King vs. Riggs: Why All the Racket?

Recently,  the cultural paleontologists of Hollywood for some curious reason decided to exhume the long buried  skeleton of the infamous Bobby Riggs/Billy Jean King tennis showdown.  The film  they served up was called Battle of the Sexes. And I made it my mission to avoid seeing it--largely because it also dug up a hauntingly annoying recollection of mine.

About 12 seconds after King claimed her  dubiously pivotal victory--making quite a racket of jubilation-- my wife of the moment whirled herself into a deliriously delusional seizure of  euphoria.  She saw the triumph as the rabbit hole into a new wonderland in which the planet's tennis courts would no longer cant unfairly toward the hulking, drooling brutes of my gender, a wonderland where we synthetic wizards would be unmasked and trounced regularly. Never mind that her own skills--after abundantly tortuous years of lessons and practice-- had ratcheted up  her game from atrocious to just plain bad.  I, of course,  challenged her claimed gender awakening. By way of an argument grounded in evolutionary theory , I had a go at disabusing her (she regarded it as abusing her) of the new fancy she'd polished up.  My postulate in watering down her imagined watershed conquest. went something like this:

"Instead of finding a rabbit hole, you, my dear. have stumbled into a manhole that leads to a booby trap.You see, there is no such thing in nature as "Athletics."  Athletics are artifacts invented my males to mirror the hunting skills that natural selection--over three or four million years--has bestowed up them. Bashing an object--such as a ball or a puck--imitates the bludgeoning of  escaping prey; throwing a ball  mimics hurling a stone at a retreating potential dinner entree; running swiftly parrots chasing down a fleeing snack; catching a ball and tackling a runner imitates, well, catching that morsel.  So you see, my sweet, that by your hysterically gleeful celebration, you are really playing into the hands of  smirking tricksters like Riggs, who, you must recall had recently massacred the world's number one woman tennis player, Margaret Court (King was number two) and happens to be 55-year old geezer who retired from tournament tennis some 20 years ago, while King was, as age 29, in her prime.

"Now considered this, sweetheart.  Let us suppose that the gods and goddesses of  untainted  justice descended upon the turf of us mere mortals, and suddenly empowered females to contrive an array of activities they are licensed to call "Athletics."  No longer would the touchstones be power, size, speed, etc. and the other virtues that define the testosterone-suffused hunter.  The biochemistry that inclines males toward violence would be quelled, and replaced as benchmarks by the virtues of feminine grace, flexibility, stamina, a bent toward multitasking, etc.  The very  identity of  what we call Sports would be face-lifted, redefined,  reinvented."

What has happened since I posited my thesis the day of the King coup? First, women have tacitly and all but cheerfully acknowledged that males are generally better at the games they themselves were privileged to sculpt. Ironically, this quiet surrender  has opened wider the gates of opportunity granted by Free-Market economics. Though women should be allowed to compete in men's sports if they are capable of doing so, a form of competitive segregation has emerged and been embraced  by all with glistering glee.  The rise of women' sports as a major attraction, has ushered in an age in which women are becoming wealthy playing sports like tennis, golf, basketball, even boxing.

The second outcome of that day? Another marker on my road to divorce.  Happy endings all around.

Though I regard the foregoing disquisition as championing the cause of women's cultural potency, I'm afraid not all women see it that way.  Years later  on a first date with a  fetching gym teacher, I delivered that same argument, regarding it as a winning commencement speech, i.e. a dilation that would win her admiration and commence my plan of seduction.Worse than Shaq at the free throw line,  the pretty lady  missed the point. This was to be our last date.

After that stumble, I never again put that particular courting gambit into service.  After all, why court bristling rebuttals?

Oops, come to think of it,  maybe--with this blog-- I just again did.






Filed under: Culture, Sports

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