Chauvinism, R.I.P. Forty years and counting

& Take a moment today to mark a milestone in the history of women’s rights and equality.

It was 40 years ago this very day that bandy-legged Bobby Riggs, an old-time champion/hustler/gambler who knew every lob-, spin-, dink- and drop-shot ever devised on a tennis court, parlayed every trick he knew to devastate the reigning superstar of women’s tennis in a much-ballyhooed best-of-three exhibition billed as the “battle of the sexes”. Riggs, then 55, beat Margaret Court — a 29-year-old who only three years earlier had won the Grand Slam of tennis titles and to this day is regarded by many as the greatest woman tennis player of all time — by an embarrassing 6-1, 6-2 rout.

But that wasn’t the milestone. Although it gave one last gasp of hope to those who stubbornly held to the old-timey chauvinistic concept of the dominant male in the face of a rising surge of feminism, it really was the beginning of the end. It served primarily to set up Riggs for his biggest fall: Four months later, in the second round of the “Battle of the Sexes” — Riggs vs. Billie Jean King — he looked to be exactly what he was: an old man with a well-worn bag of tricks. Before the largest tennis audience of all time, Riggs lost not only the $100,000 winner-take-all purse, he was destroyed by the 29-year-old King in a best-of-five match, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Chauvinism was on the ropes. Feminism was on a roll. And it still is.

And let’s not forget: Billie Jean King knew how to act like the queen she became. Wikipedia tells us this about Billie and Bobby, who died in 1995: They had maintained friendly contact over the years, and “she called him shortly before his death, offering to visit him, but he did not want her to see him in his condition. She phoned him one last time, the night before his death and, according to Billie Jean…the last thing she told Riggs was “I love you.”

Three nice words that put an end, at least, to that battle of the sexes.

Waiting patiently for Danica to cross the finish line first, with all those good ol’ boys behind her, I’m outta here.



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