clothing and equipment bought in high street stores. The sports that used to fill their leisure hours seem to belong a past very different from the events viewed on satellite television screens.

Greyhound racing ceased at Eastville in 1997. A plan to build a new greyhound stadium in Bristol never came to fruition. Uncle Dick and Uncle Andrew would have to travel to Swindon to go to the dogs now.

Darts is still played, but with the changes in many pubs, and the death of many more, it is disappearing. Younger people are more likely to stand and watch Premier League football than they are to stand at the oche. High scores recorded on the blackboards either side of boards seem decades old.

Skittle teams still play, but struggle to find members. The alleys have often been put to other uses, the space taken by the wooden lanes now devoted to providing extra area for restaurant seating. Two of the pubs with which Uncle Dick and Uncle Andrew would have been familiar have decided that diners are more profitable than skittles players.

Even the sort of football my uncles enjoyed is declining. Football has become a commercialised, franchised packaged product in which the profits are taken by a handful of large companies. Clubs like Bristol Rovers, which once enjoyed a large following, can never aspire to success against such competition.

Sports are not what they were.


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