August 22, 2005

The Mother's Day Massacre: An excerpt from a new book about Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King describes the battle before the battle--Riggs' defeat of world #1 Margaret Court Smith--which led King to finally accept Riggs' challenge. A fascinating snapshot of a moment in sports history, and of the forgotten star who still holds the record for Grand Slam singles titles, male or female. (NYTimes registration may be required.)

posted by mrbadexample to tennis at 04:07 PM - 22 comments

Not to be picky, but I think it's Margaret Smith Court, not Margaret Court Smith. I think Mrs. Smith never received the credit that she deserved because she was not one of the new breed of female tennis players in the 70s pushing the political issues. She just played tennis and did it very well. I wonder how many of the female players of the past three decades could do what she did. Retire, have children, and then come back to become again one of the best tennis players in the world. I doubt that her records will ever be broken - maybe in part because of the increased level of competition, but also because players today just do not seem to be able to withstand the competition for an extended period of time.

posted by graymatters at 06:00 PM on August 22

women want a real battle of the sexes?? Yea, right! Bobby was 55 y.o. when he played Billie Jean, who was 31 at the time, or thereabouts. How about, let's say, we put Sharapova up against Andre Agassi or Federer...that would be a slaughter. It's always equal rights as long as you lower the bar for the females. They can't compete with men in any sport at a equal level. In golf, women could never play the longer mens courses. In basketball, the ball is smaller. Track and Field PROVES women aren't equal in that not one woman has a faster time in any event! And swimming? Forget it. The ONLY sport that might have women on par with men is pool. But I never see them play each other! It requires no special strength or coordination. Getting back to tennis. If Billie Jean had played one of the best male players of her time, Jimmie Connors or Illie Nastase..she would of not one a single solitary game.

posted by bluekarma at 11:30 PM on August 22

did i use the word "one" for "won"? that's absurd!

posted by bluekarma at 11:31 PM on August 22

bluekarma: it's a long road from "equal rights" to "equal playing field." I don't know of any athletes, male or female, that can't see the differences in power, speed, or endurance of the male and female bodies. Women just want the opportunity to compete against other women in the majority of sports that men take for granted. "If you spend $X for men's sports then spend $X for the women's sports." They can't even get that.

posted by ?! at 11:50 PM on August 22

Yer wasting yer bites, ?!. bluekarma hates women's sports, period.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:55 PM on August 22

At the birth of Title IX, all these things were little victories, and this was a bigger one. I still think Riggs knew in advance how it was all going to go down, offering himself up as a sacrificial chauvinist in the greater battle. I think he was prepared to lose to Margaret Court and take his money and walk, but when he won, he realized what he was really supposed to do. Not to mention the money he was suddenly able to make, evenif it was just a one-time deal. Not that he didn't try in the Billie Jean King match -- I have no doubt that he did; it would have been morally wrong to not give it his all, whatever that may have been -- but in interviews since, he seems to have seen the writing on the wall, even at the time. This excellent article shows how active a role he really took as the sand in the oyster of women's sports. And he played that part with gleeful, villainous gusto.

posted by chicobangs at 02:23 AM on August 23

I'm not sure Riggs believed any of the stuff he was spouting -- he was always a showman, even when he was younger and a top-ranked player. And who could forget the episode of "The Odd Couple" where he keeps betting (and beating) Oscar in things like Oscar not being able to type his own name correctly.

posted by ajaffe at 07:40 AM on August 23

I'm not sure Riggs believed any of the stuff he was spouting Seems I've read something written by BJK in which she more or less said the same. Certainly she's seemed to have a friendly and even affectionate attitude toward him since. It is legitimate to regard that match as a clown show, but what the modern sports fan is likely to have forgotten (or is too young to know) is that the prevailing attitudes at the time towards women's participation in sports really were nothing short of preposterous. It was commonly believed, for example, that women were incapable of running a marathon; women had been officially allowed in the Boston marathon only a year before, and would not have an Olympic marathon event for more than a decade. I don't know that he's ever spoken on the matter, but I wonder if Riggs, by his antics, wasn't trying to get people to wake up and see the absurdity of their own attitudes and actions.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:06 AM on August 23

Interesting article. I didn't realize that: a) This match even took place before Riggs - Jean-King. b) Maragaret Court Smith had these records. Very educational. bluekarma - why do you insist on missing the whole point of things like this. It is not important that Riggs was way past his prime and that the challenge wasn't best on best - but that it got the country talking about sports and gender in a way that they hadn't before. This was a good thing, I think - ya know, for broads.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:10 AM on August 23

Good point, LBB. I'm too young to remember the match when it actually happened, but the showmanship! How anyone could take Riggs at face value is beyond me.

posted by ajaffe at 08:22 AM on August 23

Seems I've read something written by BJK in which she more or less said the same. Certainly she's seemed to have a friendly and even affectionate attitude toward him since. That's really cool if true. The little I read just covered it as relic vs. feminist without ever suggesting Riggs was anything less than reprehensible.

posted by yerfatma at 08:23 AM on August 23

I Agree with your comments llb. If fact if you look at things closely--What you had in Rigss and BJK were two people who very competive and like to be in the spot light. I remember watching the match. At the time, it seemed very tonge in cheek to me. Of course, at the time I was a teenager who grew up with a sister in sports and believe that there could be some equal footing between the sexes. Margaret Court was certainly one great tennis player. One that often gets overlooked. Thanks for the link. It brought back some great memories!

posted by daddisamm at 09:04 AM on August 23

i think we should put sharapova up against me.....

posted by MNJ1193 at 10:12 AM on August 23

No MNJ, I think we should give Sharapova a muzzle.............

posted by tina at 11:06 AM on August 23

we should give Sharapova a muzzle... Hmmm, kinky.

posted by qbert72 at 11:35 AM on August 23

what does Sharapva and a muzzle have to do with this discussion!???

posted by daddisamm at 12:16 PM on August 23

Women's tennis thread have a universal tendency to devolve into potentially offensive boyzone banter. I'm sorry I contributed this time. Your point is taken, daddisamm.

posted by qbert72 at 12:32 PM on August 23

what does Sharapva and a muzzle have to do with this discussion!??? Women's tennis thread have a universal tendency to devolve into potentially offensive boyzone banter. Hey, let's not blame this on the boys; it was a girl who said it.

posted by graymatters at 02:18 PM on August 23

I must say I wouldnt let her near a muzzle.

posted by Drallig9399 at 02:57 PM on August 23

Hey, let's not blame this on the boys; it was a girl who said it. Sure was. Congrats, tina, you're one of the guys!

posted by lil_brown_bat at 04:13 PM on August 23

Yeah?

posted by tina at 04:22 PM on August 23

And trust me, I didn't mean it to sound kinky........................

posted by tina at 04:23 PM on August 23

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