Tag Archives: tennis

The Battle of the Sexes

Go watch this video!  It won’t let me link it!

In researching this entry, I found this articleBattle of the Sexes – did you know that Wimbledon JUST RECENTLY began awarding women equal prize money to men?

[Wikipedia Entry for more information and sources.]

The Battle of the Sexes was a nationally televised tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, held in Houston, Texas, on September 20, 1973. Riggs was a master showman, sports hustler, and a 1940s tennis star who, for three years, had been the World No. 1. He challenged King to a match after beating another top female tennis player, Margaret Court. The match was incredibly important in gaining public support for gender equality in sports.  The journalist in the video of the match is pretty objective – unlike most male journalists and specially sportscasters at the time.  However, the video reveals the deeply rooted misogyny in American and sports during the 70s.  The journalist also makes a crucial point that the match was more than a battle of the sexes, but was a profitable event for the retired Riggs, the successful King, and for the Women’s Movement procuring positive publicity.

Shortly before the match, King entered the Astrodome in Cleopatra style, carried aloft in a chair held by four bare-chested muscle men dressed in the garb of ancient slaves. Riggs followed in a rickshaw drawn by a bevy of scantily-clad models. Riggs presented King with a giant lollypop and she gave him a piglet named Larimore Hustle.

Even from the net, the result was the same: King defeated him, 6–4, 6–3, 6–3.

A few critics were less than impressed by King’s victory. King was 26 years younger, and some experts claimed that it was more an age versus youth game. According to tennis player Jack Kramer, “I don’t think Billie Jean played all that well. She hit a lot of short balls which Bobby could have taken advantage of had he been in shape. I would never take anything away from Billie Jean — because she was smart enough to prepare herself properly — but it might have been different if Riggs hadn’t kept running around. It was more than one woman who took care of Bobby Riggs in Houston.”

Before the match, however, King had forced the American television network ABC to drop Kramer as a commentator.  King said, “He doesn’t believe in women’s tennis. Why should he be part of this match? He doesn’t believe in half of the match. I’m not playing. Either he goes – or I go.” After the match, Pancho Segura declared that Riggs was only the third best senior player, behind himself and Gardnar Mulloy, and challenged King to another match. King refused.

On another note, King has been a powerful icon for the LGBT rights movement, as she was one of the first women to admit her bisexuality in sports, following Martina Navratilova, who King said was “the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived.”

Article on HBO Tennis Documentary

This 60 Minutes on Bobby Riggs gives you more background on Riggs and The Battle of the Sexes.  He’s a winner.

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