by Jane Duncan, freelance writer

January 21 2021

Baseball was king in America during the 1980s, with children and teenagers obsessing about some of the big names, such as Keith Hernandez, “Steady Eddie” Murray, and George Brett. But over the pond in Britain, baseball wasn’t even a thing. Instead, the Brits were infatuated with some sports that were a little more unusual. Some of the most unconventional sports personalities became national celebrities thanks to televised matches and events. Up and down the country, the population was embracing sports that you could do at home or in your own backyard. 

You Know You're A Child of the 80s When by Charlie Ellis


English Darts

Darts is something that most people associate with going to the bar and playing a couple of games whilst enjoying a beer. But in the ‘80s, darts was a national sport, celebrated by young and old alike. It is a sport that anyone can take part in no matter their fitness levels or ability - even expectant mothers can play darts as long as the darts are lead-free. You don’t need a lot of space either, just a board in your bedroom or garage, so it’s perfect for indoors.
In the “golden age” of television darts, thousands of people up and down the country were shouting at Eric Bristow, Bob Anderson, and John Lowe, whilst marveling at the comedy commentating skills of Sid Waddell. He came up with the classic, “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer. Bristow’s only 27.” Bristow did all of this whilst smoking like a train, and, according to fellow darts superstar Bobby George, drinking between 17 and 20 pints of Guinness every day. 
John Lowe's Ultimate Darts C64 Video Game

John Lowe's Ultimate Darts video game from the 1980s

Championship Snooker

In 1986, the popular cockney songwriters, Chas and Dave, got to No.6 in the UK singles chart with “Snooker Loopy”, a song whose lyrics were, “Snooker loopy nuts are we, me and him and them and me, we’ll show you what we can do, with a load of balls and a snooker cue.” This was musical proof that the sport of snooker really had taken Britain by storm. More people would watch snooker on television than soccer - the Embassy World Snooker Final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor attracted 18.5 million viewers. The snooker players were treated like rock and roll stars, and often drank and smoked heavily throughout their games.

international Athletics

The 1980s was a great time for athletics in Britain. There was a boom of professional athletes that children looked up to and admired. Many were multi-disciplined sports men and women who were incredibly fit and healthy - there was certainly no drinking on the job! Daley Thompson was well known for winning gold at the Men’s Decathlon in the 1980 Olympic Games. Sebastian Coe triumphed at the 1500 meters, and Fatima Whitbread, the javelin thrower, was an icon. Athletics became extremely popular in the ‘80s and inspired a new generation of children to get involved in sports. 

There were definitely some more unusual sports that were popular in ‘80s Britain. But there were also many inspirational men and women who got the country excited about getting fit and active. 

Daley Thompson Going For Gold (1987)

Daley Thompson's Going for Gold (1987)