‘Battle of the Sexes’ Then — and Now

Published to Bill Moyers on September 22, 2017

Midway through Bobby Riggs’ cocky telephone pitch to Billie Jean King in 1973 — a nationally televised tennis match with a $100,000 prize between her, the top-ranked female player, and himself, the fading superstar — Riggs brands the event. “Male chauvinist pig versus hairy-legged feminist,” he says, succinctly defining the cultural stakes. Although Riggs instantly walks back his hustle with a glib, “No offense,” it sets the terms. Yes, Riggs, 55, needs the money (and the renewed fame); and yes, playing against the eye-popping King, 29, will make for great tennis and must-see TV. But this is a boy-girl smackdown, a commercial appeal to the gender wars then agitating the country.

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