About Sport’s Not For Losers!
“Sport’s Not For Losers!” told the story of Dan and Len Walker and the world of amateur athletics. Dan was an athlete, Len his good-for-nothing brother. When Dan was injured during a race, the family baton was passed to a disinterested Len, who really couldn’t be bothered to pick it up and run with it. He’d rather have smoked a lot and hung around with his girlfriend. Dan took it upon himself to turn Len’s life around, and make him into a winner, whether he liked it or not.
“Sport’s Not For Losers!” was written by Steve MacManus and drawn by Dudley Wynn, his only work on Action. The story never truly captured the readers as it fell somewhere between a traditional boys’ story and the style set by Action, but still had many good moments, even if some parts of the narrative were so clichéd as to be ridiculous.
A prequel of sorts appeared in the 1977 Action Annual.
Dan is a top hurdler in the making, and runs for the Barncastle Harriers. During an important race he is knocked down by another runner and damages his Achilles tendon. He visits his doctor after the meeting and is told that his running days are over, for a year at least. Returning home Dan breaks the news to his father, himself a former champion athlete. Walker senior is crestfallen, seeing Dan as the one person who can maintain the family tradition. Older sibling Len is an unhealthy, uncouth layabout with no ambition and no respect for authority.
Whilst out walking, brooding over his failure to achieve, Dan spots Len being worked over by Spit Jenkins and his gang. Spit is demanding money that Len had won from him in a poker game. Len refuses and legs it, with the gang on his heels. Spotting a chance of escape, Len hurdles over a row of garden fences. Dan looks in amazement, seeing that Len possesses the basic skills that could be refined to make him a decent hurdler. Dan decides to train Len as his replacement for upholding the family name.
After much effort, Len enters his first race. Dan tells Len that there’s a tenner in it for the winner. Len figures that would be enough for some Elton John platform shoes he’s had his eye on. Len wins but is surprised to be given a pair of Ola running shoes by Dan, who has rather presumptuously been shopping with the winnings already.
Len’s training continues and he enters and wins more events, gradually earning respect from his peers, even if his social skills are rather lacking. Dan’s ambition is for Len to win the Three A’s final. However, there are many ups and downs along the way. Spit and his gang appear several times to hinder Len’s progress but usually manage to help out in some way to improve Len’s running technique.
On the way to a race, Len finds a box of grapefruit on the pavement and picks them up. Unfortunately, with his reputation, the police pick him up, accusing him of theft. PC Swale puts Len in the back of his car whilst he checks out Len’s story. On his return, Len has eaten all the evidence, peel, pips and all. He has to let Len go, but when Len and Dan return victorious from the race, Swale has been speaking to their father, who throws Len out of the house. Dan objects and is told he can join Len.
The duo move into a disused railway carriage. They would have moved into the old station office, but Len had smashed that up previously. Dan uses the site as a training ground and bribes Len into cutting down on smoking and greasy food by blagging an old pinball machine from a junk yard.
Eventually, Len qualifies for the Northern Area finals, but thanks to his ability to slash bus seats, is unable to find any transport, so he ‘borrows’ a barge. Len wins the race but is disqualified thanks to some earlier antics involving a judge’s car. Luckily the other runners agree to re-run the race and Len triumphs again, making it through to the Three A’s final. Leaving the event, Len is arrested for stealing the barge and gets three months in borstal for his trouble.
Whilst inside, Len falls foul of “Mr Bolt, Sir”, an officer at the centre who is abusive of his power and bullies those in his ‘care’. He victimises Len throughout his time inside leaving Len’s spirit broken. Dan meanwhile, is petitioning the governor to allow Len to be released for the upcoming final. Mr. Sheep says Len can run if he wins the borstal cross-country race. Bolt is, of course, the undefeated champion, mostly due to his cheating and the other boys’ fear of the consequences if Bolt were to lose. Len wins despite Bolt’s efforts, but the officer hates the humiliation and sees to it that ‘Buckethead Walker’ will not be fit to run in the final. This pushes the other inmates over the edge and they assault Bolt in the gym, dealing him the comeuppance he so richly deserves. Len is released temporarily, to attend the final in London.
With some help from Beanpole Barnes, Dan restores Len’s spirits and everything is set for the finale. Spit Jenkins and his mob turn up for a Chelsea game and Len gets a bash on the head that puts him in hospital. The day of the race, Len is still in his hospital bed. He does a bunk and has to run to White City, arriving with just two minutes to spare. Following his assault and the long run to the stadium, Len is flagging badly, but the desire not to fail his family draws on reserves of determination, and beats Beanpole Barnes to the tape by inches, to secure the Three A’s title. Dan is rightly proud, but warns Len that he will be fit next year to try and beat his brother, once he has finished his spell inside.
Dan is a young athletics hopeful who runs for the Barncastle Harriers. A nasty fall in a race injures his leg and wrecks his hopes of going to the Three ‘A’s Finals. Not wanting to disappoint his father, another successful amateur athlete, Dan decides to train layabout older sibling Len in the ways of the track, but has given himself a thankless uphill struggle trying to get Len off of the smokes and greasy food.
‘Lovable’ Len Walker is a hopeless vandal, layabout, yob, hooligan etc. with no oputwardly redeeming features, but Len is a natural born runner whether he likes it or not. He doesn’t, and resists all Dan’s efforts to turn him into a fit, dedicated athlete. Len’s ongoing spat with authority and a local gang get him into plenty of trouble, but the hapless Len wins through in the end.
A former amateur athlete of some renown, Walker Senior is devastated by Dan’s injury and has no time for Len, throwing him out of the house when he has one too many brushes with the law. The old man is eventually proven to be wrong about Len and is with him for the triumphant final, where it is revealed that Dan will be back in competition to steal the title next season.
Bolt is an old-school correction facility bastard. He bullies the boys behind the idiotic governor’s back with a sadistic glee, leaving them broken in both body and spirit. He singles out Len for some special treatment, but eventually goes too far, causing the other boys to finally make a stand against him, dealing him a well deserved taste of his own medicine.
Beanpole Barnes, British 400m champion and good egg. Dan uses Beanpole’s help to goad Len out of his post-borstal misery. Beanpole acts like a stuffy snob which annoys Len, who thought he was a good bloke. Len sets out to beat Beanpole in the finals believing it will take him down a peg.
Spit’s Gang are a bunch of louts who Len falls foul of on a number of occasions. Spit has an old score to settle, so Len and Dan take a few bruises from the gang along the way.
The Titans are an upper-crust athletics club that Len joins. The Secretary is a cinema manager whom Len regularly angers, but the other runners grudgingly accept Len once he proves himself, with the exception of Flash, who cheats in order to spoil Len’s chances of making the finals.
Text © Moose Harris
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