“The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs became the most watched televised sports event of all time. Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. With her husband urging her to fight for equal pay, the private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past” (actual movie synopsis).
One of the greatest physical competitions to ever take place, that hasn’t been repeated, between a man and woman. It would have been great to have been alive during this historical event. Gender equality, accepted sexuality, a gambling addiction, and the definition of love playing in the background.
I think these issues influenced the outcome of the “big” game. The game set the stage for much bigger issues. Had Riggs not pummelled Margaret Court in the initial battle of man vs woman, would he have been so cocky and unprepared for his match against King? He trained to play against Court. Court had just beat King. More or less equals in the realm of women’s tennis. King was caught in a personal conflict between loving a woman and being married to a man; it most likely cost her the game with Court. In a game of focus, how could King not have been distracted? Riggs with his desire to be someone again, the overconfidence of his win (he decided not to train for his match with King), crippled by his high obtained by his gambling attitude towards his match with King; I think ultimately led to his defeat.
Jack Kramer, a sexist sports commentator at the time, made a comment to King. He said, “You know what the difference is between a good player and a great player? The ability to handle the pressure.” I think that speaks volumes about women and men’s weakness and strengths. Court caved under pressure playing Riggs.
King was an amazing player in her day. The top of her league. Unfortunately, she also wasn’t allowed to play in the Olympics because she came out. She was the first high profile athlete to do so and stand-up for the LGBTQ community. I don’t think she would have become so famous had Riggs not made it a media circus.
What do you think? If both competitors were on their A game, who do you think would have ultimately won?