I have a pang.
It’s only a slight one. Something that I doubt I will act on. But it’s there, and It will come back again.
It follows on, in many ways, from yesterday’s post about teams. Born from watching the final of the World Indoor Bowls Championship.
Yes, I have a pang about bowls.
Whilst I may not always miss the game, sacrificing time with the family and the long days on the road, I very much miss the camaraderie you get when playing the game.
The game you see on the TV is, for the average player, nothing like the sport we play week in, week out. Sure the pinnacle of the sport may be seen as the singles tournament on the BBC – but in many ways this is simply dictated by television coverage. A set of fixed cameras at the ends of the rink to capture the action.
My preferred game was always fours. Where at club or county level (I represented both Yorkshire and Lancashire. Fo shame!) you would often play in games of 24 versus 24 – across six rinks (measured out sections of a bowls green). This would bring with it that team spirit so lacking on the television.
Groups of you would travel together. Play together. Drink with each other. Swap stories, jibes and insults – in the same way you would on the football, rugby or cricket pitch. Which is where most of us came from. Only turning to bowls when our knees or hips had, had enough.
I was an OK bowler. I played some of the biggest games, against the biggest names (including Sunday’s finalist, Simon Skelton, when I played for Lancashire against Derbyshire) – to the standard I was able to reach. The Miiddleton Cup. Where each county put up their best team in a regional league, before the competition moved on to a knockout stage each summer.
Those are the games I miss the most. That is where the pang hits hardest. When June rolls around and I know that somewhere, a game is being played that I might once have been part of.
There will be someone reading this who will say “Well nothing’s stoping you.”
Indirectly they are. The desire to spend time with the family – and not on the road to York, Bolton, Manchester, Alnwick or Wigton – will always be far stronger than the pang. I have no desire to be like the men I played with in the 1990s, who saw their kids over the rim of a pint glass at best.
Throwing in the additional blocker of being in Newcastle, when my old bowls clubs were in York or Manchester. It would be hard to get back to the level I once was based on the amount of games I could play.
One day the kids will no longer want to do things with us on a Saturday. I may even work somewhere with access to the same set up during the week as I do the weekend. Then, maybe, I can come out of premature retirement.
Until then, I’ll manage the pang. I’ll watch the highlights and dream of a day where my forehand delivery never fails.