This week an ESPN story outed Bobby Riggs for having thrown his tennis match against Billie Jean King in 1973 (the so-called “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match).
At the time, Billie Jean King “struck a blow for feminism” and defeated Riggs on the court, amidst much hype. Riggs had easily defeated Margaret Court (the world’s #1 player) earlier that year, and yet Jean-King found a way to win…
But how? Perhaps the greatest women’s tennis player ever, Serena Williams, has said she would lose 6-0, 6-0 to Andy Murray. Riggs was no Murray, but then again Williams is in a different time zone from King. How on earth could such a stunning defeat have happened? <source>
It has now been revealed that Riggs had some gambling debts he had to pay off and chose to ‘take a dive’ (as they say in boxing when the fix is in) in the tennis match as a way to honor them.
The story, according to ESPN’s Don Van Natta in a must-read story, is painfully straightforward: the fix was in, and the Mafia was in on it all.
Hal Shaw, an assistant golf pro at Tampa’s Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club, recently told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that he heard several notable Mafia figures, including Santo Trafficante Jr. and Carlos Marcello, discussing how Riggs would throw the match in order to pay off more than $100,000 in gambling debts.
Of course he threw the match, and this is the only rational explanation given several decades’ worth of male/female tennis comparisons (add legend Chris Evert to the list: she married John Lloyd, a men’s tennis player ranked somewhere in the low 100s in the world, and said he regularly defeated her 6-0 6-0 in practice at the time she was ranked #1 in the world).
But here’s what’s interesting: Billy Jean King still thinks she won the match fair-and-square.
But King maintains that she doesn’t believe he threw the match. “Bobby Riggs wanted to win that match,” she told ESPN. “I saw it in his eyes. I saw it when we changed ends, and there is no question. I have played matches where players have tanked, and I know what it feels like and I know what it looks like, and he did not. He just was feeling the pressure.”
Oh, Billy jean. Must you cling to delusion?
It all reminds me of Tom Brady and the many commentators who still refer to him as “The greatest quarterback ever next to Joe Montana…blah blah” even though he cheated in three Superbowls.
His honest record in Superbowls is 0 wins, 2 losses, with 3 disqualifications due to cheating.
But does he accept that the fix was in on his so-called victories?
I don’t think so, which gives him something in common with BJK.
Self-delusion is a painful thing to watch, but we must have compassion.