Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs fair and square, right? Right! Bobby Riggs boasted he could be any woman even she had two serves and the doubles boundary while he played with just one serve and within the singles line. He was wrong. He lost to Billie Jean King in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in Houston on September 20, 1973.
On that day, I was a ten year-old quiet child. I watched the whole match from a secret place in our California home while dozens of adults, mostly women, cheered on Billie Jean King. I didn’t understand all the hoopla. Of course she was going to win. I was a good tennis player and knew a 29 year-old woman would beat a 55 year-old man with those terms. And I’m so glad she did!
Why did she agree to such a biased match-up? He was an asshole who kept baiting her and she wanted to prove him wrong and shine a light on women’s tennis. Thankfully, she accomplished both goals with her victory.
50 million people tuned in to watch the match on television. Over 30,000 watched the match live at the Astrodome. Very few of us talk about the terms of the match. Speaking for myself, I just don’t care that this substantial fact is left out of the historical narrative but maybe I should. This is how history is written and risky investments are pitched – leave out certain important information that doesn’t line up with the desired narrative. Sell it!
If you Google the debate about the terms of their match, you will not find unedited footage of the match. What you will find is this article by “Cecil Adams”. Evidently, such an esteemed writer, who won’t even show his face, has an assistant who can access the unedited footage. Right.
Of course, my (and millions of others’) memory could be wrong. One thing is true – we who saw the match, actually watched every moment, will be dead soon. And this excellent movie (which deserves some Oscars) will live to tell the story and share all the really important stuff.